Thursday, April 1, 2010

Making CD Mixes That Rock

Here's a list of tips on how to make CD mixes that rock !

01. Open iTunes and create a new playlist.

02. Pick a theme - First of all is the playlist for you or someone else? Are you making a CD of your favorite songs by one band or of your favorite love songs? Or are you simply trying to make a playlist with your current favorite songs? Come up with an imaginative name for your CD that expresses its theme and you'll have an easier time determining if the music selections fit under this "thematic umbrella".

03. Limit the length - A good rule of thumb is to burn a CD that lasts 79 minutes, 30 seconds including all silence between tracks. If you are making a simple CD for someone else, don't go over one disc.

04. Pick your main songs - your "tentpole" songs - that are central to the CD's theme. Add these to the playlist first.

05. Add the other songs by finding songs that fit the theme. Use iTunes' search feature to help you find songs you might have overlooked. Usually a CD can hold about 20 songs.

06. Narrow down your final playlist - Trim your playlist down to whichever length you decided on. Revisit and listen to songs to determine which you want to use.

07. Try to use only use one song per artist or at most twice. Avoid overplaying artists, especially having the same artist back to back. Vary it up and use different artists.

08. Pick your opening and closing songs carefully. These are your anchors. For the opening sequence, select several songs that quickly brings the listener into your theme, the more upbeat the better, to establish pacing and convey energy.

A CD's pacing can be thought of as like an arc, a wave, or a story with a definite intro, middle, and finish. Your job is to arrange the songs for greatest dramatic effect, so they build to a peak and then recede. Close with a song that feels like it wraps things up in a way that brings the CD to resolution. For example, if your CD's theme involves hope, spirituality and optimism, an excellent choice for the end song is "From A Distance" by Bette Midler. Try not to open with the "big impact" song, as it can make the remainder of the CD feel like a letdown, like your are going downhill.

10. Flow is important - Don't have a fast heavy song stop abruptly and go into a beautiful acoustic song. Think in terms of "sequences", that is, sets of 4 songs, that have a consistent beat, rhythm, flow or message. Don't have too many similar songs next to each other. If your CD is primarily upbeat songs, having 3 slow songs in a row will create boredom.

11. Listen to transitions - Skip to the end of songs and see how it sounds going into the next song. You can edit the song by right-clicking the song and selecting get info. To improve pacing and flow, use a simple music editing program (Roxio, Nero, Audacity, etc) to view the track's waveform and and delete excess silence after the song ends.

12. Volume normalization allows you to set the volume of all songs to be within the same range, so you don't have to keep adjusting the volume for every song. A free program called MP3Gain analyzes and adjusts mp3 files so that they have the same volume at CD burning programs like Roxio and Nero have similar optional tools.

13. Burn your CD and for god housekeeping save the song files or playlist in a new folder so you can return to it to make additional changes or burn fresh copies in the future.

14. In a relaxed setting, audition your first CD copy. Listen critically for any errors, such as noise, spaces, uneven volume, and poor pacing. Often you'll hear how rearranging the tracks can improve the overall flow.

15. Make sure your CD doesn't "cut off" the last track, which happens when you exceed the 80 minute limit, by playing the final track entirely.

16. Do you like the way your CD captures your theme? Does the music build and unfold in a dramatic way? Does it convey energy? Do tracks fit together in a harmonic pattern, without any disjointed show stoppers?

Once you're happy with your master CD, go ahead a make copies for your friends!


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