Love is a Mixed Tape..

I’m a musical zealot. Music is my life. Whether I’m listening to it, making it, learning it, singing it, or thinking it! It’s everywhere to me.
I feel there are two types of musical listeners: The folks that connect with Lyrics and the folks that connect with the Beat. Ever listened to a song and jammed out to it and later found it that the song meaning was actually really sad…you start thinking: Man, I bust a move to that song but it’s actually pretty depressing! When I purchase a new album I will actually take out the liner notes and READ the entire book. I usually have a few picked out that I have already connected with lyrically. Then I take a listen.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was asked to create a compilation of music for a friend.
I blue print everything. My whole life is a blue print. Naturally, I blue printed a track listing. This got me thinking…How do you create a mixed cd?

I feel there is a science to the whole Mix Cd process. I start with who I am creating for…What do I want to say to this person via music? Another way to look at this is: What is the theme of this mixture? For example: Are we doing: Best Covers Compilation, What am I Currently Listening, or are we doing a standard Best of [insert band name here]?

I think of all of these items before sitting at my computer to start. I do a free association exercise [pardon my psych major tendencies]…just a mash of things that come to mind, random songs and artists that I know are saying what I want this mixture to say, or fit within a theme. I list as many as I can on paper. I try to get a healthy twenty five picks. Sometimes more. If on an occasion I come up short I will then retreat to iTunes and do a scroll through..thinking of lyrics, meanings, artists and the theme I am projecting to round out my list.

After the rough draft list is selected the second part of the mixture making process comes in. TRACK LISTING ORDER.
Some of my rules:
Number one/a: Start out with a bang! Grab the listeners’ interest…much like all of those English and lit courses I enrolled in for fun. Neil Dwyer always said: “Grab readers’ interest!” You don’t want your listener falling asleep at first listen. I may love lyrics and connect with lyrics first and foremost but a lot of people don’t. People want ear candy. Don’t overwhelm them with some deep lyrics. If you start off bad then chances are the listener may not even give the rest of your hard work a shot. Compilations are a lot of work.

Number two/b: Be sensitive to likes and dislikes. Sometimes I will ask the receiver: What’s your favorite song of all time? Favorite band of all time? Top five songs you are in love with right this second. This is important. If you know a receiver hates country don’t try to slide one on. Again, compiliations are a lot of work and you want your hard work to be appreciated. Don’t force dislikes on a cd..chances are the listener will give up on you!

Number three/c : No same artists back to back. I love, love, love Jimmy Eat World. If you have ever received a mixture from me you will probably find at least one Jim song. Sometimes, if fitting, I will throw two on the mix but they can never be back to back. Again, don’t want to overwhelm the listener or drown them in Jim. Just because I am quite fond of drowning in Jim doesn’t mean everyone will be J

Number four/d: Be selective with slower songs. Unless your theme is Debbie Downer you don’t want to put the only three slow songs on your mix in a row. Spread them out. You need flow.

Number five/e: No advanced listening tracks. Think about the receiver. Think about your choices. For example: I love Frightened Rabbit but I think some of their songs are for advanced users only. Songs that you can only appreciate if you have gotten over that initial hump of newness. I think all bands have these types of songs. Songs that are an acquired taste, as I like to call them. Be careful with these. I tend to not include them. If you are doing a Best of Band and the listener LOVED the mix and comes back for more, then I would include these acquired taste songs.

Number six/f: When your ordering is complete listen through the mix as a dry run. Does it flow? Does is say what you want to say? Does it fulfill it’s purpose? Think of your listener while doing this. Make any changes here. Usually if I make a change I listen through again, I will do about twenty seconds of each song and scroll through the cd. When satisfied BURN.

I have a favorite lyric from almost every song that I like. {that’s A LOT}. While blue printing I will jot down some of these. Find one that fits the message of the mixture. This will be my title for the compilation. I usually draw/deco the outside of the cd and include this title. I also, always, include a tracklisting with name of song, artist name. Sometimes, if the person is VIP [and because I love crafting] I will create a booklet to go with the cd. Include song title, artist, my fav lyric and WHY I selected that particular song to go on the mix. I love the process of things, the blue prints, why people do what they do..probably why I majored in psychology…. If I don’t make a liner book to go with the mixture then I usually throw in a copy of my blue prints for the listener. Just so they can see my process!

Sounds like a lot of work huh? Well, believe me, it is a lot of work!
So how do you create a mixed cd or compilation? Do you have a process? What’s your method behind the madness?


The Mrs. November 29, 2010 at 8:47 PM  

you make THE BEST mix tapes! EVER

I was watching some show on TBS about frat life in the 80s and some guy was trying in vain to make the perfect mix tape... made me think of you.

Rabbit November 29, 2010 at 9:17 PM  

You and I are such similar creatures. My process is much like yours. You'd think I was drafting up a new Constitution for the good of all mankind with the crap I go through to get a single finished CD. And then comes the process of actually naming the mix and the artwork to go along with it... At least I am not the only one. There's another koo-koo pants mixologist out there.

Pat Tillett November 29, 2010 at 10:25 PM  

I'm always very interested in the lyrics also. I think that's because I secretly aspire to be a song writer...I know it's never going to happen, but still...

phinner November 29, 2010 at 11:54 PM  

I love and appreciate all the mixes you've made me : .)

cuuuutttteee graphic too!

do you still have a tape player? I have a tape to tape with pitch control from the ole teaching aerobics about old school!

Georgina Dollface November 30, 2010 at 10:03 AM  

I guess I'm not a very good friend because I have never made a mixed tape for someone. :( My husband likes to make them for when we go on road trips and he customizes them to somehow fit the theme of where we are going. Great post! - G

The Bumbles December 1, 2010 at 1:17 PM  

I enjoy receiving mixed/compilation CD's - a friend of ours hands them out each year at our friend's holiday party - a different random theme each year - I think she uses the same base for everyone and then throws in a few personalized tracks for the VIP's.

I made lots of them when I was younger - I still have one that my BFF made for me - it was all "friend" songs - very sappy and sweet - makes me cry whenever I hear it. Especially since you can hear her talking in between songs trying to get the tape recorder to work properly ;0)

I am a lyrical gal too - I might be drawn to the sound, but I am always interested in the message beneath.

If you ever have a band, you should name it "Drowning In Jim" - I loved that line!

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