Mixtapes, really? Did I stop somewhere in the 90s? Kind of. But not really. Recently, I’ve discovered the joy and fun in making mixtapes (you are allowed to call them playlists, but I prefer the old way and I’m not ashamed, not one bit) for my friends and I’d gladly recommend this to anybody who loves music as much as I do. Today, I am here to share some of my best tips on how to make a mixtape that will be remembered. I’d like to state at the beginning that I’m not a professional mixtape-maker (does that profession exist?) and therefore, my tips may be completely wrong and unrelatable, but hey, they work for me so they might as well work for you!
I consider this quite an important factor of a great mixtape. Most of my mixtapes take from 60 to 90 minutes and I think that’s the best length – it is just long enough to give the idea and you can listen to it on one take. Given the technology we have nowadays, we are not limited as we used to be when mixtapes were on actual mixtapes/CDs, but that doesn’t mean you are supposed to make a 999 songs long mixtape. Sure, it is good to have something like that for when you are working and you want to listen to some background music, but as a mixtape for someone else, that’s a total killer (at least for me).
The overall theme
Every mixtape should have some theme. It can be a romantic “I love you but you don’t know yet” mixtape, sad mixtape full of songs that will make you cry, chilled acoustic one or energetic salsa mixtape that will immediately make your day brighter – and even a mix of all of them is a theme itself. However, you should definitely know what you want to say with that mixtape before you start making it – then it gets even better than it would be if it would be just a couple of songs randomly put together.
Here we go, the songs – the most important part of a mixtape (duh!). I have a pattern I follow almost every single time I make a mixtape, so you may find it useful as well:
Opening track, what a difficult song to choose. Well, my rule for track no. 1 is that it should be a song that is rhythmic, catchy and gives a good energy in general. As an example, I’ll take my mixtape I made for Jerry not long ago called Wicked Wednesday. The opening track is I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons. It’s very rhytmic, it’s catchy as hell, you can sing along and it (hopefully) catches your focus.
Second song should be even more energetic than track 1. It should kick the mixtape off and make your friend be like “whoa, I did not expect that”. As a track 2, I chose On What You’re On by Busted. It’s very energetic and follows the vibe of the previous song, which is the intention.
Track 3 is supposed to be a breaking point. You should still follow the energy, but you should slow down the rhythm a bit. As my track 3, I chose Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day. Now, that’s an absolutely amazing rock ballad and I love how it slowly moves the overall vibe from summer-thingy to serious and a bit melancholic autumn. Let’s move on.
This is the most important song from the whole mixtape. It should be rather slow and meaningful and most of the time, it should give away the idea you want to sell with your mixtape. As my track 4, I used Cranes in the Sky by Solange (am I the only one who didn’t know Beyoncé has a sister who is a singer?). It’s a very touching song about her experience with being a black woman and with all the struggle coming along with it.
This one can be different in various mixtapes, but I prefer to have either an instrumental or some slow acoustic ballad as my track 5. I mostly make it follow the melody of track 4, so it sinks in better. It gives you time to catch that idea of previous song. As my track 5 in this mixtape, I put Reverence by Steve Cole, which is -ohmygodamazingandbeautiful- jazz/swing (not really sure) instrumental. That song is just purely beautiful, definitely listen to it!
Well and now, you just copy this pattern as many times as you feel comfortable – in my case usually four times, because that makes 20 songs and usually cca one hour of music. You should also definitely consider the continuity of the songs. Also, to keep the listener entertained, I recommend changing the genre pretty often.
And here you go, you have a mixtape! Send it to your friends, listen to it a few times and you can start doing a new one! 😀 If you are interested in the mixtape I was talking about above, here’s the link for Spotify (listen to it in order, pleeaaase, as you could read, it matters!).