Mixtapes vs. playlists

Mixtapes and playlists differ only in the technology that made them, or do they?

A little musical time capsule Steve Guttenberg

Making a cassette mixtape in the 1970s was a labor-intensive effort.

Cueing up a LP or 45 single, dropping the needle and releasing the recorder's "pause" button required a deft touch. If you didn't get it just right, you'd either have too much lead-in groove time before the tune started, or start too late and cut off the first second of the next song.

Mess up, and you have to stop, back up the tape, recue and start the process over again. Oh, and you'd have to carefully match the record volume level of each new tune, or suffer the consequences of a too loud/too soft varying volume mixtape. The horror!

Sometimes in the middle of a mixtape session I'd stop and review what I had so far. That could be scary, especially when I discovered the fourth song of the eight I laid down interrupted the flow. I'd have to go back and start again after the third song. It could easily take seven or eight hours to make a 90-minute tape.

Mix CDs were a little easier to make, but since I never used rerecordable CDs, if I made a mistake I'd have to trash the disc and start over. My early CD mixes freely mixed vinyl and CD music, which added to the complexity of the effort.

No matter the recording medium the art of making great mixtapes was picking and sequencing the right tunes. That's still the same, even for MP3 playlists.

Do you still make mixes?

For yourself or to give away to friends?

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.

 

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