14 Vital Steps to Recording the Perfect Mixtape (1983 Edition)

by Julie Reed
Originally Published: 

1. Keep your clock radio and your transistor tuned to the Top 40 station at all times to maximize chances of hearing The Songs.

2. Have the tape recorder ready (check batteries!). Tip: keep on record/pause to save time.

3. Test optimal sound levels on your radios, as well as the best distance between the speaker and tape recorder. Goal is to have the sound as loud as possible while still being able to hear the lyrics. Perform multiple practice runs with all devices and in different locations.

4. Avoid going on errands with your mom as much as possible to ensure you are likely to be home when one of The Songs comes on.

5. Likewise, keep all trips to the bathroom as quick as possible. Tip: pee during commercials!

6. I know it’s hot and you have a chance to jump in the pool at your neighbor’s house, but what if a Song comes on? You can swim if and only if you successfully record at least two Songs.

7. Call Lauren I. and Amy C. regularly to see if either of them has heard one of The Songs in the last hour.

8. Try to plot out patterns of songs or commercials that precede The Songs. Keep a notebook to be used only for this.

9. Start recording when you hear anything that sounds similar to a first note of a Song. Also, if there is a longer-than-usual pause after a commercial or when the DJ is done talking. Maybe it’s a sign that your Song is next. False alarms are always better than missed opportunities.

10. If you begin to record but it’s not one of the Songs, erase immediately and reset tape recorder to original state. Again, check batteries!

11. Once you are in the process of recording a Song, perform visual check on tape recorder to ensure it is operating properly. Resist urge to depress/release record button “just in case.” Trust yourself.

12. At the end of The Song, wait until either the next song begins, the DJ talks, or you hear a commercial. You can always erase the extra stuff but you can never get back the last second of a Song.

13. Keep a list of Songs as you record them, and from time to time double check the list by fast-forwarding through the tape in progress.

14. Once the tape is complete, start a new notebook and write down all the lyrics to all The Songs. Now that you can rewind as much as you want, you will finally know all the words, finally know what everything means.

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