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Want to be a mixtape legend? Here’s how

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Want to be a mixtape legend? Here’s how

What is mixtaping and how can you get into it? Dub Rosa is the man with the answers, so we asked him the questions. While you’re reading about what Dub Rosa does, check out his stuff on Mixcloud.

How did you get started in mixtaping?

I first started making cassette mixes or mixtapes for friends and family in the early 1990s. Just a tape of my current favourite music tracks lovingly recorded together by stopping and starting cassette decks and the record player. Took hours and wasn’t very creative because of the linear tape technology. But they were perfect for a road trip or party; a 90-minute mix of great and unusual tracks to impress and enjoy.

I hadn’t made a mix since my uni days and then a few years ago I was listening to the hip-hop producer Madlib’s numerous mixtapes of Brazilian, jazz, soul and hip-hop music and got inspired to start creating my own. James Pants is also a great inspiration. Both of these artists reflect and feed my own eclectic tastes.

Posting mixtapes online are a fun and creative way to share a bunch of favourite music with your friends and the world. With lots of free or trial apps and software available it’s very easy to make personal compilations and versions of music. Plus mixing with digital software is so much easier (and cheaper) than with old analog gear!

You recently posted a three-hour mix of TISM songs, interviews and spoken word. How long did it take to put together?

That mix took about three weeks or about 25-30 hours mixing time. Typically a one-hour mix takes about a week (10-15 hours) in research and mixing. I was lucky in that I knew TISM’s music so closely that the music track choices were obvious to me. The hard part was choosing samples. Ron and Humphrey from TISM delivered so many long radio interviews during their 20 years of activity that there is a lot of great archival TISM material out there but it’s long! I trawled through literally hours and hours of recorded TISM banter diligently snipping out the verbal gold as I went. I had an edit timeline with over 6 hours of just this type of sample material. I made several passes to reduce it down to the 10 or so dialogue spots I’ve included. Overall it was really hard work and pretty exhausting sometimes but I’m probably going to make another TISM mix very soon because it was fun and I don’t think I’ve finished with TISM yet.

What resources does a person need to make these mixes?

Of course a love of music is the most important thing. And the desire to share an individual and creative viewpoint of it.

The software I use is a great free-to-try DAW called REAPER. It runs on Mac or PC. Amazing software! But GarageBand or Audacity are good too and the latter is completely free. Really though, as long as you can fade two audio tracks together you can get started, so basic editing software apps like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie would work just fine. Edits and effects can be added when you get more confident.

A music collection is required of course but not necessarily a physical one. Whether its just MP3s or links you can download or rip, just get it into the audio edit timeline and you’re off and away. Knowledge of what you want to use is the key.

This is obviously a hobby for you. What skills does it help build that might be useful in a more professional context?

I work as a professional TV editor so my experience with cutting programs and documentaries informs my approach somewhat, but I can say that the few years of creating these mixes has taught me knew ways of telling stories with music and dialogue. Skills in narratives and technology are really a fundamental skill for so many employment areas these days, especially with the rise of social media content creation, so I do think making mixtapes with audio edit software is a powerful skill to have.

Where do you post your stuff online? What are the benefits? 

I’ve published most of my mixtapes on Mixcloud.com. It’s an awesome platform for long-form mixes and DJ shows (which are usually live mixtapes) and really dedicated to the form. Its upload interface is simple to use and its sharing options blend well with the usual social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, etc. I’ve also posted things to SoundCloud and YouTube before, but SoundCloud has a tight limit for number of uploads and for YouTube you’ll need a video too of course, so honestly I think Mixcloud is the best overall.

Are there any great forums or sites for newcomers to get feedback on their work?

Mixcloud has a really good community with lots of great music, ideas and lots to listen and learn from but no forums sadly. Audio engineering websites like homerecording.comsoundonsound.comfutureproducers.com have lots of forums for feedback and tips for the technology side of things. Dance, DJ, hip-hop, RnB mixtape sites like djforums.comdatpiff.comspinrilla.commixtapemonkey.com and livemixtapes.com have plenty of ongoing comments and feedback about artists and uploaded mixes, but djforums.com has a dedicated Submissions page where new mixers can submit mixes and get specific feedback.

Anything else we should know?

Mixtapes vs. Mixtapes. I should note that the term ‘mixtape’ these days has at least two distinct definitions. The one I refer to mostly is the old school ‘make a tape of cool tracks for my girlfriend’ type of mixtape.

The newer form of mixtaping is almost an entirely new production of music – usually hip-hop. Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent famously released several well-received mixtapes as demos before they were discovered. Essentially these hip-hop mixtapes are whole albums worth of very polished and slickly produced brand new music or new vocals over existing beats. Clearly this is quite different from what I create, which are more bespoke versions of the older definition of a ‘mixtape’. They’re love letters made of music!

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