Turning your iTunes library into radio stations
I have to admit I am a total music junky. I listen, on average, to 8 hours of music a day. I wake, work, eat and fall asleep to it.
I am writing this because I have looked around on the net about how people organize their music and I have picked up lots of tips but no one seems to do quite like I do, and I swear by it.
First off I have only about 30GB of music on my computer/iPod. I constantly add and trash tracks to keep it fresh and weed out all the tracks that I would not miss if I never heard them again.
What follows is how I have transformed my music library into an endless combination of personal radio stations for any need, time, mood, occasion.
- Tag your artists- To get started, and this takes time, but hey, that is all we have. Every artist should be tagged with, in your opinion, useful stuff. Choose to view your library as a list rather than grid or cover flow. List artists in alphabetical order. I use last.fm to get genre tags. While listening to a track in itunes while the last.fm scrobbler is open it will give you a list of tags for that artist, for example if you have “Air” playing you will get the tags: electronic, chillout, ambient, electronica, French. Write these tags in the comments section for all Airs tracks by marking all of Airs tracks and going to File-Get Info or command+I. Write the tags in comments in the info section that you think are common for all of Airs tracks. Example: French, chillout and electronic. Now do this with all the artists in your library. This is only level one and already you can create pretty good “radio station” How?
- Create Smart Playlists-Go to file create “New Smart Playlist…” Change “artist” to “comments” write “French” press the “+” repeat the above steps, write “chillout”.When I create this playlist I get artists like Demitri from Paris, Sébastien Tellier, Nouvelle Vague and, of course Air. Pretty cool eh? It gets better. This is only step two remember.
- Tag your tracks- You have now tagged all your artists with relevant stuff. Now it’s time to tag each track with the same procedure. Relevant stuff is individual but tags like instrumental, chillout*, female vocalists and acoustic are pretty useful. Do this as you listen to tracks. Use abbreviations if you want, like Instr, FV, Acou. Add these tags to the comments box as in step 1.*see step 4. before you add tags like chillout.
- Moody-This is a great little program that allows you to tag the mood of your tracks. it’s set up like a grid. Add a mood to each track.
This is great because it adds the mood of the track by adding a tag to the comments box. In fact it does away with lots of tags that describe moods, like chillout, downtempo, ambient, study, sleep, party etc. Saving you time.
Now if you go back to the Smart Play list you made in step 2 and add “MoodyC2” or just “C2” which will give you will something pretty chilled.
Now your Smart Playlist will have that mixtape/radio feel. If you want to keep it fresh for yourself set the limit to something like the suggestion below so that you will get a new playlist every time you listen.
5. Rate- You should be able to do this after listening to 10 – 20 seconds of the track. 3 stars will be the most common rating, these are tracks that you would play for someone or put on a mix tape. 2 stars are for consideration would it fit in a mix tape or should you just trash it? 4 stars are for tracks that have to be put on a mix tape, tracks you love in other words. 0 stars is just for the trash meaning you should have no unrated tracks in your precious library. This is very useful while out with your ipod/iphone. You hear a track that is just annoying and you remove its stars right there and then on the spot. Then when you connect to your computer you just list tracks in order of rating in the library and delete those nasty unwanted, unrated sounds. I use rating just to weed out stuff and sometimes in Smart Playlists like below.
Note: The plays, in the above playlist, is less than 51. If you find that this playlist starts becoming empty then you need to get some more/new music in your life!
6. BPM label- Okay, so what? This is all pretty routine stuff right? Well here is where my music junky side comes into the picture. BPM label every track. This takes ages to do but is so worth the effort. BPM stands for Beats Per Minute. I use a desktop widget to do this called, appropriately, bpm widget. You just tap in rhythm to the current playing track for a few bars and when it feels right hit the music note and it will be saved to your itunes. Of course you have to check the bpm box in your view options. Now this is a great way to list your tracks, because, no matter what genre you are in, if you play tracks in order of bpm they just melt together. Now you can make BPM playlists. Each of these playlists should go through about 5 BPMs, depending on the size of your library, for example if you want to listen to something at 80BPM then have a playlist called 78 – 82 BPM. Then, 83 – 87 BPM, 88 – 92BPM and so on. At the higher and lower end of the scale you won’t have that many tracks slower than 40BPM or faster than 220BPM so broaden the playlist to, let us say, 5 – 45BPM or 173 – 202BPM. Now suddenly all your other playlists become more interesting like your electronic list which, lets face it, covers almost everything, becomes a DJ-set. Imagine you wake up with the urge to hear heavy metal but you don’t want to shock your system. Just open your metal playlist which is listed in order of BPM slowest to fastest and your day is saved.
Another example might be at a party, people are dancing, it is 3 in the morning. You have your disco playlist booming. You don’t want to kill the party. Arrange it in order of quickest to slowest pick a track at around 110BPM and watch as, slowly, over a period of about an hour, people start to come down blissfully.
I have recently started jogging, so I make joggling playlists. 160BPM, for me, is a great jogging tempo. So I add tracks between 158 – 172BPM and 78 – 85BPM (you jog in double time to these of course) then put them in order of getting faster and slower 3 or 4 times depending on how long you plan on running.
Once you have BPMd your library life becomes so much easier. Even using genius, which makes some odd choices. Just arrange them into order of BPM and it all makes sense.
There is software that does this for you but they are very unreliable, so a hands-on approach is the only way to go, track for track.
A note on difficult tracks.
Tracks that are difficult to count to, like, lets say classical pieces, which tend not to hold a given tempo can be best counted by imagining you are conducting the piece. Often pieces that are hard to count to are very slow in tempo, so if it’s 35 or 38 BPM it’s very hard to tell the difference and does not matter that much. For spoken word pieces or audio books tag a BPM of 1 on them. These are great if you use a DJ program and you can just throw one on with another track to create musical stories.
A note on odd time signatures.
For odd time signatures such as 3, 5, 7 you should just go with the feel of the piece, never follow the actual beat as you will end up with a far too fast BPM. 3/6 is the common odd time you will come across and you should, almost always, tap it: 1, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2… If the track feels very slow just tap every 1 beat.
Well that is all I have for now on the subject. I would like to thank my wonderful girlfriend who has not so much of an understanding but more of a loving acceptation of my musical obsession.
I publish mix tapes on 8tracks.com/trevlad.