Perfecting the mixed tape

Summer is a great time for playlists, soundtracks, mixed tapes or mixtapes…whichever name you prefer. But a quality mix does not just happen by accident; you can’t just haphazardly throw together tracks you like. Making a good mixed tape is an art, so don’t waste your CDs on some random assortment of songs, no matter how good the songs may be. If you want to give a friend random songs, use Dropbox—it’s much more convenient and has less chance of you wasting precious CD space with songs they already have. But If you want to share a mixed tape with them, read on.

First, consider your audience. Who is this playlist for and why are you making it for them? Are you pulling together songs to help cheer up a friend who has gone through some hard times lately, or are you choosing tracks to pump up your teammates at practice? Maybe you want to make a best friend or special someone feel extra appreciated through song. Whatever the reason, keep this purpose in mind as you choose songs. You want your mixed tape to have a flow or to tell a story.

Next, pick the songs! Go through your iTunes library and pull out any songs that could work and put them in a playlist. You have to start somewhere, so start broad and then narrow down your song choice from there. Listen to the songs as you make your decision, and remove the songs that definitely won’t work. When you have narrowed down this list some, you’re ready for the next step in the mixed tape: establishing song order.

Pay attention to song order. While all of the songs you have chosen may convey whatever feeling you were going for, not all songs will flow together as well. Some songs may clash if they’re played consecutively but will still work wonderfully on the same album as long as you have the proper songs between them. Try to group similar sounds, tempos and lyrics together first, and then work to place these different sounds in a cohesive order. Think of how the sounds can work together to tell a story, moving from happy to sad to happy again, or from slow tempoed to more fast-paced songs. You have enough sense about music to pick these songs, so you should be able to tell which songs don’t go very well together (and therefore avoid putting those together).

Choose your songs again. Sometimes you have to let songs go at this stage. Maybe two songs have too similar feelings and you need to cut one, or maybe you just can’t place the song in the current lineup you created. In either case, it may be a good idea to take a break from the project and come back to it later—take a few hours or even days to step back and then give it another listen. You may also find you are lacking a song or two that you hadn’t pulled out from your initial iTunes browsing. Putting a little more thought into your mix will allow for a more meaningful end result.

More hints:

  • Be sure to give the playlist a final listen before pulling out that CD to burn. You don’t want to waste any CD-Rs because the playlist wasn’t exactly how you wanted it. When you’re finished, test out the burned disc for playback as well.
  • With that in mind, also check the playlist running time. If you’re making a mixed tape, be sure that the total length of your playlist is shorter than what one CD will hold. If you’re wanting to use multiple CDs, then it doesn’t matter as much, but still keep length in mind.
  • Don’t forget to name your creation, but be careful what you choose. “The Awesome List” might be a little pretentious, while some really long title filled with inside jokes may only work in some situations. Or maybe you should just go with “My mix.” It’s up to you, really.
  • Decorate the case/CD before you give it to them. Writing up a track list would also be a nice touch.

1 Comment

Filed under Music

One response to “Perfecting the mixed tape

  1. Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I am hoping you write once more soon!

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