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Creating and Using Playlists in iTunes and iDevices

This chapter shows how to create playlists - customized collections of content that you create or that iTunes creates for you based on criteria you define - in iTunes and on your iDevices.
This chapter is from the book

Playlists enable you to listen to exactly the music you want to hear, when and how you want to hear it. Do you love a CD but hate a song or two on it? Fine, just set up a playlist without the offensive songs. Wish you could hear different songs from a variety of albums in your own greatest hits collection? Make a playlist and be the judge of what is great and what isn’t. How about keeping things interesting by creating collections of music whose contents automatically change as your music collection does? No problem. Would you like it if the tunes you hear are selected for you automatically based on a specific song? With iTunes playlists, you can do all this and more.

Understanding Playlists

Simply put, playlists are customized collections of content that you create or that iTunes creates for you based on criteria you define. After a playlist has been created, you can listen to it, put it on a CD, move it to an iOS device, share it over a network, and so on.

There are several kinds of playlists in iTunes:

  • Standard playlists—A standard playlist—which I’ll usually call just a playlist from here on because that is what it is called in iTunes—is a set of songs, music videos, podcasts, TV shows, and so on that you define manually. You put the specific content you want in a playlist, and then organize how you want it to play. You can include the same song multiple times, mix and match songs from many artists, put songs in any order you choose, and basically control every aspect of that music collection. Playlists are useful for putting music on an iOS device, creating a CD, or making a compilation of specific music you might want to listen to at the click of the mouse. With a playlist, you can determine exactly which songs are included and the order in which those songs play. Playlists are also easy to create, and they remain as they are over time—unless you purposefully change them.
  • Smart playlists—A smart playlist is smart because you don’t put songs or other content in it manually. Instead, you tell iTunes which kind of content you want included in it by the attributes of that content. For music, you can use categories such as genre or artist, and iTunes picks songs with those attributes for you. For example, you can create a playlist based on a specific genre, such as Jazz, that you have listened to in the past few days. You can also tell iTunes how many songs to include.

    The really great thing is that smart playlists can be dynamic, meaning the songs they contain are updated over time based on criteria you define. As you add, listen to, or change the music in your iTunes Library, the contents of a smart playlist can change to match those changes as they happen. Imagine you have a smart playlist that tells iTunes to include all the music you have in the Jazz genre that is performed by Kenny G, the Pat Metheny Group, Joe Sample, and Larry Carlton. If you make this a “live” smart playlist, iTunes automatically adds any new music from any of these artists to it as you add that music to your iTunes Library. Live smart playlists make music more interesting to listen to because those playlists can change over time, giving you a different music experience each time they do.

  • Genius playlists—iTunes creates this kind of playlist for you too, but instead of telling iTunes the type of music you want included, you choose a song and iTunes creates a playlist containing music that “goes with” the song you selected. How the iTunes “genius” selects songs that go with other songs is a bit of a secret, but you may find that it works really well for you.

    Genius playlists can be very interesting because you might not be able to predict which songs are included. And you can refresh Genius playlists, which results in a new playlist that can have different songs in it that may play in a different order. Because you have to pick only one song, genius playlists are the easiest to create.

You access your playlists through the Playlists tab of the Music window, as shown in Figure 7.1. Each type of playlist has a specific icon to represent it. As you learn later, you can create folders to keep your playlists organized. The Playlists list is sorted by the following general groups (top to bottom): default playlists, genius playlists, playlist folders, smart playlists, and playlists. Within each group, playlists are sorted alphabetically.

Figure 7.1

Figure 7.1. To view your playlists, click the Playlists tab while you are viewing the music in your iTunes Library.

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