Creating the Perfect Mix

Though there are sites such as 8tracks that make the fanmix process a little more straight-forward, I find that I personally always lean more towards the tried-and-true method of making fanmixes, such as those that can be found on livejournal, because I feel like there’s a little more freedom as far as what songs are available and can be used. For example, you can only use two songs by a given artist or from a given album, and my mixes tend to be heavily tilted towards a certain artist or album because that’s the feel I’m going for at the time.

Everyone’s different, but this is the process I go through when making a fanmix or a ficmix, and I've found it to be fairly simple and efficient for getting the sort of mix that I want.

1. Find Your Focus

It’s best to start out as broad as possible and then slowly narrow your focus down. For example, you may want to first select the character you want to base your fanmix around and then narrow it down to a single episode or one pivotal moment within that character’s transformation. For this tutorial, I’ll be making a fanmix for the pairing of Gabriel and Kali of Supernatural. Because the pairing is really only featured in one episode, it’s isn’t as difficult to narrow down, but if I chose to make a fanmix in honor of the Katniss and Gale pairing from the Hunger Games trilogy, I’d probably want to only focus on their relationship over the span of one novel instead of trying to take on all three books. Large fanmixes are great, but they’re not exactly practical if you plan on sharing your fanmix.

2. Build Your Playlist

When you’re first beginning to build your mix, it’s better to start out by choosing as many songs as possible and then slowly editing what songs make it to the final cut. It doesn’t matter how many songs are on your first playlist. Feel free to add any and all possible songs that may apply to your chosen character or pairing, whether it be lyrically, musically, or just the general feeling you get from the song. Of course, not all of these songs are going to be on the final cut, but it’s always nice to have options. If you happen to have a large music library like me, it’s definitely a lot easier to pick twenty songs from say, a list of fifty songs than it is to choose twenty songs from a five-thousand-song library. Here’s what the first draft of my example mix looks like. Obviously, seventy-five songs and almost five hours of music is excessive, but that’s where the next step comes in.

3. Edit, Edit, Edit

For me, this is by far the most difficult and time-consuming step in the process: narrowing down the playlist. Some songs will be easy to weed out, but as the list gets lower, the editing becomes more difficult. It’s best to try to keep it down to one or two songs on a given topic. For example, with the first draft of my Gabriel/Kali mix, there were five songs that I would consider to fall into a common theme of redemption. In my final draft, there are only two songs with that theme.

Another method of narrowing down songs relies simply on taking the time to listen to the mix. Most of the time, there will be a few songs that stick out and don’t seem to mesh well for whatever reason. Going back to the example, this mix leans more towards the genre of alternative rock, and there were a couple hip-hop songs that, although perfect lyrically, just didn’t sound right in the context of this particular collection of songs.

4. Take the Time to Listen

It seems like an obvious step, but the more time you take out to actually listen to your mix as a whole, the more cohesive it’ll turn out to be and the easier the editing process with become. When you think you’ve narrowed your list down to an appropriate number of tracks, simply listen to it on shuffle. I like to listen to my mixes for at least a week before I decide to share them because if a mix makes it through a week for me, it’s safe to say that it’s wrapped up. There’s always that one song that maybe doesn’t quite fit in as well or those two songs that maybe sound a little bit too similar, and it’s having that trial period that really helps clear those issues up and make the mix feel more polished.

Here's what the final cut of my example playlist looks like. I'd say that nineteen songs is a huge improvement from the initial seventy-five that I had on the first draft.

5. Finishing Steps

Once you’re completely satisfied with the content of you playlist, it’s time to work on those last few finishing touches. If you haven’t already thought of a title for your mix, now’s the perfect time. It’s also the right time to put together a front cover or front and back covers, choose the lyrics that you associate most with your chosen focus, and arrange the tracks in the order that you’d like. I’ve found that iTunes is the easiest program to do all of these things in. To add album artwork, album title, and associated lyrics, simply right-click on a track, choose “Get Info” from the drop-down list, and fill in the information for each track. To add the cover, you can drag and drop the image file into the box labeled “Artwork.”

If you choose to share your mix, the final steps in the process are to package the playlist and upload it to a file-sharing website. I’ve found that the easiest way for me is to create a new folder on my desktop, drag-and-drop all of the tracks and the covers into that folder, and then compress the folder into a .zip file.

Latest tutorials