Playlist 101: Mastering The Art
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Playlist 101: Mastering The Art

A sure-fire guide to crafting the perfect mix.

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Playlist 101: Mastering The Art
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Music is vital to modern social interactions. It sets the mood, breaks the ice and brings people together. Being handed the AUX cord can be daunting, but crafting the perfect playlist is easier than you think. Once you've developed the skill, you'll be everyone's go-to party DJ and can even get a little old school and exchange mix CDs with your friends. All you need to get started is a couple of guidelines!

Practice makes perfect, so make playlists whenever the mood strikes you. You don't need a special occasion. Make one for working out, studying or running errands. If you have a really incredible day, make a playlist about it. Bad breakup? Playlist. Not only is this fun and cathartic, but it helps you discover new music and new pairings that go well together. When the time comes to make a playlist on the spot, you'll have some ideas ready and not just be fumbling through your music library.

If you're making a playlist for an event, know your audience. I would make a different playlist for hanging out with my sorority sisters than for a family pool party because the two groups have different tastes. Although that's not to say they're couldn't be some overlap. For instance, I usually find that Fleetwood Mac or Cheap Trick goes over well no matter who's listening. Don't sweat over people-pleasing too much, just keep in mind what kind of music is popular with your audience. I wouldn't play Kanye for my grandma—although if your grandma's down, go for it!

Probably the most important aspect of the playlist is transitions. A pet peeve of mine is when someone just puts the music on shuffle. Shuffle essentially guarantees weird transitions and a lack of flow. I like to listen to my playlists all the way through before sharing them, just to make sure that each song blends nicely into the next. Nothing takes people out of the moment like an abrupt transition, just like when you're writing an essay. One song should lead into the next. This can be achieved through finding similar rhythms or beats between two songs. Likewise, it's important to manage the flow. You don't have to be full intensity the whole time. I try to make the music move in waves: have some high energy moments, then chill out for a few tracks, then build it back up.

Another key to crafting an ideal playlist is balancing your choices. It’s always a good idea to sprinkle some familiar songs into the mix, but don’t be afraid to throw some lesser-known artists in there as well. Your playlist can and should span multiple genres. Another option for mixing it up is to look for interesting covers or remixes of classic songs. One of my favorite examples of this is STRFKR's 2009 version of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," originally an '80s Cyndi Lauper song.

One of the final touches on the perfect playlist is coming up with a perfect title. You can just call it “Party” or “Melissa’s Mix,” but that’s boring. I try to pick a title that captures the mood. Examples might be “Summer Daze” for a beach mix or “Icicle Lights” for a holiday one. If that’s not working out, try using one of the lines as the title—for instance, "Woke Up Like This" for a getting-ready playlist that includes Beyoncé's "Flawless."

Okay, young playlist Padawans. You're ready. Get out those headphones and make some killer mixes.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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