More Fun with iTunes Smart Playlists

I’ve been systematically working my way through my library rating songs. As a result, my playlists are getting better and better. Since my last post, I’ve had several people ask what my stars mean. I use the following criteria for stars.

1 Star

Rubbish. I actively want to avoid this song. (I don’t delete 1 stars because I find it really hard to do so and other people in my family may disagree.)

2 Stars

I don’t hate it but it isn’t something I get very excited about either.

3 Stars

Good track. Not something that changes my world but still something I enjoy listening to.

4 Stars

Great track. This is for music that draws me in or just makes me smile.

5 Stars

Excellent track. This is for music that can set me right.

I’ve got a lot of genres and music of all these ratings in every one. Most of my playlists are smart playlists combining a genre with a star rating. For instance, this is my cool jazz smart playlist.

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Anything in the cool jazz genre with 4 or 5 stars makes it on this list. It syncs over to my iPhone just fine and pressing the “Download All” button gets my favorite cool jazz into my iPhone with one tap.

I’m not just a jazz nerd. I also like punk rock. I’m rediscovering it lately as I approach middle age and am  looking for more ways to stick it to the man. My punk collection isn’t nearly so deep as my cool jazz collection though so for this list I’m taking songs three stars or better.

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If my punk library continues to grow, at some point I’ll alter it to four stars or better.

You can also combine these smart playlists. For instance, I had a playlist that just included all of my jazz related playlists. I use the past tense because that list would not show up on my iPhone. It appears smart playlists that reference other smart playlists don’t make it through the iTunes Match pipeworks. It is the iTunes equivalent of crossing the streams. So instead I made a smart playlists that uses multiple conditionals.

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To do this, hold down option key in the Smart Playlist creation box and the little plus sign on the right turns into little ellipses. Tap on that and iTunes gives you multiple conditionals. This way I could build the playlist looking at multiple possible genres and star ratings. Notice how I have one condition that the genre contains Jazz. This grabs multiple genres in my library. This one synced over just fine to my iPhone.

Since I’ve got so much jazz rated three stars and don’t want to listen to just my four and five star jazz, I made another smart playlist called “Good Jazz” that pulls together a list of three star jazz that I haven’t listed to in awhile. This list is limited to 100 tracks and live updates. Sometimes listening to this playlist I may re-rate a song up or down.

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I’ve also got playlists that include all four and five star songs. It’s an eclectic mix and it all makes me happy. This playlist is also a great place to start when re-loading my iPhone.

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In order for this all to work, I have to be the only person in my shared iTunes library using ratings. That isn’t a problem for me. My wife and kids actually have lives and are not nearly so fiddly as I am about these things.

If you are going to do this, start slow. Just pick an album you like and rate the songs as you listen to them. Don’t jump ahead no matter how tempted you are unless you are prepared to sink about five hours into a metadata binge. Also, I don’t rate every track in our library. There are huge swaths of Carpenters, old Wiggles tracks, and other music that I’ll never play. Indeed, It helps me (a lot) to pretend those song don’t exist in our library.