How to Make the Perfect Mix Tape  10.19.01

Picture this: You're in love. Great. Everything's perfect. Well, at least that's what you think in the beginning. Slowly you'll realize there is a missing void, a certain something begging to fart out. And what's worse is that this certain something is tearing up your relationship. So what is it and how can you fix your relationship? It's a mix tape is what it is, and you can start by making one.

Picture this: You just found a new best friend. This new best friend scans your music collection and is on the verge of asking to borrow some. But of course, you are extremely selfish and prefer not to share your CD's, but at the same time, you are desperate for a friend. So, what do you do? You make a mix tape.

You're in the grocery store. You ask someone where's the cereal aisle. The person points you in the right direction. What do you do? You make a mother fucking mix tape.

Mix tapes are perfect. Not only are they great for sharing new and old music, but they dig down deep into the bottom of the heart, and expose the bloody organ for all it's worth. It's as personal as stripping down naked and saying, "This is me, take it or leave it." Usually they would just leave it, but with Jack Tripper's (read: my) help, they will indefinitely take the bait; because as we all know, tricking people into liking us is the best way to live life.

So what's a mix tape anyway? It's just a tape with a whole bunch of songs, right? Just scramble a few songs together and that's good enough, right? Wrong. Creating a mix tape is one thing, but creating a perfect mix tape is a whole other story. It takes enormous amounts of outlining and planning before executing a perfect mix tape. Sure, you can throw a bunch of random songs together, but don't come crying to Jack Tripper when that special someone dumps you or your new best friend ditches you -- because they will. I promise you, if you follow these little guidelines, you'll have that special someone or best friend for at least a month longer.

So where do you start? First of all, you need an audio cassette. Most cassettes found in Wal Mart or Sam Goody will suffice. Mix taping doesn't imply spending $10 on a tape just to show how much you care. After all, it's about the execution and design -- oh yeah, and the music. On the other hand, you don't want to use a bad tape, such as a previously used tape or one that has been collecting dust. It's safest to start clean with a new, moderately priced, blank cassette.

Now, the question is... What is the recommended length for a mix tape? The most popular lengths are 60-minutes, 90-minutes, 110-minutes, and 120-minute tapes. The choice is ultimately yours, but for your first mix tape, you should play it safe and go with 90-minutes. I mean, after all, this is your first mix tape; if you screw up, wouldn't you rather be screwing up for only 90-minutes, rather than 120-minutes? So you're probably wondering, why 90-minutes and not 60-minutes? My answer: don't ask too many questions, you ungrateful little punk.

Once you've acquired your tape, it's on to the next topic: themes. Themes are extremely important in the art of "mix taping". Among the popular themes are "love songs", "summer songs", "sad songs", etc. Only you will be able to choose the appropriate theme for the occasion, so unfortunately, I have to leave that up to you. After your theme is chosen, you will have to whip up a clever title. My recommendation is to keep the theme and title simple for your first attempt.

After picking a sufficient title and theme, you can begin choosing songs. Choosing songs pertaining to the theme is not too difficult. Just make sure you don't throw on a song just because you love it -- it has to fit the theme. And more importantly, don't throw on any shitty songs. I don't think they will appreciate listening to shit. Which leads us to the next step: tracklisting. Tracklisting is the single most crucial aspect of mix taping. After choosing a batch of songs, you must narrow them down to which songs will fit the best, and which are most compatible with one another. Try pairing up songs and working around them. You should create test lists and go through each song making sure they all fit with each other. I cannot stress how important tracklisting is. Radiohead almost broke up over the tracklisting for Kid A -- do you get my drift? After some experience, you will be able to pull off two themes on one tape. For example: Side A: "Love Songs for the Retarded" and Side B: "Songs for the Pickup Truck". But let's not get ahead of ourselves, you have a long way before you will reach that kind of status.

The most important song is the first song. It can't be too obvious, cheesy, or predictable. And it can't be too obscure that the person will be too worried about wondering who it is, or whether they like it or not. The song has to ease the listener in slowly, but confidently. Some people prefer coming up with the first song, then working from there. That's a good approach, too, and can often be more effective than the "pairing up songs" approach for the tracklisting.

Joke songs. Yes, they are funny, but do you really think your loved one or best friend will laugh every single time the song is played? There are a couple rules to help you decide whether or not to use joke songs. On rare occasions, a joke song will work on a particular person over and over. If it happens to meet this criteria and you're 100% confident that it will, go ahead and do it. And if your tape's theme happens to be "joke songs", then go ahead and do it; although, that theme is not recommended if you want a relationship over 3 months. Bottom line: If your joke song doesn't meet these two rules, then it should be left off -- or you might as well start looking for a new friend or special someone.

Transitions between songs play a vital role in mix taping. It depends on your theme, but if the theme calls for variety, making smooth transitions between songs is highly important. Variety is good, but you can't expect to leap from genre to genre without having any linking songs. Let's say you throw on a cute rocker, such as "Underground" by Ben Folds Five; and somehow you want to transition to Tortoise's "Djed". You can't just go straight from pop rock to detached, experimental post-rock. You need a link. Come up with songs that may fit in between, and if you can't find any, then one of those songs has to take a hike.

Don't be discouraged if you don't get it right the first time. Mastering the art of mix tapes takes practice, and more importantly, patience -- so, expect screw-ups. If you are really serious about mix taping, I recommend finding a temporary best friend or lover to test the tape before using it on the ones you really want to impress. That way you can gain more practice without screwing up any serious relationship you may have in the future. Follow these rules and you're guaranteed a friend or lover for at least 20-30 business days.

-jack tripper