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How To Make A Mixtape - The Ultimate Guide

Back in the day, making a mixtape could be a long and tricky task - involving literal tape machines. These days, you can make pristine, professional mixtapes in a matter of minutes using software like DJ.Studio - without needing to fiddle with a cassette!

Mixtapes are the perfect way to share your favorite music with other people - or simply for your own listening enjoyment.

While the mixtape creation practice might seem mysterious to the uninitiated, this ancient practice is actually super easy when you know the right method. 

This guide shows you the best way to make a mixtape, and shares a bunch of extra tips to help you get better results!

TL;DR - Making Mixtapes#

  • Making mixtapes can be a fun and expressive activity when you know how. 

  • The process revolves around track selection, harmonic mixing, and crafting transitions. 

  • DJ.Studio is the quickest and easiest tool for making mixtapes. 

  • You don't even need to touch a cassette tape!

What Is A Mixtape?#

What is a mixtape

As the name would suggest, a mixtape is a tape containing a mix of music. 

These days, the term mixtape is still used to describe audio compilations - even when there is no ‘tape’ involved. Tape is an outdated format, so most people use digital files now, but the term mixtape still works for these projects. 

Back in the day, people would compile recorded music to a blank tape - and share it around! This was very common in the hip-hop scene, although spread across the world. The use of tape cassettes is why they were called mixtapes.

You can think of a mixtape as a compilation or playlist of music. Back in the day, mixtapes were akin to a Spotify playlist’s ancestor. 

These days, a mixtape typically refers to a single audio file that contains a bunch of tracks in a particular order - like a seamless playlist. 

You can find mixtapes where the tracks have been blended seamlessly - like a DJ mix. You can also find mixtapes where the tracks are not blended, and there might be a tiny bit of silence in between each track. 

Either option is valid, it just depends on the purpose of the mixtape. Blended mixtapes create a more flowing and continuous listening experience, although they require more work. Unblended mixtapes are more stop-and-start but are easier to make. Depending on the track selection, one type might be more suitable than the other. 

Next, you’ll learn how to make your own mixtape!

How To Make A Mixtape In 4 Easy Steps#

There are countless ways to make mixtapes these days due to the range of audio software available. Each method has its own strengths and weaknesses, and some modern software is extremely efficient at the mixtape creation method. 

While certain methods use slightly different processes, the overall technique is generally the same and revolves around the same key steps.

The key steps for creating mixtapes are as follows:

1) Find and choose your tracks#

Finding DJ tracks

The first stage of making a mixtape is picking the tracks you want to use. You don’t need to think too much about the order at this stage, you just need to work out what tracks are going to be included. 

Ultimately this step really depends on what you want to express - and what music you want to share. You might choose a bunch of tracks that are in the same genre - or from the same artist. Or you might select a broader range of music that takes your listeners on a journey and shows a diverse collection of your tastes. 

You might pick songs that fit a certain mood for your mixtape - maybe energetic tracks, chill beats, sleepy music, driving music, or even something more romantic!

In the early stages, you can use tools like a custom Spotify playlist to compile your selections - although you’ll need to eventually buy the files if you want to create a downloadable mix. (Unless you use DJ.Studio’s YouTube mix sharing feature!)

Check out our other article on How To Find Music To DJ With

After you’ve refined your selection, it’s time to consider the order of tracks in your mixtape. 

2) Work out the best order#

Having a great selection is one thing, but using a well-thought-out order can even better enhance the listening experience of your mixtape. I personally prefer listening to mixes that have a logical and progressive order, which takes me on a journey, rather than mixes that randomly jump all over the place. 

There is a bit of an art form behind the track ordering method - and it’s definitely a practice that requires both technical understanding and creative thinking to achieve the best results. 

Starting with the technical elements, the two following concepts are important to understand. Using these helps to both ensure your mixes sound good in terms of music theory and also provide inspiration and a framework to help guide your ordering. 

To help order your music, consider:

  • Beat matching: This is the technique of adjusting tracks’ speed so they play in time. 

  • Harmonic mixing: Consider the musical key of tracks, and only mix tracks together that use compatible notes. 

