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The CHIRP Blog

CHIRP DJ writesSide A, Side B: Making the Perfect Mix

With the advent of compact discs, and now MP3s, the cassette tape went the way of the dinosaur. And, with it, went the mixed tape. Made of an “A” side and a “B” side, the mixed tape provided music lovers with the opportunity to create a sonic theater of sentiment complete with an intermission. Having two sides made it possible to fit two themes onto one tape, to make two full acts of music and to draw the crescendo of the tape out in a dramatic way.

It is easier, of course, to make a mix on a cd. All that is needed is a computer and a burner and a mix can be made in less than ten minutes. Tapes required elbow grease. Pulling the tapes you wanted to dub, searching for the tracks. Re-taping it if the sound didn’t come out right the first time, and trying to get the timing just right, so that no songs got cut off but also trying to avoid minutes of blank tape at the end of a side. I have fond memories of spending nights hunched over my tape deck, meticulously making mixes for friends (“Tori Amos Essentials”, “Good Going Out Tape”, “Girls!”) and for partners (“Love/Lust”, “Make Out Mix”, “You, Me, Rock”). Getting a handmade mixed tape was the best gift one could get. There was such an excitement in throwing it in your tape player and putting on your headphones, wondering what the next song, and the next side, would be.

In 2009, it is rare to find someone with a tape player. The last time I made a mixed tape was in 2003, and then subsequently had to buy my boyfriend a tape player to play it on. Cds are the wave of the future, but how can we make them just as good as the old standard, the mixed tape? And what just plain makes a good mix?

  • Shorten the sentiment, or double up: Abbreviate the message that you want to send, or make two discs and emphasize that they should be listened to in succession. After a recent trying time, my best friend made a set, with one disc carrying the theme of heartbreak and sorrow; the other was full of songs about redemption and survival. Trying to fit all of that on one disc could have been too much – the story was better told on “sides”, and it worked perfectly.
  • Know your audience: Even if you are making a mix for a specific occasion, like a holiday or a celebration, pay attention to what your listener likes. If they love noisy rock, dig around for Christmas song covers instead of putting traditional standards on their Xmas Jams 2009 cd. Customize the music to their specific tastes, even if those aren’t necessarily the songs you want to hear. And use caution when making a mix for a new sweetie. Songs that use the words “love” and “forever” could be taken the wrong way. Keeping all of this in mind…
  • Surprise them: Mixes are a great way to expand someone’s musical knowledge. Use the bands you know they love as a spring board for artists they might be unfamiliar with. Throw in a few groups that they know as anchors, but perhaps include b-sides instead of their more popular songs. Don’t forget liner notes so that they know what the wonderful new tunes you gifted them with are!

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Categorized: Post Mix

Topics: lists

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