Ok, maybe I do like iTunes

Warning: The following is potentially boring, if you get bored by these sorts of things.

I've had serious problems with iTunes for a while now--it's big and clunky and a little hard to figure out. There are still things about it that I don't like, but I've just recently come to appreciate it's more subtle features. I got that new iPod the other month, and it's been great. I'm getting tired of listening to Janice Joplin, however. No matter how good she was, I have three or four of her albums, and almost all of them have a different version of "Get it While You Can". Ok, I got it. While I could. Message received.

The problem was that the iPod Shuffle is damn near random--it never grabs exactly the same song twice, but it would happily choose thirty songs by the same artist if that's how it's little dice rolled. So, following the advice of a person on Slashdot I set up three smart playlists, and started to realize how cool iTunes can be:

  • Playlist 1 chooses 128 megs of music (about 25 songs, give or take) that haven't been played in the last five days and that I rated three stars or higher. So this is music that I know is good, but haven't heard in a few days.
  • That can get boring, though, because if I've rated something at all it's probably a song that I've had for a while a know fairly well. So Playlist 2 is 384 megs (80 songs or so) of music that are:
    • less than 10 minutes long
    • not from the "Tone Groups for Jazz Ear Training" CD, or potentially any other not-suitable-for-normal-use music
    • haven't been played in three days.
    So that's a bunch of music that I haven't heard in a while, but it could be anything, really.
  • Finally, Playlist 3 is 512 megs (the capacity of my iPod) of music that is either:
    • a song on Playlist 1
    • a song on Playlist 2
    • or a song with the title "Your Ice Cream is Ready"
    So in theory this will be a nice mix of music that I know I like, music that I don't listen to all that often, and that one song by Mocket.

I very much dig the interlocking playlists. My personal formula is approximately this: Playlist 1: Every song in a particular range of genres (for instance, I have one for all mainstream music, one for world & new age), that do not have a one-star rating (and thus are not known to suck). Playlist 2: 150 songs from Playlist 1 that have a playcount of less than 5, randomly chosen. (This is newer music that I haven't yet listened to death; a song will tend to get on the playlist, hang around for a while, and then drop off once I've listened to it a handful of times. I like this effect.) Playlist 3: 70 songs from Playlist 1 that have a playcount of more than 4, and a rating of 3 or more, and that I have listened to least recently. (This provides a nice mix of familiar music that I like a lot, but haven't heard in a while.) Playlist 4: Any songs I've listened to more than 4 times, but not rated. (This solves the problem of good music dropping off of Playlist 2 and disappearing forever because I forgot to rate it. In practice, there are never more than 5 songs on this list; I rate things pretty religiously.) Playlist 5: Everything from Playlists 2, 3, and 4. Usually a pretty groovy mix, full of things I forgot I had.
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