How to Make a Mixtape
Curating your Mixtape
Consider your theme.Sometimes a mixtape will just be some of your favorite songs, but a really impressive mixtape has a theme and conveys a message. Think carefully about the person you are making the tape for and what you hope to express to them.
Think creatively.Different types of mixtape call for different stylistic approaches. A few of these are covered in greater detail below.
Choose a nice mix.A great mixtape may have some familiar songs and some songs that will be new to the recipient. Choose songs you like, and think your loved one will like, but don't be afraid to push their boundaries a little.
Order your songs carefully.Putting tracks in the perfect order is part of the art of the mixtape. Consider the narrative, tonal, emotional and musical arc of the mixtape. Craft your songs into a story.
Adding Finishing Touches
Add a name.All but the most mundane mixtapes will benefit from having a name. At the very least, a descriptive name will help the recipient keep track of what's on the tape (for example, “2010s folk music”).
- If it's special, make it sound special. For more tightly themed mixtapes, there is an art to coming up with the perfect name.
- Using the name of the person who will receive the mixtape can be very flattering to them. A name can also be used as part of a statement addressed directly to the recipient.
- Using a favorite lyric from one of the songs on the tape is a good way to center every song on the tape around that lyric, and encourage the recipient to think about the tape in that context.
- A name that succinctly reflects the theme can help make sense of the song order you choose for the tape. A mixtape named “dawn to dusk,” for instance, suggests a very specific arc of music.
Add art.This doesn't necessarily mean a tiny painting or a sketch (although those are fine), it means any kind of cassette decoration you can put some effort into to create a finished product that's unique and unmistakable.
- Color it in. Colored markers are a time-honored tool of the cassette decorator's trade. They can brightly decorate any paper surface with minimal trouble. Try an abstract pattern or oversized, multicolored lettering. Even a plain black marker can cloak a cassette case insert in zebra stripes or dense spirals.
Make it sparkle.Sequins and glitter add flash with just a bit of thin glue and a paintbrush. Be careful not to get anything on the actual tape inside the cassette, and avoid putting anything that isn't flat (like a rhinestone) on the cassette or CD itself, or the recipient may have trouble getting it to play. Save such decorations for the outside of the case.
Replace the labels.With a bit of planning and some care, the cassette or CD case insert and even the tape label itself can be custom-made from scratch
- Use cloth-top medical tape for a nice wide label that takes marker very well.
- Carefully cut out a photograph or part of a magazine article and firmly glue it onto the tape (with proper holes cut out of it for the tape reels) to make a completely new label.
- Use the case insert as a backing board for a collage.
Screw around with the content of the tape.If you're an experienced and confident mixtape creator, take your tape to the next level by filling in every possible gap between the songs to create a continuous sonic experience.
Give your mixtape a background track.This takes some finesse, and causes sound quality to suffer a bit, but the result is worth the trouble.
- Get a long recording of something that isn't quite music, such as a poetry recital, a comedy routine, or a soundtrack of old TV commercials, and record it onto both sides of your tape first.
- Carefully plan your songs out – you won't get any second chances to re-record them without messing up the tape.
- Record your mixtape over the previous recording, leaving gaps of a few seconds each between songs. The gaps in your mixtape will be filled with the previous recording for an interesting and attention-grabbing effect.
- Paint a sonic landscape with filler tracks. Scrape together all the short songs (less than a minute) you can find, and use them to fill in the gaps at the end of each side of the tape. They'll serve as bookends, framing the rest of the mix in a different light.
- For an even more ambitious project, include any sound bites you can find in larger songs that are only a couple of seconds long, and manually record one of them between each of your regular songs as you make the tape.
Making a Modern Digital Mixtape
Making a Mixtape on Cassette
Get your equipment.Making a traditional cassette mixtape requires a few special pieces of gear: a blank cassette tape, a cassette recorder, a collection of recorded music (such as LPs or CDs), and a cord to connect the tape recorder to your music player.
- Choose your length. There are a few different lengths of blank cassette tape commonly available. The best lengths for making a mixtape are 60 minutes (30 on each side) or 90 minutes (45 on each side). Avoid 120 minute cassettes, as their sound quality is considerably lower.
Organize your music.Once you've settled on a track list list (get some ideas below), stack your recorded music so that you can work your way through the stack from top to bottom as you make the mixtape. This will help keep you from losing track of the project as you record.
- If you are able to get lengths for each track, do so. This will help you organize your songs around the break that comes halfway through the tape.
Move songs off your computer.If your music collection is primarily digital but you would still like to make an old-fashioned cassette mixtape, all is not lost. Burn the songs you want to use onto blank CDs using your computer's optical recording drive, and then record to the tape from the CDs. Be sure that you burn a music disc and not a data disc, since data discs won't work with every kind of stereo.
- Alternatively, if you have a way to run your MP3 player's audio through your stereo, you can record directly from it onto the tape. Be aware that sound quality will typically take a hit if you use this method, compared to the CD method.
Connect your cassette recorder to your CD player, record player, or other cassette player.There are cords that should be able to do this for most cassette players.
- If you can, use an integrated setup. Most stereo and hi-fi systems manufactured over the last few decades have a cassette recorder built into one of their integrated tape decks. Look for the tape deck with an extra button, which usually has a red dot on it.
Put the blank cassette into the recorder deck and push play.Let the tape play for a few seconds, until the sound changes to a smooth hiss, and then stop it.
Set up your music.Put the first album you are copying a song from into the appropriate player on the stereo or hi-fi.
- For CDs, pause the playback and skip tracks until you reach the track you want.
