For several years now, most of my music listening is done either from my iPod (particularly commuting to work on the bus, and when running), or through iTunes when I'm at my desk.About 18 months ago I decided to rate all the music sitting in these systems -- and I'm still not finished. But I'm getting close to the end, and am starting to enjoy some of the benefits. I thought I'd explain what they are, in case others can benefit too.One of the problems with piles of CDs is that it can be difficult to get round to listening to most of them. Hunting through the racks, unless you're very organised, can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. (And probably impossible if they're in piles spread around the house ...) Having them all copied over to a PC can make it easier to find them quickly, and browse through the collection.But what if you could just ask to hear some great music that you've not listened to for a while? Sounds like a perfect job for a computer, with its perfect memory. And iTunes can indeed do this ... if you tell it what you like. And thanks to Apple it's easy. Rate a song from 1 to 5 stars in iTunes or an iPods, and then you can use that in a 'Smart Playlist' that updates itself whenever you make or change a rating. So, I have an "Unrated" playlist that selects a random hour-long selection. This is what it looks like:


The first line selects those less than 1 star - ie, those not rated. The second knocks out some long radio recordings that I'm not interested in rating, as I only listen to them once. The third line ignores Classical music, which doesn't work very being rated track-by-track. The fourth line only gives me music, not video or podcasts, neither of which I want to play multiple times. The 250MB selected at random could easily have been 1 hour selected at random.So, that gives me a playlist I use when I'm on the bus, rating on average 30 minutes of music a day.Then the fun begins. Create a "My Top Rated Least Played" smart playlist that looks like this:


And, bingo, 3 hours of the music I like the most, but have listened to least recently. Great for when I'm returning from work and am too tired to read a book, or rate music, and instead just want to relax and enjoy some great music. Result!(In this case, the playlist is selecting anything more than 4 stars, but you can pick what you like. You might be wondering why I don't just pick the tracks with 5 stars? It's because I've turned on some little-known features of iTunes that let me rate in half stars, and/or on a scale of 1-100. So I have quite a few that are about 4.5 stars. This is beyond most people's need for detail!)

AuthorJonathan Clark