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Cassette Mixtapes

Cassette Mixtapes in 2021, February, 2021
Making a Mixtape in 2021

Professional looking Cassette Mixtapes in 2021 Full Guide:

Disclaimer: This article is not about music piracy or circumventing copyright, it's about having the ability to copy new format music that is unavilable on older formats to the beauty of cassette tapes.

TDK C90 cassette tapes Final mixtape retrowave 2021

The Guide:

Making a mixtape in 2021 - bear with me because you may think I’ve lost my mind here… trust me I haven’t but we’re going to make a Mixtape.

Not one of these Spotify playlist affairs, no, a proper old school cassette tape C90 Mixtape.

Why you ask? Well, because it’s difficult (and expensive) to buy modern music, especially Retrowave and Synthwave on cassette and of course most of it is exclusive to soundcloud or youtube these days, never receiving a commercial release. So perhaps we could consider this more like a bootleg than a true mixtape but they’re one and same to me!

Anyway, all sensible reasons aside, there’s a few things you’re going to need to do this!

A list is coming up on things you’ll need to buy/procure to produce something similar, but first of all you’re going to need some kind of tape recording device. I use a Yamaha tape deck from 1993 hooked up to my home AV receiver – your mileage may vary here because you can do this with a cassette Walkman or basically any tape recorder you like providing it’s got the ability to record from an RCA input (or mic input if you get a different cable) – I’ll be using RCA (2 plug White/Red cables).

3.5mm audio jack to rca plugs cable

Things Required to make this work:

Blank cassette tapes – in this case I’ve got TDK Ferric c90 tapes, the cheapest kind with 45 minutes running time each side – mine were ex interview tapes so only recoded onto once, picked them up on ebay at £10 for 10 tapes. You can use whatever ‘type’ of tape you like, I’m not getting into tape types here because it’s complicated and doesn’t matter to much for this.

I am also going to assume you have a printer available. I will be using the cheapest HP Photosmart on the market, the Photosmart 5520.

Once you’ve got the required items together, you’re going to need some music! So let’s find some. Soundcloud and Youtube are my goto’s for this kind of thing and I’ll be using some freely available retrowave tunes from here downloaded as 320kb/s mp3s, not exactly the highest quality of audio but will do perfectly fine for our purposes.

*A note on ripping audio from youtube – it’s frowned upon if the track is not copyright free or freely available. There’s plenty of free online converters that’ll do this as whatever format you want, consult google for “youtube to mp3” and go equip with an adblock when you do!

Soundcloud audio image

I’ve taken the Tracks I want to record and assembled them into 2x long 320kbp/s mp3 files under 45 mins, including a couple of seconds of silence between each track using audacity, this process is literally as simple as dragging all of the files into a single audacity project and spacing them out appropriately and setting the volume levels to roughly the same across the board as there is obviously disparity between tracks recoded by different artists. Once there are exported as a single files (side 1 and side 2) I simply transfer to the device I’m going to use for output. For you this might be straight from your computer, for me it’s via a Phone with a 3.5mm headphone socket because my desktop does not live in the same room as the hifi equipment.

Mutli track recording in audacity Mp3 retrowave files

Actually recording onto a tape is fairly easy – simply a case of playing the music tracks from your phone / device once connected to the cassette recorder, sorting the input/recording levels out (if you have adjustment for this) and hitting record on the tape – and then waiting until complete. This process will take you around about 45 mins per side, so I’d recommend sticking the coffee on and, If using a phone, put it in flight mode because any notification noise will obviously output via the headphone socket and record right along with your music tracks.

This is the specific tape deck I am using: Yamaha KX-300

Yamaha KX-300 Tape deck

Now all of that recording business is out of the way, we'd better make up something to improve the aesthetics of the mixtape.
To make this look the part it's time to use those J cards and the sticky labels from the earlier required list. Photoshop template for the J cards was pretty easy to acquire, there's lots of them free online however these specific Jcards are in US Letter size, which is a little bit wider than A4 and also a little shorter, so this needed to be adjusted in Photoshop.

Retrowave 2021 J card print Retrowave 2021 tape sticky label cover

I'm sure there are better tools available for this kind of print work, but PS is what i'm most familiar with and will do fine for this job.

So that's it, trim the J card down to size (these ones are pre-punched) and apply the sticky tape labels to the correct sides and you've got yourself a homegrown bootleg mixtape in the digital space age! Much easier than it may first appear once you've got the right equipment!

Retrowave 2021 final tape print Retrowave 2021 final tape in box

5 Minute Video guide for this will be available on the 17th February 2021 on the Youtube channel here: Youtube Link

Drop me a line on twitter if you do one of these yourself, I'd love to see them! Twitter Link

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