Theme music

Theme music

The phrase "theme music" usually refers to that of a radio program, television program, or movie. It is a piece that is often written specifically for that show, and usually played during the title sequence and/or end credits. If it is accompanied by lyrics, most often associated with the show, it is a "theme song".

The phrase "theme song" or "signature tune" may also be used to refer to a song that has become especially associated with a particular performer or dignitary; often used as they make an entrance. Examples of this association include: the President of the United States with "Hail to the Chief"; Bob Hope with "Thanks for the Memory"; Billy Joel with "Piano Man"; Frank Sinatra with "New York, New York" and "My Way"; Liberace with "I'll Be Seeing You."

The purpose of a theme song is often similar to that of a leitmotif.


The purpose of the music is to establish a mood for the show and to provide an audible cue that a particular show is beginning, which was especially useful in the early days of radio (See also interval signal). In some cases, including "The Brady Bunch", "Gilligan's Island", and "The Beverly Hillbillies" the lyrics of the theme song provide some necessary exposition for people unfamiliar with the show.

In addition, some theme music uses orchestra scores or original music set mood for the show. One of the most notable of these is the ' theme song, which was drawn from the theme for the 1989 "Batman" film created by Danny Elfman. Others uses "remixes" or covers of older songs, such as the theme song of ' (1994-1998), which featured a reworked cover of the theme song from the classic Spider-Man cartoon from the 1960s. The song was performed by Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry.


Theme music has been a feature of the majority of television programs since the medium's inception, as it was for the ancestral radio shows that provided their inspiration. Programs have used theme music in a huge variety of styles, sometimes adapted from existing tunes, some composed specifically for the purpose. A few have been released commercially and become popular hits; examples would include the title theme from "Rawhide", performed and recorded by popular singer Frankie Laine; the theme tune to "Friends", "I'll Be There For You", which was a hit for The Rembrandts; the theme from "S.W.A.T."; which was a hit for Rhythm Heritage; and the theme song from Drake and Josh, which was a hit for Drake Bell. Jan Hammer had a major hit with the theme from "Miami Vice" in the 1980s. The Theme From Dr. Kildare (Three Stars Will Shine Tonight), recorded by Richard Chamberlain, the star of the television series, was in 1962 a top 10 hit in the US and a top 20 hit in the UK.

Other themes, like the music for "The Young and the Restless", "Days of Our Lives", and "Coronation Street" have become iconic mostly due to the shows' respective longevities. Unlike others, these serials have not strayed from the original theme mix much, if at all, allowing them to be known by multiple generations of television viewers.

In the United Kingdom, iconic sports shows have such strong associations with their theme music that the sports themselves are synonymous with the theme tunes, such as football ("Match of the Day" theme), cricket (Booker T. & the M.G.'s, "Soul Limbo"), motor racing (Roger Barsotti's "Motor Sport" and the bassline from Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain"), tennis (Keith Mansfield's "Light and Tuneful"), snooker ("Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band), and skiing ("Pop Goes Bach", the theme to Ski Sunday).Most television shows have specific, melodic theme music, even if just a few notes (such as the clip of music that fades in and out in the title sequence for "Lost", or the pulsing sound of helicopter blades in the theme music for "Airwolf"). One exception is "60 Minutes", which features only the ticking hand of a Heuer stopwatch.


Also notable is the "Law & Order" series, which started out with one theme song for Law and Order, and remixed it for its three spinoffs (', ', and ""). The related reality show "Crime and Punishment" also aired with a remix of the theme.


Radio programs with notable theme music include "Just a Minute", which uses a high-speed rendition of the "Minute Waltz" by Frédéric Chopin, "The Archers", which has "Barwick Green", "Desert Island Discs" which has "By The Sleepy Lagoon", and "The Shipping Forecast", which has "Sailing By".

Minimization of TV themes' importance

In the 1990s, American network television began reducing the importance of opening and closing themes in a drive to decrease intervals between programs (thereby discouraging channel switching) and to address reduced storytelling time due to increased commercials.Fact|date=February 2007 A number of themes, such as the theme to "Law & Order", were rearranged in shorter formats (the current (1993) L&O theme runs about 1/3 the length of the theme as played during the first season of the series in 1990). Closing themes are now rarely heard during their original broadcast as networks instead show promos and advertisements with the credits squeezed to the side. Some shows still have such themes. However, they tend to only be heard on home video/DVD release or in syndication. A lot of shows now don't have ending theme tunes. Instead, a final tag scene is played under the credits - this is usually not relevant to the episodes story. Some series, such as the 2005 series "Threshold", have no opening credits theme music at all. ABC show Grey's Anatomy aired its theme song in its entirety for about the first season and a half, before reducing its length. Now, only the Grey's Anatomy logo in black upon a white screen is shown between the teaser and the first act.

ee also

*List of theme songs
*Television news music

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • theme music — ˈtheme music [theme music] noun uncountable (also theme, ˈtheme song, ˈtheme tune …   Useful english dictionary

  • Theme (music) — First theme Haydn s Sonata in G Major, Hob. XVI: G1, I, mm. 1 12   …   Wikipedia

  • theme music —   the opening or closing music of a motion picture, often containing the film s signature or leitmotif tune/phrase that is associated with a character or situation within the film   Examples: Laura s theme in Laura (1944), John Williams shark… …   Glossary of cinematic terms

  • Doctor Who theme music — The Doctor Who theme is a piece of music composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Created in 1963, it was one of the first electronic music signature tunes for television and after nearly five… …   Wikipedia

  • Jeopardy! theme music — Since Jeopardy! debuted in 1964, the show has had many different theme music versions, most of them composed by show creator Merv Griffin.Art Fleming versions Think! (originally composed by Merv Griffin as A Time for Tony as a lullaby for his son …   Wikipedia

  • Dragnet (theme music) — Dragnet is an instrumental theme from the radio and television show of the same name. It was composed by Walter Schumann for the radio show, and was also used on the subsequent television series and later syndication of the TV series under the… …   Wikipedia

  • List of television theme music composers — The following contains composers of the primary theme music of a television series or mini series.dynamic list of songs They are sorted alphabetically by composer. 0 9A B*Amanda Abizaid A Place In Time (Theme from The 4400 ) *Mike Altman Suicide… …   Wikipedia

  • List of television theme music — The following contains scores and/or songs which are the primary theme music of a television series or mini series.dynamic list of songs They are sorted alphabetically by the television series title. Any themes, scores, or songs which are billed… …   Wikipedia

  • Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music — This is a list of the winning and nominated programs of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music. Contents 1 Winners and nominees 1.1 1980s 1.2 1990s 1.3 2000s …   Wikipedia

  • Music of the Final Fantasy series — Music of Final Fantasy Final Fantasy I and II Final Fantasy III Final Fantasy IV Final Fantasy V Final Fantasy VI Final Fantasy VII series Final Fantasy VIII Final Fantasy IX Final Fantasy X Final Fantasy X 2 Final Fantas …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”