So the days of the burned CD and the mixtape are over and done. With music-streaming apps like Spotify and Pandora giving us unlimited musical options at the touch of a button, who has the time (or patience) to wait for a CD to burn? Mixtapes might be old news, but curating a collection of your favorite tunes for someone special is a timeless art. I’ve always been of the mindset that a playlist is one of the most personal and thoughtful gifts that you can give someone. Not only are you spending hours combing through your music library to handpick the perfect tracks and place them in the perfect order, but you’re also baring a little bit of your soul with every song. You definitely can’t do that with a fruit basket, or jewelry, or even a great piece of art.
Now, I may be a bigger music nerd than most people, but a well-made mix can go a long way to win both my unwavering friendship and my heart. In high school, my best friend and I would make monthly CDs, burning two copies of each one so we could listen to it as we drove aimlessly around town. And during college, my boyfriend and I would continuously try to one-up each other with “the best mix everrr.” Not only was it fun to put these soundtracks together, but it’s a total kick of nostalgia whenever I hear any of these tunes today — it totally brings me right back to those exciting, carefree days.
In all of my years of mix-making, I’ve learned that there are certain crucial elements necessary to creating a great playlist. First and perhaps most important of these elements is a theme. Drawing inspiration from how you’re feeling, the time of year, and what you’ve been listening to, come up with a few adjectives that describe how you want listeners to feel when they queue up your mix. Hopeful? Haunted? Happy? After throwing a bunch of songs into the ring, toss out any that don’t quite fit with the theme.
The next important piece is the track listing. You can’t just throw a bunch of tunes on there willy-nilly … oh no. Just like your favorite album by your favorite band, there shouldn’t be any filler tracks, either. Start strong with a killer opener, finish strong with a memorable last tune, and keep the momentum going throughout with a combination of upbeat jams and slower ballads.
Finally, you have to think about your audience. Obviously, a tender, sentimental mix for your honey is going to look a bit different than a summer road trip soundtrack you create for your best friends. Of course you love all of your music, but keep the intended listeners’ tastes in mind, too.
Now that you’ve made the perfect mix and are ready to share it with the world, open up that Spotify app, publish your playlist and set your musical tastes free to grace the ears of others.
Still, an old-school CD with a handwritten label — made for just one person — can mean so much more. — Kim Windyka
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