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Quora Answer : Which genres do you build playlists for? How do you pick artists/songs for that playlist?

Feb 8

As I get older, I have a decreasing tolerance for listening to a lot of anything in the same genre.

These days I make playlists that try to keep a particular vibe and continuity going while moving between many different genres.

I mainly make mixes for an art gallery, to accompany openings etc. I'm not trying to make anything particularly shocking or abrasive (though I might use some music that is shocking and abrasive). The idea of these mixes is to provide a pleasant "background music". It's almost "lounge". But I also want the music to be interesting enough to reward (and surprise, amuse, delight) anyone who pays attention. And I expect the listeners to be fairly open minded.

I try to find something that joins each track to the next, some shared theme, or sonority, or melodic similarity. But I also try to have significant contrasts too. I want the mix to flow smoothly. But if you can manage a change and continuity at the same time, that's great. And obviously sometimes, two tracks just mix really well together.

A couple of tips.

I try to have about 50% instrumental music, because instrumental is less "committed" to a particular subject matter than vocal music. Vocal music has a stronger "identity". And if you just put a bunch of songs together you end up with a kind of parade of singers, rather than a musical landscape with some striking landmarks.

I like melody. I just do. Can't help it. I want good tunes.

I like a variety of vocal styles ... not standard pop singing, but a bit of whispering, or screaming, some rapping etc. I like to switch between women singing, men singing, robots singing. etc. And from close mic-ed intimacy to distant crowd chants. I also like songs in different languages. Ideally songs that people don't necessarily understand, again to increase the open-ended lack of commitment that "this is about X".

A few odd or silly cover versions or remixes are great. I like to mix a couple of those in. They provide both familiarity and unfamiliarity at the same time. They give people a little shock of recognition as something they didn't think they knew is suddenly revealed as something they do.

I like to mix different eras and degrees of fame. Some very contemporary pop music, with something fairly obscure from 40 or 50 years ago. Or vice versa. Contemporary references and memes. And weird, quirky historical ones. And some guy I happen to have come across on some back-water of the internet. It's great to flatten that distinction between underground and overground by being able to juxtapose them together in such a way that they feel right for each other.

I love funky beats. Can't have enough of those.

I love a mix of silly and serious.

I use noise or ambience to "cleanse the palette" ie. something short harsh and atonal sets you perfectly to go into a new round of big poppy tune, in a way that feels refreshing rather than wearisome.

Everything I choose is stuff I like. But it all has to serve the greater whole of the mix. I have great tracks I've been meaning to use in mixes for several months but I won't use them until I find the right context for them.

Examples :

deCurators mix #6 - 11/09/2020

deCurators mix #1 - 07/08/2020

(and several other mixes on that Mixcloud account are mine. But not all. There are a number of regular contributors and guests there. Though all are good.)

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