The mixtape is a storied personal statement, a collection of music that expresses ideas and provides a soundtrack for life, be it a road trip, day at the beach or wedding. In its basic form, a collection of songs can be a simple playlist or it can be a library accessed on demand using DJ software to cue and crossfade songs. In extreme form, a mash-up is a way to combine, or mix, two or more songs into a single piece.
Take Your Pick
Choosing music for a song mix may be as simple as collecting your favorite album cuts in one place. You may collect dance music for a party, starting with up-tempo songs and slowing the pace for close dancing later in the night. A DJ may have thousands of songs on-hand to respond to requests, mixing different songs together in real time, rather than pre-planning a playlist. Choose songs with similar beats for mash-ups, though mash-up tools will let you adjust tempo and pitch.
In the Box
Media-player applications permit you to create simple playlists, and Windows Media Player is an on-board solution that's easy-to-use. Open Windows Media Player and switch to the Library view. Click the "Play" tab, then simply drag the songs you wish to playlist pane on the right of the window. Once the playlist is populated, you can fine-tune song order by dragging files up and down the list. Click "Save list" at the top of the pane and name your playlist. WMP also permits burning your playlist to disk. You can even crossfade and level the audio with WMP.
The Pro Tools
Though not principally designed for creating playlists, audio editors, such as the open-source Audacity, offer advanced capabilities to trim, fade and otherwise mix your favorite music. DJ software is, however, designed to work with your existing music libraries to not only arrange playlists, but alter and enhance song mixes with advanced tools such as beat mixing and simulated vinyl control effects. Mixxx is a DJ freeware application with strong community support, while SAM Broadcaster is an example of a commercial application targeted to Internet radio DJs (see links in Resources).
Mix and Mash
The most radical way of mixing songs is the mash-up, where two songs with similar structure are combined to make a hybrid track. You can use audio editors and DJ applications to create mash-ups, and software titles such as Mixed In Key Mashup 2, Easy DJ Mashup/Remix Tool and Hit 'n' Mix provide dedicated mash-up tools (see Resources). But keep in mind that songs and recordings are subject to copyright protection. You can't reproduce and sell copies of your mash-ups or mixes without permission from the copyright holder.