How to Create the Perfect iTunes Playlist

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January 31, 2014

A few weeks ago, I shared a post about how I organize and sort my iTunes library. I'll admit, it sort of sounds like a boring post, but I really had fun writing it and I know a couple of you found it really helpful! Today, I want to use post as a sort of springboard, if you will, and share how I use the smart settings + ratings in iTunes to create a really balanced playlist to be in the background of my everyday life. 

It sounds silly to write a tutorial on how to make playlists. If you like music + use iTunes, I'm sure you're fully capable of making a playlist. But what about a playlist that needs to be long enough that you can leave it on for hours without hearing songs repeated a bunch? You probably don't want to just shuffle your whole library because let's be honest, there's no way we love every song in our library. 

So what I do is rate all my songs and then have a continuously shuffling mix that is a mix of my 5, 4, and 3-starred songs in a balanced proportion. Here's how it works:

Use the ratings. 

I tried to make a case for using ratings back in my last iTunes post, but I'll try again. Obviously, it's a super overwhelming idea to rate your whole library, right now. Especially if your iTunes library is anywhere near big. So I recommend just making a habit of rating songs as you listen to them. Over time, the number of songs you've rated will grow pretty big. 

I use 5 stars for my very, very favorite songs, the ones I listen to over and over. As soon as I get tired of them, I move them down to 4 stars, which means I really like the song but don't want to listen to it on repeat. 3 stars means that I like the song and enjoy listening to it. 2 stars means I'm tired of the song/don't really know the song. 

So every time I listen to a song (unless I'm really working on something else), I make an effort to choose a rating in my head and then either add the rating or change the existing one to what I think it should be right at that moment. 

Make playlists for each rating.

You can do this by clicking the little half black/half grey box all the way in the top, left-hand corner. Then click new>>new smart playlist. Then, change the rule to 'Rating', 'is' and five stars. Then, add another rule and select 'Last Played', 'is not in the last' and type in 7 days. Then check the box that say 'Limit to ____ items' and type 50 in the blank. That'll make a playlist of 50 of your five-starred songs. 

Then, repeat. But for the four-starred playlist, use not played in the last '14 days' and limit to 30 songs. For the three-starred playlist, use not played in the last '30 days' and limit to 20 songs. 

Put all of these playlists in a folder.

I've titled mine *the system* with the asterisks so it stays at the very top. Now, when you want to listen to music, just go to *the system* or whatever you named your folder. If you shuffle directly from there, it'll play 50% five-starred songs, 30% four-starred songs and 20% three-starred songs, but only songs that haven't been played recently.

Of course, feel free to adjust the numbers if you feel like it, but I find this to be the perfect balance. Plus, you won't find yourself hearing the same songs over and over because once a song gets played, you won't hear it for at least a week.

Think I take my music too seriously? What music do you like to listen to while you work?

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