Friday 24 June 2011

Shuffle - Good or Bad?

The Shuffle function on iPod, iTunes, iwhateverapplehasbroughtoutnow, or the Random function on Media Player or any jukebox/player, is the easy way to play music without having to select or plan what you're going to play.
The Library is already there, it contains stuff you know, so you're unlikely to be disappointeed by its output.

Shuffle effectively replaces the time and effort needed to create a mix-tape/mix CD.  But is that a good thing?

Guidance for creation of the perfect mix-tape is widely available, not least in 'High Fidelity'.

Mix-tapes (I still call them that, even though they are obviously on CD) tend to be produced either:
1. to show off new music & old favourites to friends
2. to catalogue the tunes that are currently "floating your boat"

In the case of item 1, I would go out of my way to find a host of relatively unheard tracks with the prime intention of introducing friends to great bands and songs they may not have heard (also know as 'showing off')

Item 2 is a real "this was where my head was at then" affair.  I recently found a box full of old tapes I'd made, and on listening to them re-discovered a series of lost/forgotten songs, and every so often hitting a "what the f**k was I thinking" moment.

I'm still making mix-tapes, usually every couple of months.  Its a whole lot easier know - you just drag the required files into iTunes or Media Player and the system tells you how long each song is and how much space there is left on the disk.

Years ago, making a mix-tape was a virtual science.  The process was:
  • identify the songs you want
  • find out the time of each track
  • sequence logoically
  • calculate the time used on each side of the tape (ie max 45 minutes) - remember: there is nothing worse than a song ending halfway through because you've run out of tape
  • re-sequence if necessary
  • record
  • listen back
  • re-sequence & re-record if required
The Shuffle function negates this process, but it also loses the flow/sequence of what you are listening to.
When making a mix-tape, you're unlikely to order it so that as a Motorhead track ends, it is immediately followed by Steeleye Spans 'All Around My Hat'.  No, you have to build the bridge between the songs, gradually slowing down and changing style.  With Shuffle, it will happen, and then be followed by Ram Jams 'Black Betty'.

Shuffle - it has a purpose, it does the job - but it can never replace the greatness of a perfectly sequenced mix-tape

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