- For other cassettes, fast-forward to the song, and then stop or pause the tape.
- For LPs, leave the dust cover up and wait for a moment.
Record a song.Push the “record” button on the recorder deck (this will push the “play” button down automatically as well), and then start playing the song you picked. Pushing “record” first ensures that none of the song gets clipped off at the start.
- If you're recording from an LP, drop the needle just before the song you want to record, and once the record reaches the silent space between tracks, push “record” on the tape deck.
Stop recording and load the next song.Stay close to the stereo and push the “stop” button on the recorded deck as soon as your song is finished. This will stop the recording. You can then stop the first album and switch it out for the next song on your mixtape list.
Fill up both sides.When your cassette reaches the end of the first side, it's time to flip it over and continue on the back.
Check your mixtape.Listen to your mixtape through to make sure everything recorded correctly. If a song didn't come out right, record of that part of the tape until you are satisfied.
- Unless you carefully budgeted your time, it's likely that you'll end up with part of a song at the end of the first side. You can erase songs from your mixtape by recording over them while no music is playing.
Write down or print out the track listing on a card and slip it into the cassette cover.Consider adding cover art, decorations, and other finishing touches.
Making a Mixtape for your Boyfriend or Girlfriend
Think of a specific reason.“Just because” is a fine excuse to make a mixtape, but “you made me smile yesterday and I can't figure out how you did it” is better. Your reason will suggest themes, which can be adopted to make the mixtape more cohesive.
Settle on a theme.It doesn't necessarily have to be connected to your reason for making the mixtape, but you should choose something you think your boyfriend or girlfriend will appreciate. Using the example above, you might come up with a theme of songs that mention smiling.
Search for songs that fit your theme.Feel free to use novel or unorthodox interpretations of your theme to help you find more songs. Get as many songs together as you can and listen to all of them, or at least parts of all of them.
- Keep trying until you get it right. If you just can't seem to scrape together enough music to fill a blank tape, try to come up with a different theme instead.
Narrow the playing field.Think about what your significant other likes, what you like, and how you want the theme to be expressed. Think about whether or not you can create a deeper message out of your songs by putting them in a certain order. With a little luck, you'll be able to whittle down your selections to just about the right amount to fit onto a mixtape.
- Spend a lot of time on the order of your songs. Order is important for this type of themed mixtape; a good song order allows the songs to flow from one to the next in a way that makes sense and adds meaning. Working all this extra detail into your mixtape is also a great way to show your significant other how much love you've poured into making it for them.
Making a Mixtape for a Parent or Older Relative
Hear with the recipient's ears.Very often when you make a mixtape for a parent or other older relative, it is intended to be a way for them to sample new music. If you're going to show them a lot of new music, spend some time trying to guess whether or not they'll actually enjoy listening to any of it first. Remember, this person has very different musical tastes than you do.
Pick your tracks based on what you think they will like.For this kind of mixtape, pick the catchiest and most accessible songs you can think of within the confines of whatever type of music you're planning to give away.
- Use your past as a guide. If you can't figure out which tracks those might be, think back to the first time you heard the albums in question. What tracks immediately caught your attention? Even if you've moved on from them now, those are the tracks most likely to make a good impression on people who haven't heard the music before.
Making a Mixtape for Work
Keep other people in mind.Assuming that you are bringing your tape to work with the intention of playing it over the speakers so you can listen to it while you do your job, the most important consideration (aside from picking songs you like) is the wants and preferences of the other people who will hear the tape.
Think of the children.If you work in a customer environment where children and families might be present, you should avoid songs with swearing or adult themes like violence and drug use.
Be a team player.Try to pick songs you think your coworkers will enjoy, rather than just whichever tracks you feel like listening to at the moment.
Use a simple theme.Deeper themes require a flow not just from song to song, but across different styles and sounds of music, which won't translate well in most workplaces. Instead, pick a plain and simple theme like “songs about days of the week” or “blues songs that sound like summer afternoons.” That way, when your coworkers hear the first song, they'll know what to expect from the rest of the tape and be able to get back to focusing on work.
Consider donating your tape to work.If it's a big hit with your coworkers, think about leaving it there permanently for anyone to use whenever they feel like hearing it. The point of making a mixtape, generally speaking, is to give it to someone else anyway, so just think of it as a natural next step in the process.
QuestionWhat if I use copyrighted music in my mixtape?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you're using it for personal use, you'll be OK. However, if broadcasting it, you'll be fined, unless you have permission to use that music from the artist.Thanks!
QuestionWhat happens if I use copyrighted music?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou'll be fined and could be sued. It is illegal unless you have permission from the musician.Thanks!
QuestionDo I have to give credit to the creator if the music is instrumental?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes - instrumentals require time and effort to write as well, and these musicians deserve credit just as much as anyone.Thanks!
If you use other music from other artists, can you sell it on eBay or put it on YouTube?
What if you are using other songs by other artists and want to sell the mixtape on eBay and put it on youtube? Or maybe send it to someone in a package or something like that? What would you do?
Can you use a separate tape recorder?
Before making your mixtape, decide whether you want to use a CD, flash drive, or digital transfer. Then, select the songs you want to include and organize them into a playlist that fits the theme of your tape, which might be "You made me smile yesterday" if it's for your girlfriend. When the playlist is ready, put your files into a folder and include a text file with the track listing. To finish, decide on a name for your mixtape that is linked with its theme, which you could come up with by using one of your favorite lyrics on the tape.
Things You'll Need
A blank cassette tape
A selection of songs
A cassette recorder
A sound system
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