Tag Archives: fun

Making Custom Sorted Playlists, aka “Being OCD About My Music Collection”

I suppose it was inevitable–categorizing my music as heavily as I do now, I mean. Being musical and being fairly OCD…well, my labeling and listing bug got hold of my music collection and had a field day. Now, with iTunes’ playlist feature, I can make all the nitpicky little playlists I want. LOL

The Beginning: Playlists that Move from Energy to Relaxation

This “labeling and sorting” music craze of mine began with self-made mix CDs back in high school (~2002), throwing together a haphazard list of my 15-19 newest favorite songs and arranging them into a mix that somehow kinda-sorta made sense.

For instance, this is one of my self-made mixes from around 2006-2007 (I think), titled “A.D.D.” for its relative craziness. Nevertheless, I did try to group songs together, not by subject matter or alphabetization, but by song sound–the most energetic songs appeared first on the mix, whereas the more downtempo songs appeared last.

I did pretty much all my CD mixes this way for a long time, simply because I like listening to faster music more often and I wanted the faster songs more readily available (i.e., not having to skip a bunch of tracks to get to them). It worked well for me; as the CD played through, I worked through all the faster songs and then, if I wished, I could move on to slower, more chill stuff.

Next Steps: Chromatic Playlists (Warning: Music Nerd Alert)

But I also began experimenting with different ways to arrange playlists–take my current “New Favorites” playlist, which is arranged by musical key on an ascending chromatic scale:

Before arranging this mix, I used the “Comments” column of my iTunes music library to tag each song with its proper musical key. Then, I grouped all the songs in C major or minor together, followed by C# major and minor, then D major and minor, and so on, up to B major and minor at the end of the playlist.

The natural upward progression of keys makes my inner music major happy (and provides less of a shock to my perfect pitch when switching between songs). While the songs’ subject matters often have nothing in common, it’s also interesting to see how different composers use the same key to express such different ideas.

Fun With Labels: Playlists by Subject Matter/Use

You’ll notice, however, that not only are the above songs tagged with musical key information, but with other strange keywords. That’s one of my newer labeling strategies: making playlists by subject matter.

For instance, here’s a few selections from my “Rarrrr” (angry) playlist, which is good for getting out frustrations:

…and a few from my “Love” playlist (which includes songs about the pain of love as well as the joy of it):

I even have an extended playlist called “Butt Whoopin'” for those times when you’re stampeding through a video game level and need appropriately inspiring music. (It works–try it out :P)

And finally, a playlist of several of the songs my Zumba class uses to work out by:

Each of these playlists helps me to establish a certain mood (or, in the case of the “Rarrrr” mix, dispel it). It’s great to ride down the road toward Zumba class on Thursday nights, for instance, with my Zumba mix going, previewing so many of the cool songs I’ll be dancing to that night. I like gathering songs of the same subject matter together so that the playlist makes good lyrical sense from song to song.

For the Really Bored Hardcore Labelers: Playlists By Time Period

Lately, however, I’ve been into making playlists that focus on one particular time period of music, especially if the time period is instantly recognizable and singular in style.

Take these selections from the two most notable “time period” playlists I’ve made thus far: Oldies and Headbangers (50s/60s pop and 80s rock, respectively):


When I’m in a particularly “oldies” mood, or in a particularly 80s-rock mood, I know just which playlist to select. But it’s not just about the music, but the memories attached to each song; for the Oldies playlist, it brings up memories of riding in the car with my dad as a kid, listening to the local oldies station on the radio, for instance.

Time period playlists are great for nostalgia purposes as well as musical purposes–and after all, isn’t most music created to remember events and feelings better?

How Do You Make Your Own Playlists?

Leave me your thoughts in the comments. Have any different ideas for playlists besides the ones listed here? I’d love to hear ’em! (No pun intended 😛 )

Spontaneous Creativity: Art Timewasters

Sometimes creative thought just won’t come, or seems sluggish and slow–it’s like your creative juices have been frozen and won’t thaw enough to move.

When you get stuck like that, some say to keep pushing ahead, to keep trying to do what has become so difficult. I, however, have found that switching to a different artistic task entirely can revive the ol’ creativity machine in your head. By the same token, I’ve found that doing something randomly creative rather than purposely creative can help the Muse start to work again.

For that reason, I’ve gathered some of my favorite artistic timewaster games, which have served me well as “icebreakers” for my Muse. Check them out and try them–you might find a new idea bubbling to the surface even as you play!

I actually made this fairly-human-looking face using Ultimate Flash Face–surprising and pleasing, considering that most of the faces I try to draw on my own look like alien faces. XD This is a great artistic program–helpful for both art newbs (like me) and veterans alike!

These are three examples of the kinds of swirling art you can create with Flame Painter–so many settings, opacities, saturations, and colors to play with! Great for anybody who loves just playing with color.