While these concepts aren’t strict rules, implementing them in your mixtape ordering is highly beneficial, and helps to create more coherent mixes. I always use these techniques as they help to take away some of the stress of working out the best order, and if used correctly, means that your mixes flow perfectly from track to track.

These concepts can be a bit tricky to use as a beginner - if you don’t use the right tools to assist you. DJ.Studio has everything you need to take advantage of these concepts with minimal effort. As you will find out later, it has an automix tool that automatically harmonically mixes and beat-matches your tracks!

You might also be interested in this guide on How To Structure Your DJ Set!

After you’ve worked out the best order to put your tracks, it’s time to start sticking your mixtape together by combining the separate audio files into a single piece!

3) Edit files together#

Editing A Mixtape

Depending on how you plan on sharing your mixtape, you’ll usually need to create a single, continuous audio file that contains all your tracks in their order - maybe even mixed together like a DJ set. 

Sharing a single file is ideal as it means you can just hit play, and enjoy your entire mixtape in one go without needing to fiddle with any other controls. 

This step can be a bit tricky if you aren’t experienced with audio software - although there are some tools that can help. It’s worth knowing that different software will be able to achieve different results based on what features it offers. Some require more knowledge but can achieve better results, others are easy to use but have limited results. Some even make it easy for beginners to create super professional results - which is probably the best choice for new mixtape creators!

To edit your audio files together, you’ll need to use some kind of audio software. There are countless audio editing programs out there, here are some notable examples. 

  • Audacity: completely free, easy to use, but has limited features and tricky to achieve professional results. 

  • Reaper: free, offers much more diverse and advanced functionality compared to Audacity, but requires a bit more knowledge to use and may be confusing to total beginners. 

  • Ableton: One of the most powerful options, but also expensive. It has a steep learning curve, but is great for pros - it does require knowledge to achieve the best results. 

  • DJ.Studio: designed for making mixtapes, low cost (with free trial), packed with smart features to help beginners sound like pros, also has enough advanced complexity for professionals to achieve the highest results. 

The best choice depends on your skill level and needs!

Depending on the software you use, the method for this stage is slightly different, although generally the same. 

To edit your mix together, follow these steps:

  1. Import your songs into the audio editing software.

  2. Arrange the tracks on the editor timeline in your chosen order from step 2 above. 

  3. Edit transitions between each track, creating volume crossfades and using EQs and other effects. 

  4. Make sure that the volume is balanced throughout the tracks, so no tracks sound too loud or quiet compared to the others. You can do this manually, or use a volume-normalizing effect. 

  5. Listen through your mixtape to make sure you are happy with how it sounds.

When you’ve finished creating your mixtape, it’s time to export the file and share it! Find out how below.

4) Record and share your mixtape#

Recording your mixtape

The final stage of making a mixtape is exporting the finished audio file. Again, the exact way this is done depends on the audio software you use. You might do this manually, by plugging your audio sources into a recorder, then hit record!

For most software, you will need to use the ‘Export’ function. This lets you render the audio files arranged in your timeline into a single audio file - typically an MP3 or WAV. 

WAVs offer higher quality compared to MP3s, but also take up more hard drive storage space. The choice between WAV and MP3 is up to you. 

When your mixtape files have been created it’s time to share it around! You can do this in a range of ways - like using email, cloud storage, uploading to a streaming service like MixCloud, or even burning it to CDs. 

Congratulations! You just created a mixtape. As you can see, the method is pretty straightforward, and it just takes a bit of computer skills. 

Although, for the best results you should use DJ.Studio, which has a bunch of powerful features that let you create more professional-sounding mixes quickly and easily. Keep reading to find out how…

Making A Mixtape With DJ.Studio: The Easy Way#

DJ.Studio Carousel

The general technique for making a mixtape is relatively easy if you know what to do. However because there are so many software choices out there, it can be hard to know which is the easiest and most efficient method.

Fortunately for you, DJ.Studio is a new piece of software that is designed to make the mixtape/DJ mix/playlist creation method as quick and easy as possible. Using this software increases your productivity, and takes care of some of the trickier aspects of production - so you can focus on the fun, expressive parts!

By looking through the following DJ.Studio workflow you will see how easy the software makes it to create mixtapes - and is actually a lot easier than any other software out there. 

