Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Art Of Making The Mix Tape

The one way I can almost always guarantee creativity on my part is by being around someone or something that is also creative. Whenever I'm around my friends band while they are practicing I always seem to get an idea for a line or two at the least, which makes it a good thing that I help write their lyrics for them. Rarely does a situation like this fail to spark my mind into action. Sometimes it also comes when I'm listening to music and I'll find an artist, album, etc that puts me in a certain frame of mind and it brings something else out. Thinking deeply can be a good thing.

Then there are books. Currently I am reading (and I always seem to be reading something) a book titled "Love Is A Mix Tape" by Rob Sheffield. It's about him going over a series of mix tapes that he and his wife/girlfriend made for each other in the 80s and 90s and talking about what was happening in his life at that time. Not far into the book he describes different kinds of tapes such as the Party Mix, the I Want You Mix and the Road Trip Mix. There are many more but you get the point.

While perusing the list I came to think about my own mix tape making career. I had never made one for a girl that I was interested in which always seems to be the number one reason most people have for making a tape in the first place. At least not that I can recollect and it would likely be something that I would remember so I guess I missed the boat on that one. No, most of mine seem to have fallen into three groups which I intend to elaborate on here where I am most at home.

My rules were rather simple for most of the tapes that I made. (1) Try to get music that went together well or at least was from the same era and (2) don't use the same artist more than once per tape. My second rule could be temporarily suspended by making a tape that featured most of the same groups using two of their songs but only by splitting them up on both sides of the tape. I've still got quite a few tapes hidden away somewhere in the house and every so often I'll break them out to remember a different time both in my life and technology wise.

My first kind of mix tape was the Radio Tape. These tapes tended to mix genres since you you were at the mercy of the radio station. What I would do is put a tape in the cassette deck and push pause. Then I would push play/record. That way whenever a song came on that I wanted all I had to do was release the pause button to start recording. You couldn't leave it like that indefinitely however and I was frequently having to reset it but it worked well. It also allowed for less harsh sounds when starting and pausing the recording. I'm not sure that it mattered as most songs had the beginning chopped off and the ending segued into another song or were full of the DJ talking but you can't fault the logic here for getting free songs.

The second kind was the Road Trip Tape. For that one you prepared a tape with songs that had something with a lot of energy, loud guitars, great sing along choruses or a lot of silliness. These tapes always made the trip fun or at least made the ride seem a lot shorter than it actually was. They also had to help keep you awake if you were the driver so slow songs were always kept to a minimum.

The third and last kind was The Greatest Hits Tape. On this one I would take the best songs of bands that I was currently listening to and put them all on the same tape while staying loosely in a genre. More killer, less filler as a way of listening to music. Unfortunately this also led to some of these tapes never being fully completed if I adhered to my one song by the same artist per side rule and got too severe in not mixing genres as I was wont to do.

Mix tapes gave way to Mix CDs which gave way to MP3 players which will give way to something else. Music and technology are forever changing so I'm sure the next bigger and better thing is just around the corner. Believe me, I do embrace technology and I like being able to carry around a ton of songs on my Ipod. Still, I would be lying if I said I didn't sometimes miss the old ways of doing things. I put a lot of effort into my tapes and would often sit with headphones on trying to catch the perfect pause between one song ending and another beginning. I'll keep adapting with technology but I also plan on keeping my old tapes for those days when I feel like going back in time, just a little.

Published by Don Leach

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