Why Part 2?

If you are familiar with my first article on this subject, you know how I created an automated iTunes playlist that played more of my favorite songs.  You know that the list played chose those songs from my own personal ratings, and you know some of the ways I made certain my favorite songs came up more frequently.  Finally, you know how I keep some of my less favorite songs from playing when I really don't want to hear them.

However, there are a few more ways to add some features to your playlist so you can make your list that much more enjoyable.  This article, and any other article after this one on the subject (no promises of a Part 3), will endeavor to explain those features.

If you Missed Part 1

The short version is, set your song genre(s) appropriately for your lists.  Set your song ratings based on your favorite and least favorite songs.  Create an iTunes Playlist Directory called '(Genre) Rated', and put 6 playlists within called (Genre, Zero Stars to Genre, 5 Stars) and then set the Master Playlist (the one that will actually be stored on your iPhone/Pod device) to play the 'Genre Rated' Playlist.

Genre, in my original article was 'Rock', but it could just as easily be RapClassicalRockCelticMetalPopChildren's80's60'sChristmas as the Genre for the purpose of creating this list.  it could be all of them, it just shouldn't be all of them at the same time.

If you didn't read the first article, I highly recommend it.  This article will be waiting for you when you return.

What's New in Part Two (see what I did there?)

So, for Part Two, we need to expand the scope a little more.  First, create a new Playlist Directory and this time simply call it (continuing with the 'Rock' genre list) 'Rock Music'.  Move the 'Rock Rated' Directory into the 'Rock Music' Directory, and to simplify things for later, update the 'Rock Music' Playlist to point to the 'Rock Music' Directory instead of the 'Rock Rated' Directory.

Now, in the 'Rock Music' Directory, but not within the 'Rock Rated' directory, we create a new smart playlist.  Let's call this one 'Rock, Least Recently Played'.  The Genre will be set to 'Rock', and the bottom option will be set to a # of songs (I recommend 5), based on 'Least Recently Played'.  Now, this might simply pick your 5 least favorite songs and put it on the list.  After all, they are the least frequently played in the 'Rock Rated' directory, and the 'stop-gap' put in place will prevent them from being played every 32 days. 

This is true, but there is a fascinating fact about music on iTunes, and that is most of the songs found there are our favorite songs.  When you buy an album, some songs you love, some songs you like, and sadly most songs you don't like very much.  Welcome to 'modern music.'  However, when you can simply purchase the song and not the whole album, you tend to have more top rated songs in that list.  If you look at an album of songs, and you only need to pay for the ones you like, you will avoid buying songs you don't like and your lists will lean heavily towards the songs you like.  So, occasionally, this list will pick up some of your favorite songs who, due to the volume of favorite songs, have not been listened to in a while.

A side note, if a song shows up in two separate lists, it does not add the song twice.  iTunes is smart enough to recognize two of the exact same song and simply put it into your playlist only once.

Another Side List to Add

Creating another smart playlist in your 'Rock Music' directory, you call this one 'Rock Random'.  In it, you set the Genre to Rock, and set the bottom option to # of songs (again, 5 is good) based on 'Random'.  This will pick 5 random Rock songs and add it to your list.  Here is the problem, however, this list, left alone, will never change and you will be stuck with the same 5 songs for all time.  

To avoid this, add a new sort option in the top to read 'Last Played' 'is not in the last' '1 week', and this will update the list when one of these 5 songs has been played.  These are more random, and might include both favorites and non-favorites, but it does make the playlist less formulaic.

Now, 5 'Rock' songs will show up on my list for no obvious reason.  Again, if there are duplicates, they will be ignored in iTunes to keep the list smaller.

Wait...Where is my Favorite Artist?

I was waiting for me to ask that question.

If you are a heavy metal/rock fan, as I was (and, to a lesser extent, still occasionally listen to), you will hear some pre-recorded audio shout out on your favorite metal station the words 'Manditory Metallica' (think of the voice for the monster trucks that repeats 'sunday!Sunday!SUNDAY!' and you get what I mean).

'Hey!  That's just on my music station!'.  No, as someone who listened to music on the road from the east coast to the west, I can tell you they probably all do it.

Regardless of the genre, however, you have someone you enjoy listening to quite frequently.  If its New Age, it might be Enya; for Metal, it might be Metallica; for 60's Rock, it MIGHT be the Beatles (really going out on a limb there); if the genre is 'GoofySoundingSongs', it Might be Giants.  However, who they are is less relevant for this case as it is 'How do I make sure they get on my playlist?'

So, within the Rock Music Directory, create a new Playlist Directory called 'Rock Artists'.  Inside of this playlist directory, create a new playlist with the name of the artist/band you want to hear.  We'll say Metallica for now as an example, but it could be 'Beatles' or whoever (these are your favorite artists, not mine).  It might be tempting to ignore Genre here, but keep it in because some songs are not in the same classification as others.  For Metallica fans, 'Nothing Else Matters' is not the same mood music as 'Enter Sandman', for example.  So, I keep the Genre to 'Rock' and I add a new list for 'Artist' 'is' 'Metallica'.  In the second group, I change it to # of songs by 'Least Recently Played'.  This would add the least recently played Metallica song in the Rock Genre to my list (if it is not already there).

You might be tempted to make this # a 5 as well, but I usually keep it to 2 or 3.  First, this is already your favorite artist, so many of their songs will probably show up in your list anyway.  Second, you want to keep it your favorite artist, so you don't want to overplay their songs.  Third, it is intended to add the artist to your list, not dominate the list with the artist.  You may as well simply create a list and call it 'Metallica' if you are going to do that.

So, the List is 'Complete'

Now look at the list you created in iTunes, not in the directory, but in the 'Rock Music' list you created.  There are up to 35 songs you have rated (or 30 you rated and 5 you did not rate).  You have 5 randomly selected songs, and the least recently heard 5 songs in the genre (incidentally, these 5 will also include songs you have just added to your library because, by definition, they are the least recently listened to songs).  Finally, you have 2-3 (or more) songs by each of your favorite artist(s) in the genre on the list as well.  

With this range, you now have a pretty complete list of music that will entertain you for around 2 1/2 hours.  That's a decently long road trip or, in some places, a round trip commute to work.  When you get home, you sync up your iDevice, and you can listen to the same playlist tomorrow with almost all new music.  Look at all of the features of the smart playlists, and you may find some others that I haven't even discussed here.  Enjoy creating the lists, but even more importantly, enjoy the music as well.