Drawing with TypeDrawing is very different–instead of plain lines, you’re drawing with words strung together in a never-ending string. (Thus, my simple landscape done with just the words “tree” and “landscape,” and my attempt at a city skyline done with the word “city.”) There is a data limit–you can only draw in so much detail–but what you CAN make with words will surprise you!

A selection of drawings made with the Scribbler Toy, which takes a simple line drawing done by the user and transforms it with subtle shading lines of all sorts. You can play with the basic settings (as I’ve done in the far right drawing) to change how much scribble it adds, what color/opacity they are, etc.).

From smooth veils of color to waving lines, from fairly orderly to completely chaotic, Bomomo helps you make all sorts of random visual awesomeness. You can’t choose colors, but you can choose from a variety of lovely automatic brushes which follow the directions of your mouse (with surprisingly pretty results!).

And, last but not least, you can unleash your inner preschooler with JacksonPollock.org‘s art simulator. You start out with black paint, and you can click anywhere within the window to change the color to another random selection. Fill your entire browser window with virtual paint–who cares what it looks like, just have fun! :

Digital Cut-and-Paste Art

No Elmer’s School Glue or scissors required! Just a mouse and a simple art program on your computer can create some wild and fantastic artwork.

This instinct-based, haphazard-looking way of making art is not really new–think of Jackson Pollock’s artwork–but doing it digitally instead of with a paintbrush and palette is a little newer. No longer are we constrained by the tools we can buy or the paint colors we can find–you can create any color and use almost any type and texture of brush. You can even cut pieces out of your picture and put them somewhere else without hurting the canvas! Check out the process below:

The Process of Making a Cut-and-Paste Digital Artwork

(In the following demos, I’m using Microsoft Paint.)

Start with a blank white canvas, sized however you like.

For this art piece, I dye the background completely black. You can choose to dye the background any other solid color or make a pattern in the background if you wish, too.

I use “Calligraphy Brush 2”, at the widest width available, and choose the basic bright red available by default from the Paint palette. Then I paint rather randomly and haphazardly all over the canvas.

Then I choose the default yellow, again with the wide Calligraphy Brush 2, and paint randomly again, trying to cover different areas from the red, and a little less than the red.

Then I take Turquoise from the default palette and paint once again, still trying to cover different areas from the yellow and red streaks.

Now, I choose the “Select” tool, with a rectangular shape instead of the free-form shape, and cut out a small, nearly square shape from the piece. Then I move the cut-out piece just a little down and to the right, to reveal a white corner edge.

I follow the same procedure (except moving the cut piece down and to the left) with the second cut piece, below:

You can also resize one of your cutout pieces if you like–here, I’ve resized the bottom-left cutout piece to be much larger than its original size. It makes it almost pop out in 3-D, to my eye!

You could leave it like this if you like the white part of the picture; in my case, I want to recolor those white parts black again, to match the background.

This is a look I’m happy with, but you could also dye the background to match one of the other colors you’ve included in the picture. A shot of solid red, yellow or blue in this picture, for instance, would be striking!

This is my finished example. Yes, I know, it might look a little kiddy still, but I just wanted to show you the technique with as different a trio of colors as possible.

Other Examples of Color and Cut-and-Paste

If you like this haphazard abstract look but don’t want a ton of bright colors, you can also do something like these:

Here, I’ve used a gray background, with turquoise, pale blue, white, and purple sprays on top instead of the Calligraphy Brush. Then, I used the free-form selection tool to cut out and move some shapes to create sinuous and strange lines within the piece. At bottom right, I blew up one of the small shapes to a larger size.

In this piece, I used first a rose-pink Watercolor Brush across a sand-colored background, then added pale yellow Natural Pencil, then a creamy Calligraphy Brush on top. I didn’t cut anything out from this piece because it looked fine the way it was.

Doing Something More with Your Creations

If you have access to a more sophisticated graphics editing program, like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, you can do all kinds of fun stuff with these types of creations. (I used Photoshop Elements 8.0 for the following edits.)

Look at the two different looks I created out of my example piece, just by Motion Blurring it in two different directions:

Motion Blur going down from left to right brings out a lot of the blue lines and makes the red and yellow fade a little more. Reminds me of a ribbon dancer’s movements!

Motion Blur going up from left to right brings out a lot of little red and yellow streaks, almost like shooting stars.

I used the Liquefy filter to swirl these colors and sinuous shapes together. I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but this technique is all about seeing potential. This, for instance, could be useful as the beginnings of a website header (a little more blurring, cropping, and some text in a beautiful font and color, perhaps?).

I used the Paint Daubs filter, increased the width of the brush, and changed the brush to “Sparkle” to create this effect. The creamy swirls almost look like rippled water reflections on the bottom of a pool.


This kind of art requires us to be instinctual in our process. Choose the colors and shapes we like most in this moment, and just start going at the canvas until you have something beautiful. And if you don’t have something beautiful at the end, no worries about wasted paint or wasted canvas–you can just hit the “New” button and start again!