Help me to avoid brain damage from random songs on shuffle!
October 15, 2009 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Help me iTunes Playlist Gurus to figure out a killer set of manual playlists for my 20,000+ song library

I am taking on a daunting task...rating all twenty-some-thousand songs in my iTunes library. I expect this process to actually take me a few hours a week for a year or more

But as I'm manually touching every song in my iTunes library, validating ID3 tags, covers, etc. I'd also like to arrange playlists. My problem is, I'm not sure how to do that.

My music spans all genres: classical, country, hip-hop, gangsta rap, hard rock, folk, blues, and so on. And I'm trying to make sure the genre tag fits as best as possible (though of course there are genre-crossing artists and songs).

But more, the way I like to listen to music is dependent upon the activity. For work, I like more downtempo music. For trips, I like more upbeat music. For working out I like highly rythmic dance club type songs.

Other than tagging some specific songs for each of those 3 items, I'm not sure how I can most effectively partition my collection. Sure, smart playlists by star rankings will help to filter out songs I like less than others, but I'm sure there must be some playlist ninja skills that I am lacking.

What can I do to make these playlists ultra helpful and useful?

(and the title is a reference to this old 2004 article: )
posted by arniec to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I usually create playlists by mood or emotion: I have one titled "happiness", one "sadness", one "!!!POWAH!!!" (pulsing, loud music to stay awake / wake up), one "tranquil" (featuring background music and unobtrusive songs) etc.

Within such a playlist there is little coherence, as many different songs from different artists fit one specific mood. Conversely, songs from one artist might be scattered across different playlists. Most of these lists grew over time; whenever I'd sit at my computer I'd let my mp3 player shuffle across all titles, and when something came on that I thought would fit one of my categories I'd add it to the corresponding playlist. I don't know if that's the best solution, but it works for me; one thing I've learned, though, is that most of this emotional response is highly individual, and you shouldn't be afraid to follow your instincts, even if it goes against generally accepted standards.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 1:40 PM on October 15, 2009

Because you can tag genres however you like, you can add numbers (or some other signifier) to the beginnings of them. That way, you can have upbeat classical music with your upbeat hard rock, or mellow hip hop with laid-back blues.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:03 PM on October 15, 2009

If you don't know how to use smart playlists, do a little research on those. It will change the way you make playlists, because they can be dynamic. For example, if you want your playlist to only play your new favorite songs, but nothing that you listened to in the last month, and nothing that you added to your ipod more than a year ago, you can make a smart playlist to do that, and it will change depending on when you load it up.

You can also use smart playlists to look up other smart playlists. So, if you put together a smart playlist to only have your favorite songs from the 80's (which you haven't listened to in over a month, and which haven't been skipped in the last 3 months, etc), one from the 90's, and one from the 00's, you could then put together another playlist which looks through only those playlists for songs which contain the word "moist", and bingo, you have a playlist of just your favorite songs which are about something moist. Name it the "delicious brownie" playlist, and listen to it when you cook!

You can also create playlists of songs which specifically aren't located on other playlists. So, if you have already put together a playlist that you listen to regularly, you can make a smart playlist which searches for songs which are not on your main playlist, and then add other modifiers.

My favorite: Put together a smart playlist for unrated songs of a specific genre. That way, when you feel like listening to jazz, you put on that playlist and start rating away your jazz songs. Every time you rate a song, it disappears from the playlist, so once that playlist is empty, you know all of your jazz music is rated.
posted by markblasco at 2:50 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can use the "grouping" "BPM" and "comments" sections of the iTunes info panel to help you create more categories for smart playlists to sort. If you want downtempo stuff, having BPM information (even if it's just nonsense that you put in to help you sort later) will help you find the slower songs. Likewise, grouping can be used to create categories which are not necessarily the "genre". Plus, that comments box will let you toss in keywords of all sorts, which you can then sort with smart playlists.

Other than that, why not just make playlists by hand? Make a bunch of new playlists (work, exercise, cooking, etc) and as you listen to and rate your songs, you can just drag them to the lists wherein you think you will want to hear those tunes. The great thing about playlists is, they're always fully modifiable, so if you come across something which doesn't work, or if you come across a song which you realize SHOULD be someplace else, then it's easy to just make that happen.
posted by hippybear at 4:40 PM on October 15, 2009

Check out for many smart playlist ideas.
posted by matildaben at 4:52 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

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