As the owner of an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, chances are pretty good that you are using it as an MP3 player. Central to your music experience is iTunes, which can be a beast when managing your files. In our continuing series, we’ll help you manage, organize and get the most from your music library. As you start to rip music from CDs to iPhone, your iTunes library will start to grow in size and this will affect your precious storage space. You can manually check artists and albums, but there are better ways to pre-sort music that you sync to your iOS device. Here’s how to create smart playlists in iTunes and syncing music that matters most to you.

Create smart playlists iTunes

First off, you may be asking, what exactly is a smart playlist and what makes it different from a regular playlist. Good question.

A smart playlist is a playlist that can be set to update continuously based upon a preset group of conditions set by the you, the user.

  1. First off, open up iTunes. You can download the latest version for free from Apple. Click on the music note icon. At the top, you have an option to select ‘Playlists’.
  2. At the left, you’ll see a list of playlists, ones that you might have previously created along with smart playlists that are setup by default in iTunes.
  3. Click on the plus icon at the bottom left and select ‘New Smart Playlist’.
  4. Select ‘Rating’ and ‘is greater than’ and 4 stars
  5. Select ‘OK’

This will automagically create a list of songs that you’ve rated as four stars or greater. If you can get in the habit of rating songs, this iTunes Smart Playlist will generate your favorites on the fly. The ‘Live updating’ option ensures that the list is always up to date. Me personally, I’ve ripped countless CDs into iTunes. I’m not about to delete music, but in reality, I’d be fine if I never heard some of the deeper tracks. Storage space on my Mac is not in short supply. The same cannot be said for my iPhone and iPod touch. The latter being my primary music device. Owning a 16GB iPhone, I need to be incredibly selective about my music choices. While rating music might sound like a time intensive exercise, it’s one more step towards having a finely tuned iTunes library. I asked myself, “Do I really need the entire Tesla Into The Now album on my iPhone?” I enjoy Tesla, but there are some songs on that album that I won’t miss.

Exploring Other Smart Playlist Rules

Match: In the example above, we used just one rule. If you select the ‘+’ sign next to that rule, you can add new rules. The Match option can be set to match any or all of the rules.

The actual rules offer endless amounts of personalization. For example, let’s take the Album option. Once you select information for filtering, the column following it offers an array of options:

  • contains
  • does not contain
  • is
  • is not
  • begins with
  • ends with

Smart Playlist

This secondary classification changes based upon the preceding category. If you select Album Artwork, you can select is true or is false.

Using multiple rules, we can easily create a smart playlist that will include music with a 4-star or greater rating that has album artwork. If you set the latter rule to false, this is a another way to find music that needs artwork updated.

Smart Playlist ratings

Here is the full list of filtering options for creating your smart playlists:

  • Album
  • Album Artist
  • Album Artwork
  • Album Rating
  • Artist
  • Bit Rate
  • BPM
  • Category
  • Checked
  • Comments
  • Compilation
  • Composer
  • Date Added
  • Date Modified
  • Description
  • Disc Number
  • Genre
  • Grouping
  • iCloud Status
  • Kind
  • Last Played
  • Last Skipped
  • Location
  • Media Kind
  • Name
  • Playlist
  • Plays
  • Purchased
  • Rating
  • Sample Rate
  • Season
  • Show
  • Size
  • Skips
  • Sort Album
  • Sort Album Artist
  • Sort Artist
  • Sort Composer
  • Sort Name
  • Sort Show
  • Time
  • Track Number
  • Year

As detailed in our tutorial on setting up iTunes Match, you can utilize Smart Playlists with Apple’s iTunes Match to upgrade the quality of your iTunes music library.

Create the following rules:

  • Bit Rate is less than 256 kbps
  • Media Kind is music
  • (option-click on ‘+’) to select Any
  • iCloud Status is Matched
  • iCloud Status is Purchased

iCloud status list

This will provide you with a list of songs that are lower quality as compared to iTunes Match.

  1. Select a group of songs
  2. Hold down the option key and press delete
  3. iTunes will ask you if you’d like to delete the select song. IMPORTANT: Make sure the option ‘Also delete this song from iCloud’ is unchecked.
  4. Click on Delete Song. You’ll be prompted to move the file to the trash.

Before you delete any music or data, always be sure to have a proper backup. While I’m confident this tutorial is safe, I’m cannot be held responsible for lost music. Whew, disclaimer out of the day.

Like it or not, iTunes is here to stay and will always play a major part in syncing music with your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Investing time in organizing and cleaning up your music library is a worthwhile investment, one that will continue to pay off through the years. At the core of iTunes is a database, a huge and at times unruly database. By creating Smart Playlists, you can take control your music library. The wide array of filters and rules matching will help you tame the beast, allowing you to sync music that matters most to you.

How do you use smart playlists? Have any rules that you live by when managing your iTunes library?