The art of making mixtapes

Back in the days of cassette tape players, there was nothing more romantic among teenagers and young couples than giving each other mixtapes. This act of sharing music with each other was definitely special. After all, making mixtapes was not easy. Unless the person making the tape was a professional or budding DJ with a complete set up, records or other music sources needed to be changed and the tape itself needed to be stopped and started many times along the way. This was the case for most people making tapes at home. Of course, the music itself needed to be carefully chosen and ordered, with everything planned in advance to avoid having to rewind and record the tape again. But has the art of making mixtapes disappeared from our lives? It’s true that tapes are all but gone, but the love of music and of sharing music with those you love is still going strong. Tapes were first replaced by writable CDs but mixes nowadays are more often than not purely digital. Making playlists and putting them onto USB sticks or websites is easier than ever. Purists may say that the fact that it’s now so easy to find and share music makes this gesture less romantic than an actual, physical mixtape that took hours to make. While there may be some truth in that, there are advantages to technology, too. Today’s MP3 players and headphones make for a much better listening experience on the go, allowing anyone who was fortunate enough to get a playlist made for them to really enjoy the music as it was meant to be listened to.

Are you thinking of making someone a modern mixtape? Here are some ideas to get you started on how to make this gesture really count.

Plan it

Sure, nowadays you don’t need to plan everything in advance for fear of messing it up. Making a playlist is as simple as getting some songs together and rearranging them until the sequence sounds good. But since the practicalities are so much easier, it’s worth spending the time to really plan your playlist so that the contents are as good as they can get. First, decide on a theme (if any) and a mood for your mixtape. Are you after happy music? Sad and moody music? Maybe active music so that your listener can listen to it while working out? Is there a particular style of music you want to introduce your listener to? Whatever you’re going for, make a long list of potential songs to choose from first and then start narrowing that list down and playing with arranging the songs in a different order. Experiment until you’re happy with the way songs follow each other. Remember that there are other ways you can make songs link up, even if they don’t sound that great together. For example, you can play a sound effect in between or simply talk. More about that below.

Don’t overthink it

Of course, it’s important to put some serious thought into your musical choices when creating a playlist for someone, but you don’t need to overdo it. If your intent is to introduce someone to the music you love – choose the songs you love. Don’t try to second-guess the other person’s taste in music too much. Unless you specifically know the receiver hates a certain style or song, just go by your taste. This is a safer bet than trying to please someone else by choosing sounds you may not necessarily like.

Make it special

As mentioned above, dragging and dropping some files is not quite as devoted as spending hours toiling over a stereo. Give your playlist some added value by making it into something physical like burning onto a CD (if the person you are giving it to has a CD player) or putting it onto a cute USB stick. You can draw or write some cool stuff on the packaging to make it look more personal and involved. Even if you’re just uploading something onto a website (there are quite a few mixtape websites around) you can still make it personal by adding an image or a greeting. In the old days, some people used to record themselves talking between songs. This is a nice touch where you can introduce each song and say what it means to you or deliver any other message to your listener. Recording yourself is also something that’s become a lot easier. You can even do it on your phone, if you have a smartphone, and send it off to the computer to be edited in with your music.