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Making a great mix CD

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15 replies to this topic

#1 of 16 OFFLINE   Dustin D

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Posted May 08 2003 - 05:19 AM

Hey everyone, I'm trying to make a mix CD and need some advice on composition, etc. What do you think is important in making a mix CD? Feel free to go all High Fidelity on me here.

#2 of 16 OFFLINE   Cam S

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Posted May 08 2003 - 05:43 AM

Just put all of your favorite songs on there. I make a fair amount of mix's, and when I make one, I try to keep the songs in the same genre, like rap, jazz, rock, R&B, etc etc. It doesn't really mix well when you have 2Pac and Norah Jones on the same cd.

#3 of 16 OFFLINE   Ray B.

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Posted May 08 2003 - 06:02 AM

Yeah, I make "mood" CDs. I usually have the heavy stuff on for the ride home, when I'm in the mood to shoot people, and the relaxing stuff for Sunday afternoons, etc. Going from Disturbed to Luther Vandross is not good for the psyche. Posted Image
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#4 of 16 OFFLINE   Dave Poehlman

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Posted May 08 2003 - 07:05 AM

When I used to bartend in the early 90's, I would bring in mix tapes (before CD-Rs) to play for the crowd. My theory was to alternate between popular songs you might hear on the radio and more obscure songs that were of a similar genre but maybe never made it as a single. I think people want to hear something they recognize once in a while.... at least the corner-bar crowd does. Posted Image

And I would work from heavier stuff to mellower stuff slowly.. never jump from one to the other.

Actually, if you're unfortunate enough to work in an office that pipes in Muzak, if you listen, there's a method how the tunes are laid out. They're broken up into 15 minute blocks where, first you start with a slow song... then a somewhat faster one, and finally a dancy-upbeat song. Then they start again with a slow one.

I'm sure there's some productivity study that showed this progression made people work harder... I don't know if that's true... I found it distracting trying to figure out what that song was I was listening to being butchered by Muzak.

#5 of 16 OFFLINE   ChuckDeLa



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Posted May 08 2003 - 08:57 AM

If you're making this CD for someone else, a cynical warning: he or she will probably listen to it once, maybe twice, and forget it. It will never mean half as much to that person as you think (or hope) it will.

And definitely don't load it up with too much obscure stuff. Dave's right: people want to hear songs they're familiar with. They don't want their horizons expanded.

#6 of 16 OFFLINE   Stacie


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Posted May 08 2003 - 12:31 PM

Chuck says:

If you're making this CD for someone else, a cynical warning: he or she will probably listen to it once, maybe twice, and forget it. It will never mean half as much to that person as you think (or hope) it will.

Hey, it isn't always true. I started dating my husband because he made me a mix tape (yeah, this was before CD burners were everywhere) that intrigued me at first, and then really grew on me. I decided that anyone with such interesting, eclectic taste in music had to be worth a shot (plus, there were obvious messages in some of the songs he chose -- that was how I figured out he might want to be more than a friend). And I've had a couple of exes who let me know how much they liked the mixes I had made for them (even after we were history).

I don't know. I think you really have to consider carefully the personality of the person you're making the mix for. The advice given above about sticking to one genre or mood might be good, but there are people out there who will appreciate a range of styles. My usual strategy is to go for lots of different styles and moods, but to move between them gradually and slowly, as someone else advised.

My husband, though, likes to just throw songs together, preferably in as jarring an order as possible. What that means is that he comes up with some really odd-sounding mixes that don't really hang together, but every once in a while, serendipity strikes, and he comes up with something brilliant.

Of course, the beauty of a fast burner and cheap CD-Rs is that you can burn a mix, play it and decide if you need to tweak it, and then redo it. That wasn't so easy in the days of cassettes!

(Yes, I need to get out more)

#7 of 16 OFFLINE   Grant B

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Posted May 08 2003 - 04:54 PM

I always put snippets from movies, TV cartoons etc in between the songs and people seem to like that aspect of them.
On one tape I merged the song "My Way"... it started with frankie crooning it and ended with sid vicious screaming it
Or themes are pretty cool. I did a 90 minute tape and all the songs had 'Blues'in them....everything from 'Yer Blues' to 'Stuck inside the Mobile with the Memphis Blues again"'
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#8 of 16 OFFLINE   Camp



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Posted May 09 2003 - 02:56 AM

No one seems to have mentioned it but the 'change' from one song to the next has to have a good flow to it. The end of song A should have a stylistic or lyrical similarity with the begining of song B. Alternatively, there may be times when you want strong contrast between songs (song A ends slowly while song B starts heavy) but balance these carefully.

If you can master that and give your disc a theme you'll be really proud of yourself.

