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Playlists for iTunes

My music collection won't fit on my iPod, and so I have come up with a way to listen to all my songs over time without having to manually select which songs I load on my iPod. I have it set up so that my favoriate songs are always on my iPod, the songs I don't like are never on my iPod, and all the rest automatically take turns being on my iPod. I like to listen to a mix of my favorite songs along with other songs I haven't heard in a while. I listen to a playlist that has a certain percentage of my favorite songs, along with a mix of the songs I like but haven't listened to in a while. I can adjust that percentage so that I can find the optimum mix, depending on my preferences. All this is done automatically using smart playlists, so that I don't have to decide which songs to include on the iPod or which ones to listen to.

The most obvious ways of creating smart playlists is to specify genre and/or artist. However, there are a number of other ways available, which allows you to create some interesting mixes. In addition to a sequence of specs (which can be 'all' or 'any'), there are also ways to limit the size of the playlist and how they are selected. You can also check "live updating", which means that iTunes regenerates the playlist each time a criteria changes.

Some of the ones I used to specify a collection were:

Some of the ways you can limit the size of the playlist are:

Some of the ways you can select the above subset are:

I can create a Playlist called "Favorites", and another called "Can't Stand", using a series of Artists and/or Albums, and then a third playlist "Okay" which specifies playlist is not Favorites and not Can't Stand. I have now partitioned my collection into "Favorites", "Okay", and "Can't Stand".

Now, if I set up a new Playlist "Favorites Sampler", which specifies playlist is Favorites, but limited to, say 60 songs, and then set up another playlist "Okay Sampler" which is limited to, say 40 songs, then I can create a third playlist "My Mix" which includes both "Favorites Sampler" and "Okay Sampler", resulting in a mix of 60%-40% of my favorites and not-so favorites. In reality, you would have more songs in your playlists, but the key is to have the relative sizes of the favorites and okay playlists indicate what percentages you want to hear. You can also specify "and Genre not 'Holiday' if you don't want to hear any Christmas songs during the summer. ;^)

This is sort of what I did to load my iPod. I started by setting the ratings of all songs to 3. I then selected all the songs of my absolute favorite artists and set their ratings to 5. I use a rating of 4 for artists where I liked some of their songs, so I picked certain songs or albums and gave them a rating of 4. I then created categories "5 Star" and "4 Star" that were based on my ratings. Then I created "3 Star Sampler" which specified 3 stars, but limited the size to how much space I had left on my iPod after the 4 and 5 star. I then created sample playlists for 5, 4, and 3 star songs. The sample playlists were limited to a certain size, and songs were selected by the least recently played. This means that songs in a category will cycle through the sampler category. Any song that was played during this time period will be removed from the list, and new songs will appear.

When you have your iPod connected to your computer, go into iTunes and click on the "Music" tab. If you have more songs than will fit on your iPod, you can limit which playlists to copy to your iPod. I select all my 5 star and 4 star songs (so they are always on the iPod), and then the Sampler 3 star paylists, which contain the least recently played 3 star songs. I also select my Mix playlist, which won't include any additional songs, but it allows me to play that playlist so that I can listen to a mix of favorites and other songs.

You can set your iPod to shuffle songs, which will give you a mix of songs. If your iPod doesn't have shuffle, then you can create a new playlist which selects from your mix playlist but selects songs randomly, which will give you the same thing.

The fields "Last Played" and "Rating" are synchronized with iTunes, which means that "Last Played" will be set to the last time you played on either your computer or the iPod. This allows me to "demote" a song I don't like by changing the rating to 2 stars, or "promote" a song I really like to permanent status by changing it from 3 stars to 4 stars.

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