| Saturday, June 29
the art of the mix tape (or) what i'm doing when i'm not blogging. of course i'm talking CD mixes here. who the hell listens to tapes anymore? well. i do. but that's besides the point. anyhow. a CD can fit seventy four minutes worth of music. that's over an hour's worth, if my calculations are correct. and i think they are, despite my "hey, i'm asian but i didn't get a 800 SAT math score" level. an hour is a long time. when you give a CD to someone, you're giving them something they have to enjoy for 1/24th of their day. it's a big responsibility. i personnally like to adhere to a one to two ratio for how much time i use to create a mix. if it's an one hour mix, a half hour should be spent on careful song selection. a step by step guide. because i know you care.
step one you need to pick a theme. perhaps even a sub-theme. are usually always the same since i'm close minded and listen exclusively to my preferred genres. it's a personality flaw, shoot me. but with these limited themes, the sub-theme becomes even more important. for example, hip hop comes in all flavors. party hip hop, groovy hip hop, chill hip hop, underground hip hop, mainstream hip hop...you could sub-categorize forever. the key is to pick a theme and a consistent sub-theme.
step two usually, step one was decided long ago. maybe in the shower, maybe in the car, maybe while falling asleep the previous night. wherever inspiration happened to hit, this step is recognized as the true beginning of the mix tape creation process. this step is about picking the artists. pick the relevant artists now, and it will be very helpful in narrowing song choices later. thus saving you time. . advance planning doesn't just happen automatically. foresight my friend, is 20/20. anyhow. pick your artists wisely. the artists make the music. literally.
step three scroll down your list of thousands of MP3s, grabbing relevant songs. what? don't have MP3s? you need to start downloading while everything is still free. believe me. it saves you lots of money. if you don't have a computer. well. you might as well skip this entry. actually, you can come use my computer if you want. or maybe hong's if he's nice.
step four narrowing down the song list to fit within the constraints of one CD is tough. you invariably end up with a billion and one songs. go down the list. pare off all dead weight. remember the sub-theme(s). if a song doesn't fit. acquit. set it free.
essential tips for step four have no more than two songs from any particular artist. unless the sub-theme happens to be an artist. this will provide some variety. because variety, as we all know, is the spice of life. in a typical seventeen track setup: pick one totally old school song. to make them go, "whoa, that's SO old!" pick one or two songs that are your personal favorites. but kind of low key. to give it a little piece of you. pick one or two songs by mainstream artists. so their ears will perk up at a familiar tune. but not too many. otherwise you get "now that's what i call music 5,003." religiously avoid anything that might be overplayed. unless you know they love it. try to find one or two remixes. something a little familiar but different. you'll be rewarded with eternal happiness. i guarantee it. don't try to mix things songs that don't naturally mix. there is always a track that will stick out like a sore thumb. you may not notice it right away. but it's there. hunt it down. chop it off. the mix will be that much leaner and cleaner.
step five just as crucial as the actual song selections is the order you put them in. key key key. make sure there is a rhythm to your CD. in general, if you have a mix of different tempo-ed songs, you need to intersperse the fast songs to juice things up. but not too much juice. and don't put more than two slow songs next to each other. to avoid lulling the listener to sleep. don't put the same artist back to back. that's a party foul. start the mix off with something catchy, but not mainstream. put one mainstream song near the beginning (track three or four) and another near the middle (track nine is nice). end with something that is kind of soft. don't close with something energy inducing. after your initial order is set, listen to snippets of each song so you can ensure that the track order will make sense. and to make sure that the whole thing as a whole is aesthetically pleasing. success rests your judgement. people are depending on you. don't be doing other things, like talking or having a life, during this stage. crucial crucial crucial. your unwavering attention is needed at all times, especially now. tune out, or turn off, other audio sources. "noise" as we like to call it in the industry.
step six last of all. pop in a ninety nine cent CD and burn to your little heart's delight. give the mix a whirl on your own system. how does it sound? does it need a few tweaks? maybe a change or two? don't hesistate to correct the mistakes. to re-burn is human. crap cds make nice coasters. don't feel guilty about "wasting." when the final product is done, name your cd something exciting. preferably something abstract and memorable. maybe even something witty. or cheeky. if you're in the mood, and really, who isn't? put some stickers on the CD. or create a label. or just leave the whole face blank. like brown paper packaging. anonymous, yet curiously appealing.
to the recipient NEVER use the shuffle function on your CD player. that would defeat the whole purpose of this whole ordeal. don't do it. it would be like pouring ketchup over a great chef's creation. listen to it the way it was designed. if you hate it...coaster.
of course. another option is to just throw all the songs you like onto random CDs and have it all mixed together like audio potpourri. but c'mon. don't you want to waste more time in front of the computer like i do? that *thud* you just heard wasn't my "life" suddenly collapsing. it's my mix tape landing at your doorstep.....