How to Make a Perfect Mix Tape or CD

A compilation of songs burned onto a CD or arranged in a playlist can be a thoughtful gift for someone you appreciate. If well done, a thoughtfully arranged mix tape will convey appreciation for your recipient as well as awe them with your fantastic taste. All you have to do is know the person you're making it for, include a wide range of songs, and arrange the music in a pleasant and logical way.


  1. Image titled Make a Perfect Mix Tape or CD Step 1
    Listen to a wide range of songs. If you want to expand your music library before you start making playlists, check out services that can recommend new artists to you. See Sources and Citations below for some ideas.
  2. Image titled Make a Perfect Mix Tape or CD Step 2
    Consider the audience. Is this compilation for yourself? Your friends? A significant other? Select music that's appropriate for the tastes of the listener. Your grandma might not like a compilation of your favorite death metal songs, but she may enjoy rare jazz recordings from when she was young.
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    Create a message with the mix (optional). Do you want your playlist to let someone know how you feel about him or her? If so, listen carefully to the lyrics of each song that you include in the mix, and make sure they're aligned with what you're feeling.
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    Gather a rough draft. Assemble a "rough draft" of your playlist by compiling a lot of songs you're thinking about including. You probably won't use all of them in the end, but this step helps you narrow down your options.
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    Edit the playlist (optional). If you gathered more songs than you needed for your playlist or mix, start eliminating those that aren't a perfect fit. Are the lyrics slightly wrong? Does the music make the song fit poorly with the other songs? Could someone use this song to misinterpret your meaning? Ask yourself these questions as you think about what to cut.
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    Arrange the tracks. Think of the playlist as a prolonged listening experience - you don't want the listener to get bored or skip songs.
    • Start out with a few tracks that grab the listener and get his or her attention.
    • Group songs of similar tempos together, and gradually move into slower or faster tunes.
    • End the mix on a high note, with one a song that you think will really stick with the listener. Tying in the last song to the theme of the compilation can make it much more effective.
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    Make adjustments. Finalize your track arrangement and listen to the version a few times. Feel free to remove some tracks and add others. It's possible that you may realize new tracks you'd like to add late in the process.
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    Title your mix (optional). If you're sharing your playlist electronically, give it a title that reflects the theme of the mix. Or, if you're out of ideas, name it after the person you're giving it to.
  9. Image titled Make a Perfect Mix Tape or CD Step 9
    Share your compilation. When you're happy with the mix, burn the CD or share the playlist.


  • Avoid picking several songs from one artist. Rather, focus on a wide range of artists. Especially try to avoid including two songs by the same artist back-to-back. Of course, there are always exceptions, such as songs that are made to be played together (such as "The Hellion" and "Electric Eye" by Judas Priest, "Depths" and "Surfacing" by Chapel Club "We Will Rock You" and "We are the Champions" by Queen, or "Brain Damage" and Eclipse" by Pink Floyd) and two songs that have special meaning to your intended audience when played together.
  • Don't always focus on a genre and a theme. Putting widely different tracks in a compilation can add compelling contrast for the listener.
  • It's possible to gradually build a mix CD. While listening to MP3s, if you come across a song that would be a good fit for a compilation, copy it over to a folder reserved just for your ongoing compilation.
  • With advanced CD burning software, it's possible to merge tracks, making it easy to insert sound clips (such as quotes from movies) between tracks. Merge the sound clip to the start of the track to make the CD more interesting.
  • Watch your attitude! Be certain you are in the mood you wish the CD to convey when you make the mix CD - otherwise, other feelings are likely to seep into the songs you choose.
  • Make the compilation running time no longer than necessary - if possible, keep it under an hour.
  • Making cover art or creative liner notes can make the compilation more personal.
  • Picking a set of songs that really define a specific (possibly current) time in your life can be appreciated later when you put on the album and are reminded of days gone by.
  • The most important thing is to burn early drafts on a CD and to listen to the mix yourself, from beginning to end, to better imagine what your intended audience will think when they listen to it. Listen in as many different places and speakers as possible: your computer speakers, your car stereo, cheap headphones, high-quality headphones, etc. Keep a notepad with you to write down ideas to improve it.
  • Consider using software such as Ableton. It's NOT cheating and will allow you to make your mix far more interesting by adding effects and looping sections as you see fit. It's also a useful tool to get your head around should you decide to mix on the fly.
  • Another avenue to consider is having an actual DJ mix the songs for you. A friend that deejays, or a professional DJ can blend the songs together for you. Remember, there are many ways of compiling music to create compilation mixes, but to truly be a mix CD the music should be mixed - seamlessly blended from one song to another. You will need a DJ or music mixing software as previously mentioned. By mixing and blending your music you can usually fit many more songs onto the CD than normally possible, since you will not be playing each song in its entirety. This also makes the mix CD more exciting and is preferred when making party mixes to play for your friends.


  • There's really no such thing as the definitive, be-all, end-all, perfect mix CD. The guidelines established here are things to keep in mind to help you mold your CD into being, not a list of rules that are meant to be strictly adhered to. Play around, try new things, be creative, but always take your audience into consideration or all of your hard work will be for nothing!
  • Make sure you are getting all of your music from a legitimate website, or online store, if that is how you purchase your music!

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