#9 of 16 OFFLINE   Dave Poehlman

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Posted May 09 2003 - 03:40 AM

I always put snippets from movies, TV cartoons etc in between the songs and people seem to like that aspect of them.

Yeah, one of my favorites was a party-ish mix I had in college and a gushy ballad would start playing and just as the crowd would start to say "WTF is this crap", all of a sudden you'd here the record scratch and hear the openning dialog to Cheech & Chong's "Earache my eye!" and then pick up with another party tune. It was good for a laugh.

"Hey man, I just bought that record!" Posted Image good times, good times.

#10 of 16 OFFLINE   Michael Hughes

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Posted May 09 2003 - 05:55 AM

I listen to a lot of styles and usually put some of my favorite songs from my most recent CD purchases for the first 10 tracks or so, then I hit some past faves and balance out the remaining songs with some one hot wonders like "My Sharona" and some fun guilty pleasures like "Viva Las Vegas".

My most recent mix I went from the Dan Bern, to the Doors, to Aerosmith, to Frank Sinatra, to Shania Twain to Smokey Robinson to The Wallflowers..

I have found people are most receptive with a 50/50 mix of some interesting new songs and some old well known classics. Mixing styles as well.

Some fun themes:
Song with Girls Names
Songs based on teh Title Track of the Album
Your Own Greatest Hits Collection of an Artist
Best Songs of the year
Romantic Songs
Rockin Songs

#11 of 16 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted May 09 2003 - 08:34 AM

Kinda on-point ("Can Sheryl Crow/Mick Jagger/etc. make a good mix tape?"): http://slate.msn.com/id/2082743/
The most recent disc features songs picked by Sheryl Crow. A profoundly mainstream songwriter, she has profoundly mainstream taste. Carol King's "So Far Away," James Taylor, Elton John, the Crowded House ballad "Don't Dream It's Over," Rod Stewart's stalwart "Maggie May." It's the sort of stuff you might hear playing in the background at Walgreens—or maybe these are themes from several generations of eighth-grade dances. Scan the list of titles and artists, and you feel as if you'd heard it without even putting the disc on. Sort of like Crow's music.

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Two together are always going somewhere."

#12 of 16 OFFLINE   John Watson

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Posted May 24 2003 - 03:53 AM

One thing about compilation theme mix CDs - once you've carefully recorded and sequenced the tracks, and have a music program that demonstrate your great awareness and hipness, and committed the compilation to CD-R - then you think of one more track that would have been perfect on that mix Posted Image

#13 of 16 OFFLINE   Jim_F



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Posted May 25 2003 - 12:55 AM

I like trying to make seamless transitions, so that a compilation moves gradually from one genre to a completely different one.

For instance, Traffic's "Low Spark..." can be juxtaposed with Brubeck's "Take 5" and I can go in a totally different direction. Likewise Genesis'"No Reply at All" can lead into any number of Earth, Wind and Fire tunes, which can lead into Sly and Family and so on to maybe some Funk or Classic Rock.

Have fun!
"Always tell the truth. It's the easiest thing to remember."

#14 of 16 OFFLINE   Jeremiah



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Posted May 25 2003 - 07:17 AM

I like puting some dialog on the CD at the start or ending and even throughout, but the middle ones have to be short. One problem I have is that the songs will take that -02, -01, play, 01 and if I have dialog that ends quick I haven't been able to get a song to start right away and there is a second or two pause. It bugs. I definantly agree that people want to hear songs they are familar with, mostly in a party atmosphere.
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#15 of 16 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted May 25 2003 - 01:12 PM

ahh...the perfect mix tape. what an elusive treasure hunt.

in high school, i was sort of "known" for my tapes. i spent a lot of time making them. i calculated everything: theme, recording levels, fade-out at end times, etc. it wasn't unusual for my tapes to get copied over and over and passed around. of course, no one appreciated all the skill and talent that went into them. Posted Image

for me, i think my strong point was that i choose mostly alternative stuff...songs people didn't hear every day. plus, i lived in a small town, but always went to LA to get my tunes.

anyway, i think that one should consider who they're making the tape for. if you know someone's preference, then you can fine-tune the selections. if it's for yourself, then you'll (obviously) already know what you're going for.

these days, when i make a mix, i tend to only put on stuff i want to hear myself. i rarely make mixes for anyone else anymore.

some of my current mix themes: big hair 80's, chick bands, return of the disco-duck, eclectic ear, etc.

#16 of 16 OFFLINE   John Watson

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Posted May 25 2003 - 05:01 PM

Ted Lee, your comments remind me of Rick Nelson's classic song GARDEN PARTY :

"You can't please everybody, so you've got to please yourself"

I started making those tapes in the 80's, and it will be worth my while to get eventually them on cd, considering the tons of obscure long-gone vinyl I got a lot of my tracks from ...

Posted Image

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