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Some Playlists for iTunes and iPod

Revised 21 Dec 2013

Copyright © 2012–2017 by Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems

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. These are some of the ones I regularly use, just to start your own thinking.

Contents:

See also: Taming iTunes & iPod for Classical Music

Playlists in Folders

You might not know that iTunes lets you organize playlists in folders, and iPod uses those folders as a submenu in the Playlists menu.

Creating and Arranging Folders

To create a folder, select File » New Playlist Folder and give it a name. Folders are arranged alphabetically in iTunes and in iPod’s Playlists 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.)

My Playlist Folders

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’s Playlists menu:

Some Sample Playlists

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.

'Non-recent' playlist folder

Playlist Folder: Non-recent

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 Last Played » is before the date I started my current listening cycle. All have Live updating 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 if Last Played wasn’t the first condition, though it still worked in iTunes. So now I always have Last Played first.

All the playlists in this folder have Rating » is not » ★; 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.)

Playlist: Art Music

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:

Art Music playlist

I’ve already explained most of these settings. I exclude AV/Instructional because that’s rehearsal CDs, which I don’t listen to for pleasure.

I used to play this list on iPod by setting Shuffle » By Albums. 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:

  1. Create the smart playlist and give it a name, or edit Last Played in the definition of an existing playlist.
  2. Open the playlist in the browser, and sort by the “play order” column, which is the unlabeled one at the left:

    sorting in a playlist; see text

  3. Select Controls » Shuffle » By Albums. (If you don’t have iTunes 10, the menu sequence may be different.) I shuffle Art Music, New Age, and Shows by album, and the humor and pop lists by song.
  4. turning on shuffle If necessary, select Controls » Shuffle » Turn On Shuffle, or click the shuffle control at the lower left of the iTunes window.
  5. Right-click on the name of the playlist, and select Copy To Play Order. That saves the current order of items in this playlist for use when shuffle is turned off. You can still re-shuffle on the fly, if you want to, by turning shuffle on; but when you turn shuffle off again, the order will revert to this play order.

Playlist: Pop

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:

Pop music playlist

Last Played was explained above, and Rating was also explained above.

The basic selection is Genre » starts with » B, 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 Xmas list, in the Binges folder.

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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.

Playlist: Pop Standards

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 Playlist » is » Pop (see above), then add further qualifiers. I use “pop standards” for the pre-rock-and-roll era:

Pop standards playlist

“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.

 
'Binges' playlist folder

Playlist Folder: Binges

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.

Xmas 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.

 
'Specialties' playlist folder

Playlist Folder: Specialties

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.

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:

 
'Maintenance' playlist folder

Playlist Folder: Maintenance

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:

 

Conclusion

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.


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