The Dean Martin Mixology Mindset

October 20, 2005

Throughout a career filled with mob dives, movies, concert stages, and the Rat Pack, Dean Martin never broke a sweat. He did whatever he wanted, and he never messed with his aura of cool by caring what anybody thought about anything he did. Many detail-obsessed home recordists—who freak over every minute aspect of a mix as if 1dB too much reverb will obliterate their dizzying journey to Behind the Music—could use a little of Dino’s uncomplicated approach to life. This is an especially critical option for those who also whine that their painstakingly rendered final mixes are totally smoked—in vibe, energy, and overall sonic ballsitude—by “crappy” rough mixes tossed off in 15 minutes.

This is not to say that attention to detail is a bad thing. But if you’re consistently frustrated by the less-than-thrilling state of your mixes, then you might want to explore the joys of letting go. Stop thinking about the sonic fingerprints of hits, or whether an expensive preamp or plug-in will buy you five percent more audio bliss. Simply commit to musical decisions that intensify the impact of the song.

My favorite advice about avoiding bland mixes came from Joe Chiccarelli, who has worked with Frank Zappa, U2, Bon Jovi, Beck, and other artists. Chiccarelli almost never solos or individually tweaks tracks. He brings up all the faders, and adjusts levels, EQ, and signal processing in the context of the full roar. The mix always sounds like a band performing—rather than a bunch of individual tracks—and the resulting rush of excitement will hopefully prevent you from mixing the life out of your music. Dino would say, “Hey, pallie, why sweat stuff that most people can’t hear when you could be out having fun?”

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