Watch The Sound: Mark Ronson’s audio recording 101

Photo courtesy of AppleTV+

The producer of artists like Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Duran Duran and Bruno Mars unpacks gear and tone in this brand new docuseries.

Unpack various recording effects and tools used to craft popular records in Mark Ronson’s new documentary series, “Watch the Sound.” Meeting with famous musicians, engineers and inventors, Ronson brings to light a new side of the recording process through fantastic storytelling, demonstrations and real-world examples. From traveling to empty oil tanks in Scotland to adding space-age Harmony Engine to classic John Lennon songs, this series is both a deep-dive into music and a fun watch.

The six episodes cover both audio recording effects, such as reverb and distortion, and commonly-used tools, such as synthesizers and drum machines. By exploring both the history and the application of effects and tools, Ronson is able to paint a full picture of the significance of these technical recording elements. The “Drum Machines” episode interviews Roger Linn, the creator of the LinnDrum, to tell the behind-the-scenes story about tracking the iconic drum sound in a closet in Tarzana, Los Angeles, and uses clips of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” to explain how the drum machine was later used incorrectly to create mega-hits. 

While each episode discusses relatively-complex musical concepts, Ronson does a great job of making them palatable to all viewers through great stories and examples. Using interviews from newer artists like King Princess and Charli XCX, who hilariously helps Ronson record an autotuned song, along with revered artists like Paul McCartney and the Beastie Boys, Ronson finds examples for every viewer. With a clear personal interest in all genres, Mark Ronson meets with production idol, Premier, to discuss sampling in hip hop by using eclectic sounds from crate-digging records. In “Sampling,” the duo breaks down the unique samples in Nas and Gang Starr songs, which originally came from a Methodist Church record and “Devil in the Dark” by The Manhattans. 

With an impressive catalog of production credit, Mark Ronson additionally uses examples from his own career and childhood. Revealing his mistakes in sampling the string part in “Sunny” by Boney M. and the drum break in “Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey for his song “Ooh Wee,” which resulted in a royalty battle, along with his successes in using thick reverb on Amy Winehouse’s album “Back to Black”, Ronson takes a humble approach in his interviews for “Watch the Sound.” 

The series beautifully balances technical information with amazing tidbits about music. While “Watch the Sound” is definitely geared towards musicians, the stories and performances by artists like Duran Duran, Bikini Kill, Tame Impala and Angel Olsen make it well worth the watch for any music-lover. Fair warning, this series will leave you obsessively Googling obscure synthesizer and drum machine models and listening to deep-cut songs you forgot about. 

[Available on AppleTV+]

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