Thursday, March 18, 2010

How to Make a Mix

I consider myself a music aficionado, which is a tea-and-crumpets way of saying I think it's pretty awesome.
(I had to look up how to spell aficionado through Google).
And so I also consider myself a master Mixer. Not like Dre so much, of course, but still pretty damn good. And I've made myself that way by following a few guidelines along the way, both in how I make the mixes for others and how I make them for myself (which I continue to do, both for my iPod and for CDs). And I know it's March Madness and I'm doing my first 20-miler this weekend and I'm actually running good at Rush Poker finally, and I should post about those things, but you'll hear plenty about both of those, believe me, and so here's a fun break.
1. Start with a banger - Did Judas Priest ever start with a rumination on Cleopatra, complete with French Horns? No. Did Metallica ever lead an album with a noodling acoustic guitar feature? No. So why the hell are you putting the waterfalls and pipe flutes first? Start with a rocker or, if you're not making a rock mix, as up tempo as you can get.
2. Avoid the cliches - This is a great tip for writing as well, but cliches in mixes, as in writing, should be avoided like the plague (get it? LOL!). This means you do not put that goddam Patrick Swayze sung "She's Like The Wind" song on the first mix tape/CD you make for her. 
(By the way, I'll use "she" or "her" for the rest of this because I'm a guy. If you're a girl, you can substitute it for "he" or "him." Unless you're a lesbian.) You do not put "You Shook Me All Night Long" on there either to appear saucy. And putting "You Light Up My Life" is not nearly as clever as you think it is.
3. A band or obscure song is a good idea - Especially if it means a lot to you. There's nothing cooler than discovering a favorite song through a mix CD someone makes for you (I fell in love with "Under The Milky Way" because of this).
4. But don't overdo it - I generally save Testament, Flotsam and Jetsam and Shadows Fall for my own enjoyment. For some reason, not everyone loves heavy metal or enjoys hearing guys who sing like they're an extra in the torture-porn film "Hostel." I have yet to figure out why this is, but it's true.
5. If it's played on classic rock formula radio, leave it off - No one - and I really do mean no one - wants to hear "Sweet Home Alabama" on a CD mix. You don't either. If you discover, say, an Irish band covering that song, that's funny and therefore should make the mix. But otherwise leave off "Pour Some Sugar on Me" or "Slow Ride." The idea is to entertain you or someone else, not to encourage them to put a hot poker in their eyes.
6. Mix it up - Heh. I know. That's what a Mix CD IS, silly! (LOL!). But if you're making, say, a running mix for your iPod, you don't have to put hard, fast and loud all the time. I'm usually relieved to hear something slow and mellow after an hour of guitars and aggressive drums and vocals during a long run by myself. 
7. Bring on the quirky, funny shit - Offspring had an "Intermission" segment on its most famous album (yep, the one with "Come Out And Play" that you went nuts to at those sorority parties or school dances and congratulated yourself at how "edgy" you were). I used to put it on side B. It got lots of LOLs. Seriously.
8. Jazz is fine, too - I know you like to show how smart and sophisticated you are, and nothing seems to do that better than jazz. Classical music works, too, but those pieces are longer than you think (commercials only take the best snippet). I would suggest Miles Davis, John Coltrane or maybe some Duke Ellington. You can overdo this too. You don't need to put a 23-minute tone poem on there. That really won't make you look smarter. Just a bit snobby and obtuse. 

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