Confessions of a Professional TV Theme Songwriter: I Can't Read Music

Hi, my name is Jingle Jared. Welcome to my first column for Guitar World.

I'm a musician with a particular love for any and all stringed instruments. I'm also an entrepreneur. The two aren't incompatible. In fact, the company I co-founded in 2008, Jingle Punks, affords me the luxury of composing and performing music as my day job. It's no stretch to say I'm living the dream.

This is going to be an ongoing series about my adventures in the music industry. In the past couple of years, my company has become the No. 1 music resource for TV shows in the US. I'm probably best known for doing the ASCAP Award-winning theme song to Pawn Stars, but I've also worked on countless projects for HBO, NBC, the History Channel and other networks. I recently scored Morgan Spurlock's latest film. I've written songs for Bret Michaels and collaborated with members of MGMT. I co-wrote Chiddy Bang's latest single. It's been an amazing ride, and I'm proud to say I'm happily involved in various, varied projects.

With all that in mind, I look forward to filling this space with a balance of tips and tricks I've learned along the way, combined with anecdotes and stories. True lies and confessions ... you know, the stuff of rock 'n' roll. So here's one confession to get us going:

I can't read music.

Can't read music, can't write music. But I can play music. And more importantly, I can feel music. And it's that sense of knowing what works and what doesn't that elevates the great ones, whether it's Joey Ramone and his simple, insanely catchy hooks or Steve Vai and his mind-blowing finesse.

I'm no Joey Ramone or Steve Vai, but that's fine, of course, because it's most important to be who you are. Cliché, yeah, but it's true.

Still, it takes a while to get to a point where people take the time to pay attention to your stuff, whether it's a first demo or a fledgling business concept. It was during those times when I was embarking on a project, whether it was a new band or a new company, that I learned my first critical lesson: FAKE IT 'TIL YOU MAKE IT.

Let's go back, then, to my confession about not reading music. In the old days, this would have been an obvious problem for someone entering the music field. However, due to such advancements as homemade recording technology (Pro Tools, Sibelius, et al), as well as the abundance of tablature that allows one to play guitar without learning how to read music notation, I have become very good at getting ideas across with very little technical knowledge. (Thanks, technology!)

Music, like acting or the field of magic, is all about perception and the tricks of the trade. By figuring out certain tent-pole ideas within the world of music, such as how to replicate amp sounds of a certain era and strumming like your favorite guitarist, I've been able to convey various ideas using my guitar like a sculpting palette.

I'm contributing to a scene, in much the same way as a director, a photographer or an actor does. Turn on your TV and watch whatever is there. Or rather, listen. The role of music in television, film, and online video is a crucial one. It's a lesson I learned first hand as a video editor in New York City. For years I toiled in editing rooms all over Manhattan. It was my "day job" while I pursued music at night. Once I realized that a fresh, modern, and hip licensing library didn't exist, I set out to make one. My "band" became my company. My dream, my pursuit, became, happily, my job. And music was at the center of it.

The point of this ongoing blog will be twofold. One, to share some of the cool, exciting and flat-out insane projects that my company has been fortunate enough to work on. Two, to fill you in on some of the tips and tricks that I use when working within the world of composition and production. For Jingle Punks, the interaction and experience with clients and vendors differs from project to project. It's constantly evolving, which makes it a tricky undertaking. It's also fun as hell. I hope you're as excited about this blog as I am. Til the next time ...

Jared Gutstadt (b. 1977), is an American music entrepreneur and CEO of Jingle Punks Music. Jingle Punks Music has been featured in Billboard, Wired and Variety and was named "one of America's most promising start ups" by Business Week. His band, the Hipster Orchestra, performs fresh and modern orchestral versions of alternative and indie classics. You can find out more about the Hipster Orchestra online and at iTunes or Amazon: Hipster Dinner Party Vol. 1 ... Nirvana Sessions.

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