Smart playlists that truly follow your mood

Smart Playlists
With thousands of tunes in your iTunes library or in your iPod, it's high time to consider using it as the radio you've always looked for: the one that delivers only tunes you like, and that fit your mood in a unheard of way. The idea is to extend objective parameters provided by iTunes, like last played time, genre, etc. with subjective parameters like warmth, violence, restfulness, modernity, whatever you want. Then, you build smart playlists upon these parameters, regardless (or not) of genre. iTunes will mix your songs in sometimes unusual ways, but always relevant, and sometimes quite stylish!

For example, a "Soft" playlist contains all tunes that are both warm and restful; the "Well Awake" playlist contains tunes which are not restful, and not too violent; "Pop" playlist contains tunes which are popular but not too much main-stream; "Pop++" contains only (assumed) mainstream popular tunes, etc. I'm happy with a system of tagging which works quite well after months of usage.

For each dimension, I give a note to each tune, within "irrelevant," "not at all," "yes," and "yeah, definitely." Those four steps seems to be enough. And more steps would make smart play list hard to design. For example, let's take violence. I add in the comment (the grouping field may be preferred) of each tune "Violence-," "Violence=," or "Violence+," depending on its violence. Violence- means calm, Violence= means violent, and Violence+ means ultra violent (God knowns that some songs are). If a song is not tagged Violence, it is considered not violent, and not calm, let's say, normal. Here are examples, on a few tunes that many of you may know:

Miles Davis - Flamenco Sketches : Modern=, Pop=, Rest=, Violence-, Warm+
Louis Prima - Just A Gigilo / I Ain't Got Nobody : Modern-, Pop+, Warm=
JS Bach - Goldberg Variations : Modern-, Pop=, Rest+, Violence-, Warm+
The Beatles - Sgt Peppers - A day in the life : Modern=, Pop=, Trip=
Deep Purple - Speed Kind : Modern=, Pop=, Violence=
Massive Attack - Protection : Warm-, Modern=, Pop+, Trip=
Einsturzende Neubauten - Negative Nein : Modern=, Pop-, Rest-, Trip=, Violence+, Warm-

With two conditions maximum, you are able to precisely target your tunes:

Something violent but not too much? Comment contains "Violence=".
Something violent, even very violent? Comment contains "Violence" but not "Violence-".
Something which is not violent? Comment doesn't contain "Violence=" nor "Violence+".
Something which is not violent and not calm? Comment doesn't contain "Violence".

Now here are a few of my smart playlists :

Melancolic: any genre, tune is Warm-, not Violence+, not Violence=, not Rest-
Good mood: any genre, tune is Warm+, not Rest+, not Violence+, not Pop-
Soft: any genre, Warm but not Warm-, Rest but not Rest-
Pop: genre is not jazz, not classical, tune is Pop, but not Pop-, Modern but not Modern-, not Trip+, not Rest, not Violence-, not Warm-.
Junkie: genre is not classical, tune is Trip but not Trip-, not Violence+, not Rest-
Not archived on CD: tune is Archive-

This may look over-complicated - and it is a little. When Apple gives us the ability to really play with the iTunes database, things will change. I also admit that I spent a long time tagging tunes. Some albums are easy to tag, but those which contain very different songs require more time to be well tagged.

Anyway, now my iPod is my favourite companion within the non-humans -- it never fails giving me what I want to hear. This is completely new to me -- like, er, I live in the XXI century?

by lagroue on May 07 | 8:00 am


all seems a bit complicated to me! :-S ... but still sounds good...i might set to work trying this out..

by liam™ on Jun 01 | 2:51 pm

This sounds interesting lagroue, could you expand more on your subjective parameters. I feel this is a worthy idea and may develop something for Windows that integrates with itunes allowing customisable rating, and comment tagging of the current playing, or currently selected song(s). Any info on how you find your rating system would be great.

by SnappyTom on Jul 19 | 2:34 am

Hi, i wrote an AppleScript for this. It automagically asks you for the sophisticated rating, if it doesn't already exists for the current song.
I "stole" some of the code from Doug Adams though.
I just sent it to Doug, so you can get the script soon from http://www.malcolmadams.com/itunes/index.php - i hope.

by JanD on Jul 22 | 5:41 am

ooh interesting, but I don't have a Mac sad to say. Was thinking more for us Windows users who will need a standalone application. But anyway how do you rate and tag your tracks JanD?

by SnappyTom on Jul 22 | 10:16 am

Well, sice few hours i rate by AppleScript and i tag with iTunes of course.
Well, some incomplete Tags i got by iMusicBrain. But that all are Mac-programs you can't use on windows. Maybe you will switch? ;-)

by JanD on Jul 22 | 11:39 am

I like your idea. So far I've been using some of the AllMusic mood tags, but there are just to many of them. I do have some questions. For things like Pop, when would you use a Pop- tag. That seems to be more a binary...either it is or it isn't. Also, I understand Violent- = Calm, but then what is Rest= or Rest+ It seems that they might be similar. Finally what is Trip and it's counterpart? It would be useful if you could take a moment and write down the opposites you think of for each of your terms.


by Denrael on Nov 29 | 12:34 am

After thinking (a long time ;-) ) for this, it remember me of pandora.com, though only for my own library.

Maybe it's possible to make a similar product, that works offline? "The Filter" (thefilter.com) does it (for Windoze AND Mac), so I think, but it's neither transparent, how it rates the songs, nor can I change the rating in a way I find it "better" (what ever that means).

Is anyone here who knows a better way to create intelligent playlists, that follows my mood?
Or maybe someone who can share better categories for the above method?

by JanD on Feb 28 | 8:46 am

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