Choosing the Tracks

Now that you've decided who the audience of your mix CD will be, it's time to determine the tracks. Obviously, there is nothing more important about a mix CD about the songs that are on it. They are the messengers for all of the things you are trying to communicate to the recipient, so choosing the songs must not be taken lightly. On average, a blank CD can hold about 18-20 songs of average length. 18-20 songs allow a lot of potential for making quite the musical statement.

  • Here are some personal rules that I follow when making my CDs:
    1. ~Never repeat artists on the same CD

    2. ~When making multiple CDs for the same person, make sure not to repeat songs

    3. ~Don't start the CD off with a boring song; it won't make the person want to continue listening.

    4. ~If you know the person for whom you're making the CD doesn't like a particular band, artist or style of music, make a conscious effort not to include any of those things on your CD. It will show a lack of caring and won't mean as much.

    5. ~Don't be afraid of putting songs the person doesn't know on the CD. Often times, mix CDs are a good opportunity to introduce someone to new music.

    6. ~Listen to the words of every song very carefully. This is just as important for sending the right message as it is for not sending the wrong message.

    7. ~Pick songs of significance. For example, a song from a concert you saw with the person, a song from the soundtrack of their favorite movie or the song you heard on a first date.

    8. ~The most important song goes last. Always.

    High Fidelity, the cult-favorite music flick starring John Cusack and Jack Black, is about a record shop owner named Rob who is extremely particular about his music and the mix tapes that he makes for people. Here is his list.

    "To me, making a tape is like writing a letter. There's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You've got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with "Got to Get You Off My Mind," but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can't have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs and...oh, there are loads of rules."
    -Rob, High Fidelity