How to make a mixtape!

Helooooooo beatus corneriusius!

 

Welcome to latest new edition of the beat corner!

Tonight I found myself compiling some tracks for a b-day party this weekend and asked myself “ooooh I should do a post about making mix-tapes”! and viola, here we are!

The older people out there may hear the word “mixtape” and think of those wicked cassette-tape mixes you used to make for your crush (or for that “awesome” house party), but as you know mixtapes still exist in this day and age, and may be more popular than ever.

This Lionel Ritchie mix was the shit!

This Lionel Ritchie mix was the shit!

Although we have kept the retro word “mix tape” i assure you that 99.99% of mix tapes today exist in the digital and online realm. Thanks to sites like Mixcloud and Soundcloud its easier than ever to make a mixtape and brag to your friends about how awesomingly spectacular you are, like all the time!

 

Soundcloud.com ... an amazing library of music and mixes!

Soundcloud.com … an amazing library of music and mixes!

But how do the pro’s do it… and how can you do it?

Let’s get into it…

 

1. Use good quality-tracks

This one may be a given, but if you use those wicked Eminem tracks that your friend gave you on his 5-year old external hard-drive, which were ripped from YouTube, which were taken from a radio recording, chances are its going to sound like crap on headphones or worse yet, quality speakers.

Using tracks purchased from the iTunes Store or other reputable music sites (a la Amazon, Beatport etc etc) should ensure that are of high quality. If you choose to rip from your CD’s, make sure that they are at LEAST 320Kbps quality, or use larger files like AIFF’s or WAV’s to ensure that the quality is there.

Another good point about using good-quality tracks is that you can ensure that the volumes of the respective tracks will be similar, not identical, but similar. This can avoid any awkward changes in volume during your mix.

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2. For your first mix, don’t throw in every song you know!

As tempting as it is to make a “history of hip-hop mix” spanning from 1978 to 2014, including every chart-topper you can think of, its a little ambitious for your first mix. Its also not very fun to hear every single chart topper from 2014 simply pasted side by side, especially if those songs are already on everybody’s smart phone playlists.

Its good to figure out what kind of mix you want to make, do you want to make quick cuts with some songs only playing a verse and a chorus (or just the chorus), or do you plan on playing songs almost in their entirety before switching onto the next track? If you are doing the quick cuts, maybe plan a 5-15 minute mix, and a longer 30 min mix if you are going for longer cuts. Most people aren’t going to listen to an hour mix, even at a party. Its better to make multiple small mixes that are concentrated.

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3. What are you trying to do with your mix?

Are you using this mix to get a dance floor filled, or are you trying to introduce a friend to new artists? Perhaps you are trying to fit a mood or even creating a backdrop for an event? Each of these situations will need a different type of mix. There are no 100% right answers here, but there are very very wrong answers lol. It’s best to experiment with the flow and track selection to see where the mix takes you.

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4. You will not get it on your first take!

At least, not the majority of you. Unless you plan out every track and transition than it will take a few tries to get the mix right. Its ok to have a version 1, 2, or 12! (like mine do haha!)

Take 3

 

5. What software/hardware are you going to use?

Luckily today, it is rather easy to make a mixtape. You have a plethora ($5 word yo) of software to choose from, so lets get right into it:

Itunes

Yes you can use the iTunes DJ function to create your mixtape for you. It will help to have your music in a designated playlist. Mind you, the mix will simply play from song to song, as you have little options for transition. Mind you, its free and easy to use!

Audacity

Audacity is a free app that allows you to record and edit your music. One of the cool features it allows you to do is create a level volume for each track so you don’t have extreme volume changes in your mix.

Mashup

Mashup is a software from the Mixed In Key crowd. It allows you to analyse your songs in musical key, and makes suggestions as to which songs will match with others due to them being in identical or similar musical keys. You can then copy and paste sections of your song,  just like text in documents, and make creative connections or blends with your songs. Kinda like a mini-production software suite. Mixed In Key Mashup is currently US$39.

Djay

Djay is available for mac on OSX or on the iPad/iPhone.IPod Touch on iOS. It is a great DJ software package and allows you to record your mixes. This one is great if you know some of the fundamentals of DJ’ing and would like to be a little more creative in your mixtape. Djay also allows you to use samples, loops and FX for added flavour. Remember though, less is more. Also has an “auto-mix” feature if you want it to “mix” for you. You can use this with your keyboard or with a supported MIDI controller. $20-$40.

Traktor/Serato DJ/Virtual DJ/Cross

This is fully featured DJ software if you want to go 100% manual and have full control of your mix. This will give you the most freedom with your mix but will also raise the likelihood of multiple takes needed to nail the mix perfectly. You must use these programs with Turntables, CDJ’s or a supported MIDI Controller. You’re looking at $45-$250 here.

Ableton Live/Fruity Loops/Reason

and this is the ultimate solution for your mix-tape needs. If you are using these tools to make your mix, you are probably not a beginner. (and if you are a beginner, its analogous to using a Monster Track to pick up the groceries down the road). These production software suites will provide you all the tools you need to produce your own tracks let along a mixtape. In saying that, the workflow will be different as you have to “prep” tracks and have everything organised before hand. With the sheer amount of options available to you, this will be an exercise in preparation, not spontaneity. You will want to use the tools to tweak and time your mixtape to make it sound professional! $1000’s of dollars to be spent here.

 

6. Promote your mixtape!

Congratulations, you have made your mixtape! Now get it out there! You will want to distribute it to as many outlets as possible, as you may be surprised who might listen to it and what options it may open up for you in the future.

You will want to have physical copies available to give to your friends and mates. Its best to put it on a cheap USB drive, along with your contact information and your bio, so that it can be easily passed on.

On the inter webs, you will want to make a profile on Mixcloud and Soundcloud and upload your mix onto their respective platforms. Make sure you follow, share and like everyone who listens to your mix!

Then you will want to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google +) to promote to the world that you have a mix up and where they can go to find it and listen to it!

and of course use as many opportunities as you can to mention the fact that you have made a mix tape!

Its a vey cool feeling to create something that has the potential to affect people in a positive way!

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Have you created any mix tapes? What was your experience?

Like, comment and share!

 

Until then corner-ites, take care of yourself!

– DJ BRUAEL

 

 

 

 

 

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