Some Playlists for iTunes and iPod
Copyright © 2012–2023 by Stan Brown, BrownMath.com
Copyright © 2012–2023 by Stan Brown, BrownMath.com
Summary: If you follow my tagging scheme or an organized one of your own, you can improve your listening experience with some standard playlists and smart playlists. Setting up playlists is very much a matter of personal preference. I offer these not because you shoud necessarily use the same ones, but just to start your thinking about what’s possible.
See also: Taming iTunes & iPod for Classical Music
You might not know that iTunes lets you organize playlists in folders, and iPod uses those folders as a submenu in themenu.
To create a folder, select» and give it a name. Folders are arranged alphabetically in iTunes and in iPod’s menu, followed by any playlists that you haven’t assigned to a folder. (You can create a playlist folder within a playlist folder, but I haven’t found a use for that yet.)
A folder can contain plain and smart playlists. Within each folder, iTunes shows all the smart playlists alphabetically, followed by all the plain playlists alphabetically. On iPod, however, all playlists within a folder are alphabetized in one sequence, though iPod displays different icons for the different types.
Here’s how you can assign playlists to folders:
Finally, to rename a playlist or a folder, select it and then press the F2 key. (This works to rename most things in iTunes as well as in Windows.)
Obviously this is personal preference, like all my recommendations, but I have four folders of playlists, numbered in the order I want to see them in iPod’smenu:
Here’s a sampling of some of my playlists. Again, I don’t expect you will want to copy them as they are, but I hope they give you some ideas of how you can create your own playlists and make the most of your iPod.
The playlists in this folder account for most of my listening time. I like to shuffle by categories, while ensuring that over time I listen to my whole collection—well, almost my whole collection; more about that below.
All the playlists in this folder have» the date I started my current listening cycle. All have checked, so that whatever I listen to is removed from the playlist whether I listen to it in the playlist or select it specifically through browsing. Eventually these playlists empty out—it takes six or seven months— and then I change the date and start again.
By the way, I discovered that live updating sometimes didn’t work on iPod ifwasn’t the first condition, though it still worked in iTunes. So now I always have first.
All the playlists in this folder have» » ★; I use a one-star rating to mark the pieces I don’t want coming up in the shuffle. (For more about my rating system, follow this link.)
Here’s an example: art music (“classical”). The last time I got through my whole collection was in April. So the current version of the playlist selects art music (genre beginning with A) last played before 18 April 2012:
I’ve already explained most of these settings. I excludebecause that’s rehearsal CDs, which I don’t listen to for pleasure.
I used to play this list on iPod by setting» . But more than once I forgot to change it back after playing pop music shuffled by song, so I got something like the third movement of Beethoven’s seventh followed by “Salgo già del trono aurato”. So now I prefer to pre-shuffle each playlist in iTunes before I sync the list to iPod. Here are the steps:
Setting up my pop list turned out to be complicated because of some special cases, so it might be another good example to look at. Originally I thought of “pop” as the opposite of “classical”. It took me some experimentation before I realized that, in terms of my collection anyway, “pop” really means “music items that can all be played independently”. Here’s what I currently use:
was explained above, and was also explained above.
The basic selection is» » , because in my list of genres all non-“classical” music has a genre starting with B. But I exclude B/NA because I have a separate New Age playlist, and Humor and Shows because I have separate playlists for them. There’s also a separate list, in the Binges folder.
That leaves Wayne & Shuster. You may not have heard of them, but if you like classic comedy you’ve probably heard their Shakespearean baseball game and “Rinse the Blood off my Toga”, Julius Cæsar done like a Bogart movie. They did a series of variety shows on the CBC beginning in the 1950s. Sadly, none of their stuff is on DVD, but you can see some snippets on YouTube. I’ve got eight of their shows on audiocassette, which I digitized and imported into iTunes. I want each show to shuffle as a whole, not each segment separately, so I exclude them from Pop and Humor and include them in Shows.
Sometimes I just want non-classical music, but sometimes I want specifically Édith Piaf, or specifically top 40s, or specifically Big Band and the American songbook. For my subdivisions of pop, I start with» » (see above), then add further qualifiers. I use “pop standards” for the pre-rock-and-roll era:
“Billboard” is my compilation albums of the hits of each year in the late 1950s and the 1960s; “Piaf” is obvious. Because of live updating, whichever playlist I’m in when a particular song is played, it’s removed from all the non-recent playlists that it belongs to.
A completist by temperament, I sometimes like to play all the symphonies of a particular composer, or everything I have by a favorite performer. For this I have plain playlists rather than smart playlists.
There’s nothing too mysterious here. The list that you see is just the “completist’s playlists” that I’ve had occasion to construct so far; I’ll be adding to them in the future. There are two Sibelius lists because I love his symphonies and I have two sets, with performances of very different character. In the meantime, if I suddenly want to listen to, say, all the Mendelssohn piano concertos, I can always make an on-the-go playlist.
is a special case, music that was originally intended as Christmas music or that feels Christmasy to me. It could have a genre of B/Xmas, or another genre but with Xmas in the comments. It was just easier to do that as a smart playlist than a plain playlist.
This folder is kind of a grab bag, and maybe I should have called it that, because the playlists don’t really have anything in common.
I start with two smart playlists based on ratings, so that when I change my rating of a piece these playlists are updated automatically.
It turns out this is not only a known bug but a long-standing one. What breaks iPod Smart Playlists? says that iPod won’t update smart playlists that contain , , or conditions. The last one is what I’m using. In comments following Apple breaks Smart Playlists on iPhone and iTunes alike (yet again), KimH suggests that adding a condition solves the problem. But that didn’t work for me or for commenters in iTunes 9 Smart Playlist ‘Live Updating’ bug.
These threads go back years, but unfortunately Apple has
historically been more interested in adding “kewl” new
features than in fixing bugs. This is just one of many, but I’ve
been lucky that none of the others have affected me personally.
I’m generally happy with my iPod, but this kind of stuff is
just bush league, unworthy of a corporation with Apple’s
resources. And of course dumping iTunes, as many people do,
wouldn’t help because this is a bug in the software running on
There are also some special plain playlists. Obviously these are highly dependent on my tastes, and your list would probably be considerably different, but here’s mine for what it’s worth:
For instance, there’s Beethoven’s Leonore Overture #4 (yes, number four) from the Hoffnung Astronautical Music Festival. That festival series also gave us Reizenstein’s unforgettable Concerto Popolare, “a piano concerto to end all piano concertos”, in which the orchestra begins Tchaikovsky’s first concerto but the soloist starts with the Grieg, and they both end up on “Roll out the Barrel”.
This playlist also includes The Unbegun Symphony and other pieces from P.D.Q. Bach albums in which Peter Schickele strings together various snippets of classical and non-classical works.
These playlists are for managing my collection, not for listening to, so with one exception I have them marked not to sync to iPod. I’ll just hit the high spots:
What good is it? Sometimes when I’m in the car playing one of my Non-recent playlists, I’ll hear something and not recognize it. But of course I can’t fiddle with iPod and look at the screen while I’m driving; and even if I could, iPod’s screen doesn’t show enough information. So when I get home I sync and then look at this playlist in iTunes to find out what I was listening to.
There you have my ideas. It’s probably too much information already, but if you have any questions or suggestions, or just want to share some ideas of your own, please get in touch.