Not a day passes that I don’t listen to a break mix at some point. I have tendency to over analyze every aspect and as a result, I think about records, transitions, track selection, planning, and skill all day long. Also, those that know me are already aware that I obsess over details like a neurotic mother with a messy child. A break mix is your calling card that if done correctly will lead to inquiries about shows, interviews, production, records/breaks for sale and countless other weird things. The strangest offer I ever had was a request to dig for a Hip Hop producer who shall remain nameless. It is a must that you put your best foot forward and make an album quality effort. A break mix also shows your personal taste in Rock, Soul, R&B, Jazz, but most importantly Hip Hop. Break mixes shows exactly what kind of hip hop you listen to, so be careful because this is your reputation on the line.
Know Your Audience
The most important part of creating a break mix, or any mix for that matter, is deciding who your audience is and not all diggers are the same. There is definitely a bit of vinyl collecting class-ism going on when it comes to digging and you will definitely get looked down upon if you don’t come correct. Some DJ‘s make their mixes for the common man highlighting fairly current hits, others make rare only joints like Beatdawg’s library only mix, and still others will focus on classic hip hop or something along the lines of the Ultimate Breaks & Beats collection. Another consideration that must be taken into account is whether compilations, mp3′s, CD’s, or strictly original vinyl will be used. For many the break mix is an opportunity to show off their collection, while for others it is considered an education process for the listener and the original format of the music doesn’t really matter at all. Again, this is highly determined by your audience because digging respect and credibility is instantly thrown out the window once anything except for original is used. In the end it is only about the music, so it really shouldn’t be as much as a big deal, but then again I’m one of the heads who only use original vinyl for my mixes.
Planning and Mixing
Make sure that you keep the mood of your mixtape exciting. The one thing you don’t want is a boring mixtape where the listener falls asleep for half of the time. Because many samples are taken from slow songs or ballads, you need to make sure that there aren’t too many of each tempo grouped together. To combat this you must switch from slow to fast to mid and so forth. Be careful not to paint yourself into a corner with mixing and tempo settings as you don’t want listeners to feel jolted out of a song. Always have an exit strategy for a song or group of songs and consider grouping similar sounding tracks together. The challenge lies in making the transition seem natural without revealing how much of a transition actually took place. I equate the process to the magician technique of using distraction, redirection, and storytelling or patter to hide their actions. For someone doing a mix they would use a backspin, scratch, vocal drops, ID tags, blends and fade in/outs for exactly the same result. The techniques that you use will be highly determined by your audience and technical skill, but the the main goal is to make everything smooth. I began DJ’ing scratching 14 years ago so it would only be expected that there would be an emphasis on cuts and scratches. Many cats are pure collectors or producers and the mixing holds less weight, especially from a listeners standpoint and they simply focus on song selection and making sure the transitions are not unpleasant to the listener. Be forewarned, one of the telltale signs that mp3′s are being used in a mix are unusually awkward and abrupt transitions and a lack scratches, blends or no mixing at all. Possibly the most important aspect is to make sure that you have a distinctive sound or trademark that listeners will automatically recognize you by since most mixes are instrumentals and contain no ID drops at all.
Make your mix and share it with your fellow diggers…