Long ago, we had mixed tapes to look to for proficiency in arranging music. Moreover, they were considered a gift of the utmost value, not only for their intimate nature, but for their innovative quality. The art of making a playlist today is quite different, considering iTunes has a shuffle function and now, Genius, the application which automatically pairs up well-suited songs with a single click. But to create a masterful playlist requires more than mindless selection from your computer screen. And you, too, can be a Genius.

Choosing a Tone

First thing’s first, and that’s taste. Your musical taste is obviously something which doesn’t change drastically once you’ve ruled out certain genres and groups. What does change, is your mood. When creating a playlist, you’ll want to have an event, location or person in mind – something to dictate the mood of your mix. Your taste will dictate the selection and variety, but the mood is something particular to the moment in which you want your playlist to be listened to. Start with one song. It doesn’t necessarily need to set the tone for all tracks to come, but it will give you an idea of what you’re jonesing to hear.

Using the Internet To Your Advantage

Before ruling out the benefits of modern technology, be open to the fact that by melding the internet’s offering with your unique observations, you may stumble upon some gold. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of selecting a mere several songs from the several hundred in your computer, the internet is a great place to begin.

Pandora.com is a religious place for playlists. Once you’ve decided on at least one track to toy with, simply type in the artist and song name of your first choice into Pandora and let the radio play for a couple hours. Pandora.com takes your song choice and gives back a multitude of possibilities, playing songs from unknown artists of similar genres, artists and songs you may never have heard but respond to immediately. After listening for a couple hours, download all the songs that strike your interest. You don’t need to be ultra picky yet, you’ve got a ways to go.

Great Minds Thinks Alike

While we’d like to avoid resting on our laurels with the Genius iTunes application, it can, like Pandora, be of use. Take that first song choice once more and click the Genius button on your iTunes (this program is downloadable to all iTunes users). Genius will throw back twenty or so songs from your own iTunes that it thinks match the tone of your original choice. Some will be duds (most may be duds). But the benefit is that it may dig up a few fantastic tunes you completely forgot during your focused search through every album you own, and, for this, the Genius function is worth a good try.

Compiling A Foundation

After you’ve scoured Pandora.com and Genius, you’ll most likely have acquired a fairly long list of options, a list much too long for a single c.d. Throw all the tracks into a folder and listen to them on a loop. Eventually, you’ll decide for certain which songs still interest you and which songs you’d rather not hear for a while. It’s absolutely important never to keep a song you are likely to often skip. Playlists are famous for their playability, their continuous, uninterrupted playability. Try to weed out those that don’t seem to fit with the majority of songs you respond to, even if they are enticing tunes for another time. Playlists are comparable with films in that director’s cuts (much longer and long-winded) are not always better than the concise, public cut.

Knowing How To Choose

Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you’ve accumulated between ten and twenty songs, not all of which work for your playlist. Concerning length, it’s better to start bigger and move smaller rather than vice versa. Choose twenty and aim to cut out five. If the playlist is for a party and you’d like to have hours worth of music, you’ll need to have duplicates of artists and, therefore, a less specific selection.

Choosing what songs make the cut are based entirely, once again, on your taste. However, know that a playlist is not traditionally a collection of songs that all sound as if they were sung by the same individual. A playlist is a collection of songs that compliment each other’s differences. That being said, the event, location or person you chose at the outset will create a common purpose for all songs on the playlist to serve. To have your variety of songs fit in with your initial inspiration is extremely important. That way, whether they’re fast-paced, ballad-like or screeching metal, they will be relevant. And, moreover, you’ll end up feeling more comfortable picking unusual songs and, therefore, have a better variety.

The Ever-Important Order

The order of a playlist is most important after the content. Try to think out of the box. This doesn’t mean putting heavy metal next to heavenly jazz, but rather trying to build up to a climax and then descend to an ending. This might mean putting your songs into a list and switching them up randomly until you get an idea for what might come first, what might come in the middle and what might end the playlist. Once you have a tentative order, go through the playlist and play the last thirty seconds of each song, allowing them to transition into the first thirty second of the following tune. This will let you decide whether or not you’ll enjoy hearing these songs played back to back.

The Crowning Jewels

The last thing to be said of playlists is that each should have some scarcely known gem from your iTunes you haven’t listened to in along time or that you’ve never heard before. This gem should be placed near the middle of the playlist, as part of the climax. After listening to your playlist a few times, you’ll notice that sprinkling gems of varying value through a playlist is the best way to excite yourself enough to keep you, well, playing it.