Some of the key areas DJ.Studio helps with are harmonic mixing, beat matching, transitions, effects, and exporting. It’s also a great tool for discovery as it has YouTube built-in - meaning you can create sharable mixtapes with any song on the platform!

To see why DJ.Studio is the best tool for making mixtapes - check out these steps:

  1. Create a new mix project.

  2. Import songs to the playlist.

  3. Use automix - automatically harmonically mix and beat-match your tracks, and create smart transitions. 

  4. Make edits to your mix - add effects and extra automated expression. 

  5. Fine-tune transitions - use the transition presets for a quick fix, or get in deep and draw custom automation lines for any parameters simultaneously. 

  6. Export your mix - DJ.Studio Mixtapes can be shared to a number of locations, including downloadable files, MixCloud, video, or even Ableton Live for more editing and mastering. YouTube mixes can be shared with an online streamable link.

  7. Download and enjoy your mixtape! 

It's really that simple. DJ.Studio makes mixtapes easier to create than ever before.

DJ.Studio can make your life even easier, thanks to the YouTube mix mode. This lets you create mixtapes using music and videos from the platform - which can then be instantly shared using our online music player. It even works on your phone!

It also gives you the option to export a text file that contains the mix's track list, and time stamp information - so people who listen to the mixtape can find out the original tracks. (It means you don't have to spend the time to write it manually too!)

Extra Tips For Making A Mixtape#

DJ.Studio Automix

Here are some extra tips to help you make the best mixtape you can!

Define Themes and Moods

Before starting the compilation stage of creating mixtapes, it can be a good idea to think about what the message and theme of the mixtape is going to be. You should pick songs carefully, rather than trying to fit as many songs in as you can. Making playlists can help this, and get inspiration from albums.

Pick a Good Starting Song

First impressions are important, so the first song should be a good example of the rest of the mixtape, and should immediately interest your listeners and keep them wanting to hear more. 

Choose A Nice Cover Image

Depending on how you are going to share your mix, you might have the opportunity to put some visual artwork on it. Back in the day, this would be the sleeve of a cassette tape decorated with colored markers, although these days you're probably working with some kind of digital file.

I like to use AI image generation websites to quickly create cover album art ideas for my mixtapes!

Either way, it's a nice touch to add some cover art to your own mixtape - and it can help to set the mood.

Add A Personal Touch

One sweet trick for turning an OK mixtape into a great mixtape is adding your own personal touch. By this, I mean adding some voiceovers and messages to your mixtape. This could be you introducing the next song, or even a more meaningful message if you are giving the mixtape to family and friends.

You might consider putting in a personal plug if you are using it as a promo tool. Or even rapping some lyrics over the top.

Pay Attention To Sound Quality

Depending on how you make your mixtape, and where you source the music from, there can be a large range in audio quality. To maximize the listening experience, you want to make sure that you use songs with the highest quality - it's better to buy files from legitimate sources than use an audio rip downloader or illegal torrent.

Also pay attention to the recording and editing phase - you want to make sure that there is no distortion or unwanted mistakes.

How Are You Sharing It?

There are a bunch of different ways to share your music mixtape. If you are old school, you might decide to record it to physical cassette tapes to listen on a portable cassette player - or even burn a CD to use in a CD player. A more modern option might be to use a flash drive rather than CD, although this is also a relatively inconvenient way to share music.

The best option for sharing mixes these days is digitally, typically using some kind of file-sharing or streaming service like MixCloud or YouTube. 

Summary#

With the information above, you will easily be able to start the lost art of making mixtapes to share around. This could be the perfect romantic gift for loved ones, or just a neat soundtrack for your next drive.

After you've made a couple, the method will feel like second nature, and you will be able to get more expressive and creative with your mixes.

Using the right tools like DJ.Studio makes it super quick and easy to make a mixtape - you'd be surprised if you saw how many mixes I make in a day sometimes!

DJ.Studio takes away a lot of the hard work and makes the editing stage a breeze. This lets you focus on creating the best mixtapes you can without needing to worry about the logistics.

Check out the free DJ.Studio trial today!

FAQs About Making Mixtapes

How to Make a Mixtape in Ableton?
How to Make a Good Mixtape?
How to Make a Mixtape for Free?

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