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Music Preparation: Planning a Playlist for the Road

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When planning a road trip of any considerable length, a good music playlist is the most essential part of my preparation.  I do a lot of traveling by car and by myself, so it is my music that keeps me company. Thankfully, due to the technological wonders of GPS location and mapping, I no longer have to worry about how I am going to get to where I’m going. I do however, spend a lot of time thinking about how the heck I’m going to get to where I’m going! A long drive can be a dreadfully tedious task, and if you can’t keep yourself awake and entertained, it may start to feel like you’re never going to make it. Here lies the importance of music preparation.

Just this past month, I planned a trip out to the east coast to visit with my sister for the first time. After doing some Google mapping calculations, I was informed that my journey was going to have a duration of 11 hours and 41 minutes! Ouch!

Driving round-trip, I was facing roughly a full day’s worth of drive time (24 hours). Nobody in their right mind would want to be in a car that long, especially with gas prices these days. But I was pretty excited about visiting my sister and I did not want the long drive to put a damper on that excitement. So I immediately came up with two great reasons to be excited about the long drive.

First of all, road trips are the perfect excuse to eat fast food for every meal of the day. You can supersize your meals all day long and not feel guilty because that is your only option! Secondly, spending a day in the car is a great opportunity to sample your music collection that you have amassed over the years. I have loads great music tucked away on my computer as well as several new albums that I haven’t given my full attention to. After thinking about the kind of music I wanted to pack along for the trip, I began to get pretty excited about traveling and all of the playlist opportunities that were laid out before me.


I began wondering to myself what kind of songs would make a good playlist for the road. The first thing that came to mind was that I needed to stay awake and stay active, so each song would have to carry a solid beat. I am a big fan of the emotion packed into sad songs, but I knew I would have to leave them out of this playlist because driving all day is depressing enough. I knew I had to have that active beat, but to make the music selection process easier I categorized my music playlist into categories that would keep me conscious!

  • Sing Alongs – Songs that I know by heart that I can sing out LOUD. Massive choruses are needed for this category.
  • Beat Boxers - Give me some drums and a bass line that I can pound the steering wheel to.
  • Guitar Heroes - Sometimes a hard rock guitar solo replicated via air guitar is needed to keep the blood pumping.
  • All-Time Albums – Albums from your all-time favorite bands that you can just wear out, no matter the occasion. All songs have to be solid. You don’t want to pick up a downer if you are playing songs randomly.
  • Free Hit Singles – There are a ton of up-and-coming bands out there that are giving away some of their best music for free. They do this so they can reach new fans and it is a great option for building a playlist. It is always nice to hear a new song once in a while to keep the excitement going.

Building my road trip playlist was a pretty fun process. But I wanted to make sure I kept that same attitude throughout my long journey. To keep this excitement going throughout my drive, I created some goals and fun challenges to make things interesting. My music playlist goal for the road trip was to start playing my iPod mix on shuffle and then not skip a single song for the entire duration of travel. I wanted my playlist to be like attending a concert. I would have no clue as to what song was coming next and I would be pleasantly surprised by the unending presentation of all my favorite music.

It worked out really well. I skipped two songs before I started my journey because I needed a perfect starting song. I happily settled for “Hold My Hand” by Hootie and the Blowfish and then never skipped a song for the remainder of the trip.

I also decided to document my road trip music experience with pictures. This idea was partially inspired by the movie Elizabethtown and the awesome photography power of the Instagram iPhone app. So in the movie Elizabethtown, Orlando Bloom’s character takes a road trip across the country with several CDs worth of fantastic songs. He also followed a custom made map w/ notes made for him by a recent acquaintance. As the movie scene rolled, it highlighted some wonderful locations and landscapes of the United States to the tune of some great music.

In somewhat similar fashion, I documented the landscapes and music of my trip with iPhone pictures from the road using Instagram. After snapping a photo, I would tag it with my comments as well as with the artist and song title that was playing in the car at the time.

Below is an example of one of my Instagram photos I took during the trip. I thought it was a cool way to document my trip and I got to upload all of my pictures to Facebook and Twitter on the fly. This allowed my friends and family to follow along with me as I traveled. I got a lot of great feedback.

The day ends in spectacular fashion (Augustana – “Sweet and Low”)

 

 

The results of the trip were fantastic and it was a really enjoyable drive. I even beat my drive time estimates by a full hour-and-a-half by only stopping one time on the way there. I enjoyed my time in the car, and keeping myself active and entertained in the process while I drove played a huge roll in that. In a future post, I will elaborate more on the science of road trip music selection and dive into my music categories. I also believe I have found the perfect band to listen to on a long distance drive so stay tuned. In the meantime, happy traveling!

Road Stats (including sightseeing):

  • 1,824 miles
  • 302 songs played
  • 24 hours and 22 minutes drive time
  • 2 songs skipped
  • 0 flat tires

Sources:

Road Sign Image: Flickr

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About Jamen Elbert

  • http://wp.blogcritics.org/writers/charlie-doherty charlie doherty

    Thank goodness I can’t drive, but if I did, I would plan it a lot like you did. It always helps to be prepared for a long road trip, so nice job!