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Hands on: MixShape dishes out tunes for the right mood

mixshape-headerEver wonder what it would be like if Spotify, Microsoft, and The Echo Nest – a music data repository – made a baby? It has happened, and it’s called MixShape, an organization tool that taps into your playlists and sorts its content based on each song’s mood and attributes.

The Echo Nest is known for its exemplary music intelligence – there’s a reason why notable clients like Spotify have used their services to help design sophisticated music apps.  Microsoft aided the partnership by optimizing MixShape for Internet Explorer 10 as well as their new line of Windows 8 touch surfaces.

How it works

The digital age has allowed music lovers to play music using a shuffle button, and sometimes, you end up with a “mood killer” or a song that disrupts the flow of the mood. MixShape hopes to bring back the glory days of the cassette tape and your ability to queue songs in a fluid manner.  You can enter your Spotify playlists, choose an appropriate occasion (party, work, exercise, romance), and MixShape will analyze the contents of your playlist by rearranging it to create the best flow. MixShape will even remove any songs that don’t really fit well with the theme.

Obviously, MixShape is designed to work wonderfully well with devices with Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10, but it works on other systems and browsers too.

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Immediately MixShape asks for the playlist type.  

mixshape-exercise

It asks you to identify what sort of exercise you will be needing my playlist for. Note that MixShape seems to have a 300-track limit, so if you want to try it out yourself, any gigantic playlists are out for now.  Available options for exercise are Pyramid, Endurance, Sprint, and a bonus option, Set your own Tempo. 

mixshape-addplaylist

It then asks you to enter your Spotify playlist’s URI (you can get it by right-clicking on your playlist’s name). In case you’re new to Spotify and you don’t have playlists set up yet, MixShape offers a few sample playlists you can try. After pasting the link and clicking ready, it analyzes the songs in the playlist – it adds your relevant tracks and replaces mood killers. After it finishes, you can export the new playlist back to Spotify.

mixshape-analyze

What’s good

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You are given a pretty decent animated graphic of your new “MixShaped” Spotify playlist as a graph.

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The Endurance option is designed to start low and work its way up to a steady pace, but MixShape offers you an Edit option so you can change the shape of your playlist’s graph to cater to your mood or need.

mixshape-shape-zoom

Zooming into the graph will give you more detail about the songs included in your MixShape playlist: It color codes the tracks and tells you about their key, their form (lively & intriguing, structured & energetic), and animation speed. This feature is definitely a great advantage that can help you choose songs for future playlist production.

The app will probably trim your playlist significantly – we started with 150 tracks, and MixShapes narrowed it down to 20. That could be based of timing (we chose endurance, so it could have been averaging run times), or there could have been a lot of mood killers in the mix.  Just to see what happens, we put in a different Spotify playlist, this time for a house party mix (described as “a relentless onslaught of dance floor moments”). It took a long time in the analyze phase, and here’s why:

mixshape-playlist-short

So it does make longer playlists! Thanks for making sure the house party did go silent, MixShape.

Worth it?

For starters, optimizing the app for other browsers (ahem, Chrome), would be a good start. While it works fine, it’s clearly not fine-tuned for anything except IE 10. Still, it’s download free, so there’s nothing to lose. 

The limit of 300 tracks per playlist seems reasonable, but it would be great if MixShape catered to longer playlists anyway.  I’d like to think of MixShape as a teaching tool for those who weren’t around to experience the art of creating a cassette mixtape first-hand – it can help prune down playlists that are just too long and eliminate tracks that don’t contribute to the good mood.

Overall, though, it’s a fun, visual way to clean up and reimagine your Spotify collection. Now let’s see them build one for the rest of our streaming services… 

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