The art of the mix CD

Not to brag, but I am an expert at crafting mixes for my friends and loved ones. If you ask me to make you a playlist or burn you a CD, I will dedicate an entire afternoon to painstakingly selecting the tracks and assigning them an order. If I’m burning a CD, I also make sure to decorate the jewel case with a track listing and sometimes even album art if I have lots of time on my hands.

If that sounds excessive to you, you have a few things to learn about making mixes. Let me fill you in on my tried and true technique to make a playlist your friend will love!

The first thing to consider when you’re making a mix for someone is their taste in music. It might be tempting to put together a mix with all of your favorite songs on it, but it’s a bit of a waste if you’re more into indie folk music and your friend prefers synth pop. To be safe, I usually ask my friends what vibe they have in mind for the playlist. For example, I introduced my boyfriend to the Cure and Depeche Mode, and he was looking for a mix with more of their style music. So what did I start the playlist off with? Depeche Mode and the Cure (duh).

Once you have a solid foundation for the playlist, it’s time to branch out into things you think your friend will also enjoy. This is usually the part where I swim in a sea of panic. What if you pick that one song they associate with their sleazy ex, Brad? What if your choice is just entirely off base? I waste a lot of time worrying about these things when I’m picking out tracks. But at the end of the day, it’s just a collection of songs you put together for someone you care about. Even if it isn’t 100 percent what they had in mind, it’s something you’ve crafted with love and dedication. If they don’t appreciate it, take your mad mix-making skills elsewhere!

Here comes the most important part: ordering the tracks! I don’t think there’s really a wrong way to go about this, but I have a few tips for making the playlist flow as smoothly as possible. I like to sandwich the songs I know my friend will like around the ones I’m taking a guess on. From there, I try and fit my selections after songs that have similar lyrical content or sounds. For instance, let’s say I had put “Leave a Trace” by CHVRCHES as my first track. I would follow that up with something else with a wintry synth sound, maybe “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs or “Not In Love” by Crystal Castles. Again, this is just my way of going about things, and I don’t know if it really makes sense written out.
At any rate, now you have all my tips, tricks, and suggestions for crafting a playlist your friends and loved ones are guaranteed to enjoy! I have a 100 percent success rate after all ;).

As an added treat, here’s a playlist of some of my favorite tracks. Enjoy!

All my love,

Katherine Wheel