Mix CDs are great gifts that show that you put some effort into the gift. But if you just throw together a playlist, it comes off as sloppy, lazy, and unimaginative. In this instructable, I'm going to give you some tips for making a mix CD.
Step 1: Choose the Music
Go through your iTunes (or however you store your music) library, and pick out songs you like. Pick out some songs that you don't like as much, too. They may not be the best, but if they go together, it will sound good. Don't think about the person, just throw some songs together that might go together.
Step 2: Refine the Music
Go to the playlist, and look through the songs. If you have a bunch of stuff by one artist, try to narrow it down to no more than two. Pick a good hook. I like to use "For Your Own Safety!" by the Aquabats, because it's fun, funny, and draws you in. Switch around the orders to something that might sound good. Then, listen to the beginning and end of each song, to see if it transitions well.
Step 3: Consider Your Audience
Think about who you're giving this to. If it's to a close friend, don't worry about the song. Try to use music that the person doesn't already listen to, but not something that they wouldn't listen to. If I'm giving it to someone who I don't know well or with which I have a formal relationship, I look at the lyrics for all of the songs. If the song contains something that you wouldn't say in front of them, consider leaving it out. It may be a bit paranoid, but it reduces the chances of the CD causing some awkward situations.
Step 4: Create Your Track List
It's nice to have a list of all the songs so someone can skip to a song they like or find the music somewhere else. You have a few options here. You can print right from iTunes, which tells you the artist, song name, and song length. The only problem here are that it can cut off the artist's name if the song title is long, and it leaves a "Made with iTunes" label on the bottom. If you have time and patience, type it out in Microsoft Word or Photoshop. If you type it up keep in mind that CD case is slightly less than five inches by five inches.
Step 5: Package It
For packaging, I use three things. If I'm just burning something simple, I use paper sleeves. If I'm burning a mix I spent some time on to give as a random gift or I'm making a bunch of copies, I'll use the jewel box cases. If I have spent alot of time on it or am giving it as a big gift, I'll use the recycled cardboard sleeves. They're cool looking and better for the environment. For an album cover, sometimes I'll just type out the name of the mix, but sometimes I will create album art from scratch or based off of stock photos. Once again, remember that an album cover is 5x5.
Step 6: Gift It
Give it to the person. They'll really appreciate it. It's fantastic when they share their music back. I hope that this Instructable helped, now go out there and make some mixes!