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Whether you’re talking about music itself, the people who make it, or the instruments and other gear they use, music is a fascinating subject. There a countless stories behind songs, people, and studios, which is why it is the subject of so many fantastic documentaries.
For many documentaries, you need to either rent them, buy, them, or hope they’re available on whichever streaming service you prefer. Fortunately, as with every other kind of video, there is a treasure trove of fantastic music documentaries and series on YouTube. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Electric Rhythm: The History of the Drum Machine
It doesn’t matter whether you listen to EDM, hip hop, or even rock and roll: drum machines are everywhere. If you’ve ever wondered where the humble electronic drum machine got its start, look no further than this roughly 30-minute documentary.
Electric Rhythm is produced by Reverb, a site that lets musicians buy and sell instruments and other gear. They also have a fantastic video production team, which is why you’ll see a few videos produced by Reverb on this list.
2. Show Us Your Junk!
Musicians may end up collecting a lot of instruments and other gear, but nowhere near as much as a recording studio does. Show Us Your Junk is a series produced by Earthquaker Devices that takes you inside studios to take a look at the gear and instruments used by people who make the records you love.
So far this series has featured engineers and producers like Steve Albini, Sylvia Massey, John Vanderslice, and other well-known figures in the recording industry.
3. The ARP 2600: The Story of a Legendary Synthesizer
Much like the drum machine, synthesizers changed the world of music with their inception. While they’re everywhere in modern music, you’ll also find them all over classic records, particularly legendary synths like the ARP 2600.
This synthesizer wasn’t around all that long during its initial run, but those that came to know it loved it. As you’ll find out in this documentary, it even served as the voice of R2-D2.
4. The Synth Sounds of Stranger Things
Speaking of synthesizers, if you’ve ever watched Stranger Things, you’ve no doubt taken note of the show’s music and scoring, nearly all of which are produced by synthesizers.
This video shows just how those sounds are made, using a combination of period-correct synthesizers and modern versions that make similar sounds. Even if you’re not a fan of the show, this short documentary provides an interesting look at the sound design behind TV shows.
5. The Captain Meets…
If you’re a fan of the guitar and people that play it, this show needs to be in your YouTube subscriptions. This series features the titular ‘Captain’ Lee Anderton of the U.K. music store Andertons interviewing guitar players about their life, work, and the gear they use.
This series has caught up with legends like Tommy Emmanuel as well as fantastic more modern players like Nita Strauss and Yvette Young.
6. Such Hawks Such Hounds
We’ve taken a look at Such Hawks Such Hounds before on our list of awesome rock documentaries. If you enjoy 1970s era rock and wish there was more of it still around, this is essential viewing.
The good news is that if you’re interested, you have no reason not to watch it since it’s available on YouTube. The video quality isn’t the best, but it’s still worth a watch.
7. Board to Death!
Board to Death is another series from the folks at Earthquaker Devices, and it makes since, as the company mainly makes effects pedals for guitarists. As the punny name hints, this focuses on the pedalboards used by guitarists to get their sounds.
Some of these pedalboards create the sounds you would associate with the electric guitar. In other cases, the guitarists use them to create otherworldly soundscapes.
Need More Music Documentaries in Your Life?
Even though a few of the documentaries above are series, these likely aren’t even near enough if you’re obsessed with music. Fear not, as there are plenty more where that came from. We have a list of music documentaries you can stream absolutely free.