Finding that perfect mix this Halloween
Posted on Oct 22, 2012 in Features
Creating music mixes- whether they be tape, CD, or an iTunes playlist- is an art form. For those who have read and thoroughly enjoyed Nick Hornby’s book “High Fidelty”, you can attest to main character and curmudgeon Rob Fleming’s painstaking attention to mix tape detail. “You’ve got to kick off with a corker to hold the attention, and then you’ve got to take it up a notch, or cool it down a notch.” Google “high fidelity rules for making a mix tape” and you can find both book and movie quotes that can fill you out a bit. Or better yet, just read the book and watch the movie in their entireties, as they are both very enjoyable.
There are guidelines, yes. The most important ones being that the mix must have a good flow to it with no sudden jarring genre turns and no using the same artist or band twice. Admittedly, some people have the gift when it comes to making infectious mixes. These people tend to be avid music lovers or musicians themselves. They just instinctively know what songs to place in which order; it is a gift. With that said, even musical novices can put together a decent mix; it might not be excellent, but it can sure be listenable.
Let’s start you off with a fun project: a Halloween mix. You can make it just for yourself or a friend, or you can make it for a Halloween party, if you so choose to throw one. As someone who went to a party last Halloween where the only music was ear assaulting dance music with “Sympathy for the Devil” playing at least every other song, a well put together party mix will do your get-together much good. It will keep your guests from pulling their synthetic wig hairs out for sure. Don’t think you’re up for the challenge? It’s ok, it can be a bit to take on. For those of you who will try anything once, follow me…
Now, a Halloween mix doesn’t have to consist of all scary or spooky sounding songs. Chances are, you won’t have a ton of those in your music library. Just keep in mind a mix for a party should have something danceable, instantly appealing (“catchy” if you will), and accessible at least to the crowd you are entertaining (a group of Misfits fans don’t care about Rhianna’s newest hit), but will also keep a good flow and set a certain atmosphere.
Here’s a good cheat that some of you may have already used. A little help me button called “start genius”. In iTunes, clicking on a song and selecting this feature will find similar songs and instantly make a playlist or the results.
This is both good and bad: it’s good because it will often select songs that are good mix choices for the final product. It is bad as a stand alone mix because it will also use the same artist twice or thrice when creating results. But you can still find a good bit of songs that will serve for the mix.
Create a playlist in iTunes where you can arrange your song choices into a pleasing order. Then, go through your song library and add songs you think will go well in your mix to your playlist. Arrange the order once more and give your mix a listen. At this point, decide if you need to remove any songs or move the songs around in a more pleasing order. If you’re making this for a party that will last longer than most average mix lengths, it will be ok to use more than one song by the same artist if it goes along with the flow of the mix.
A good flow is in the ears of the listener/creator, which is you. You can build up the songs by starting off with slower tempo songs and increasingly getting faster, or you can make it a bit of a roller coaster by starting slow, getting fast, and dipping back into slower songs again. The important thing to remember is that one song must transition well into the next song, whether it be high energy, a slow burner, or anything in between. You can ever go into different genres if the transition is smooth enough. In fact, some of the most appealing mixes will have a few switch ups, from late 70’s punk to 80’s new wave to early 90’s hip hop to whatever else.
Here’s an example of a mix I made that has a few changes and dips, but keeps a relatively good flow to it. Feel free to copy this if you’d like:
1. Polic Truck – Dead Kennedys
2. Zombie Dance – The Cramps
3. Ghost Town – The Specials
4. How Soon Is Now? – The Smiths
5. The Candy Man – Cibo Matto
6. Natural – Starlight Mints
7. Heavy Cross – Gossip
8. Pug – Smashing Pumpkins
9. No No No – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
10. Viz – Le Tigre
11. Combat Baby – Metric
12. Egg Man – Beastie Boys
13. Pele Merengue – Luscious Jackson
14. The New Pollution – Beck
15. Pyscho Killer – Talking Heads
16. White Girl – X
17. The KKK Took My Baby Away – The Ramones
18. Walking Contradiction – Green Day
19. Molly’s Lips – Nirvana
20. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Theme – Nerf Herder