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Summary:

If you have hundreds or even thousands of songs in your iTunes library, then it’s more than likely there are some songs which you’ve forgotten you even own — you can’t listen to every single one at the same time, after all. By using iTunes’ Smart […]

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If you have hundreds or even thousands of songs in your iTunes library, then it’s more than likely there are some songs which you’ve forgotten you even own — you can’t listen to every single one at the same time, after all.

By using iTunes’ Smart Playlist feature, however, you can create a playlist of songs which you haven’t listened to in a while. You can get iTunes to look through your music collection, work out which songs you haven’t listened to in a while, then present them all in a list for you.

  1. Create a new Smart Playlist by going File → New Smart Playlist. Alternatively, if you hold ⌥, the + button at the bottom of the window will change to a gear icon. Click this to create a Smart Playlist a bit quicker.
  2. Set up a rule using the Last Played option. Change the second option to ‘is not in the last’, and the text box on the right will change into a smaller text box and another dropdown list.
  3. Enter a period of time using the options on the right. The amount of time you use is totally up to you, although I recommend a shorter amount of time for small iTunes libraries. To give you a sense of perspective, I chose 3 months for a 165 song library, and the playlist ended up only containing 8 songs.
  4. Make sure to keep the ‘Live updating’ box checked, otherwise your playlist won’t update with other songs that match the search parameter after the playlist is created.
  5. When you click OK, the playlist will be created and populated with songs that match you criteria you specified. The name of the playlist will be highlighted, ready for you to type in a custom name for it.

As long as you kept the Live updating option turned on, iTunes will automatically add and remove songs from the playlist as its data changes. This means that you’ll always be able to listen to something you haven’t heard in a while! Just remember to choose a sensible length of time for the playlist; too short, and you’ll end up with a massive playlist that you won’t be able to listen to all of before it changes. Too long and there’ll only be a few songs in there.

There is, however, one thing which will mess up your playlist. iTunes only updates the Last Played field if you listen to the whole song. Therefore if you skip a song you don’t like, it won’t be counted as a play and could ultimately end up in your playlist. To combat this problem, all it takes is one extra rule in your playlist.

If you’ve already created the playlist, you can right-click and choose Edit Smart Playlist to add the rule using the same window from before.

  1. Add a new rule by clicking the round + button to the right of the first rule.
  2. Change the first option to Skip Count and the middle option to ‘is less than’, then type a small number such as 2 or 3. This accounts for any accidental skips you may have done.
  3. Click OK and any songs with a skip count higher than the number you chose will be removed from the playlist, keeping only the ones you like in there.

Of course, you may have changed your mind about songs you didn’t like 3 months ago. For this reason, I choose not to implement this extra rule into my playlist.

  1. Great idea! I use a playlist much like this, except I limit it to songs that I have rated at least 4 stars. I call it “Best and Least Heard.” That’s because I choose to leave all of my music on my iPod, even the stuff I didn’t rate particularly highly, or haven’t rated at all because I can’t make up my mind.

    I have a separate smart playlist for that, actually, called “Make Up Your Mind.” It includes all songs I’ve listened to at least 3 times but haven’t rated yet.

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    1. Those are both great ideas, too! I don’t rate my songs in iTunes, so I rely on play and skip counts – mainly because it requires no effort on my part!!

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  2. [...] How-To: Rediscover Your iTunes Music [...]

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  3. Here’s an article I wrote about a month ago about rediscovering your iTunes library with the aid of smart playlists, including something similar to what’s described on this post: (spanish) http://appleweblog.com/2010/02/3-listas-inteligentes-musica

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  4. I’ve been using this method for about a year now. However, the most recent software update to the phone requires a workaround for this tip to be effective. If this has been corrected, please let me know.

    http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=11018452&#11018452

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    1. I haven’t come across this problem personally, so I cannot be sure if it has been fixed.

      All I can suggest to you is submitting feedback to Apple and hoping it gets sorted in the next update.
      http://www.apple.com/feedback/itunesapp.html

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  5. I have used a playlist similar to this for awhile. With the size of my library, I have the playlist set for 50 random songs with a play count of zero. I just call it “Unheard”.

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  6. Smart playlist has always been reliable for me and have been using it ever since I’ve known how to use it. It has always been convenient on my part.

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