The Art, and Science of the Perfect Mixtape

Nollie Mix-a-lot Nov 4th 2019

The Art, and Science of the Perfect Mixtape

The only thing more loved than the resurgence of the vinyl record has been the humble cassette tape. Ah yes, this tape was beloved by boomers and Gen-Xers alike. It was an ode to an emotional expression of love from one person to another, a call to get your motor running for exercise, or playing your favorite selected tunes for the house party you’re heading to with friends.

Making a mixed tape was your chance to communicate any feeling you wanted to, without putting anything into words – well maybe just a catchy title, but that was it!

There was an art to making a mixed tape that I am wondering if it has been altogether lost on a generation that only needs to drag and drop to fill a playlist. Gone are the blood, sweat and tears from pulling out albums and carefully picking out the perfect song to record.

The Art

Creating a mixtape using the art approach is still very much alive. Oh, sure they’re called playlists now but choosing not only which song to play but also where to place it on the list is still a very important part of the creative process.

The Flow is vital and should be number one on the list of to-dos. Your mixtape has to be more than just the recommended songs. Rises and falls of the music in addition to the tempo all make choosing the right song to follow the previous one critical. This is why not just making the music fit, tempo wise but also the Order for the same reason, matters. Your second song must compliment your ears as a natural progression of the first song, and so on.

Finally, the music you choose is the music you actually have chosen. Mixtapes come from the heart; they speak to everything you want to say but would rather do it through music. Authenticity is the secret sauce to making your mixtape. The choice of music has to come from you personally.

The Science

The fact that we have access to thousands of songs at our fingertips can leave us a bit overwhelmed with making good choices in the music was wanted to put on our mixtape. While we can listen intently to songs we do remember, there may yet be a better (perhaps more scientific) way to visualize our music in order to help us decide.

If we break it down, music tracks can be categorized into single descriptors (artist, album, genre for example). While this is good to list them, it isn’t helpful in the ‘feels’ department when looking over your inventory.

Spotify helps us sort

Spotify actually did a bit of research themselves and listed the items below that would help understand the scientific impact behind a particular song. From here, ironically you would extract your ‘feels’. Try it out when you can.

  • Acousticness: “A confidence measure from 0.0 to 1.0 of whether the track is acoustic.”
  • Danceability: “Danceability describes how suitable a track is for dancing based on a combination of musical elements including tempo, rhythm stability, beat strength, and overall regularity.”
  • Energy: “Energy is a measure from 0.0 to 1.0 and represents a perceptual measure of intensity and activity. Typically, energetic tracks feel fast, loud, and noisy.”
  • Loudness: “The overall loudness of a track in decibels (dB). Loudness values are averaged across the entire track and are useful for comparing relative loudness of tracks.”
  • Valence: “A measure from 0.0 to 1.0 describing the musical positiveness conveyed by a track. Tracks with high valence sound more positive (e.g. happy, cheerful, euphoric), while tracks with low valence sound more negative (e.g. sad, depressed, angry).”

Programming interaction

Now if you’re feeling really energetic and in need of a programming project, you can very well take that data and export it into a cognitive 2D Map. Cognitive is best as it facilitates capturing connections between items.

By the time you’re done, you will see that those songs further away from the center of the map would be stronger in the area of their new descriptors conveniently supplied by Spotify’s labels above. Using the science component on your entire library of music will no doubt point you in the right direction of choosing the music you want for your mixtape that have maximum impact!

Now get up and go create a masterful mixtape that combines your artsy side with your scientific side to make the best cassette tape… I mean cassette flash drive you can today!

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