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Smart playlists that truly follow your mood Apps
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. Read the rest if you'd like to see it.

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?

  • Currently 2.00 / 5
  You rated: 2 / 5 (6 votes cast)

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Smart playlists that truly follow your mood
Authored by: Mongoose on May 06, '04 10:57:26AM

Must take a lot of patience tagging all those songs...
Not for me.
But it gives you an idea of what can be done.

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The Windows alternative
Authored by: pwever on May 06, '04 11:26:50AM
I used to work with a company that was doing something similar. Categorizing music according to fuzzy parameters: moods, among many other thing. Unfortunately they only developed a PC version so far.
Pretty amazing though. Let's ask them for a Mac version.

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The Windows alternative
Authored by: bluehz on May 06, '04 12:20:30PM

Isn't this really what the "grouping" field is for?

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The Windows alternative
Authored by: joestalin on May 06, '04 03:41:23PM

Technically, no. The grouping tag was originally intended to indicate that an individual track is part of a movement (you know, so-and-so's 7th symphony, 3rd movement).

Of course, there's not much use for that in pop music, and I myself have been using it as an alternate keywords field. I have a few keyboard macros that trigger applescripts that add certain keywords into the group field; I use these to build smart playlists. So if I'm listening to a track and say to myself "oh, that should have the 'downtempo' tag," I just hit cmd-cntl-opt-D.

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Authored by: kirkmc on May 07, '04 08:02:26AM

Groupings are not designed for movements; you don't group movements, you label them individually. Groupings were designed for ad hoc groupings that are not genres. You can make groupings in any way you want: call them fun music, sonatas, blues instrumentals, whatever.

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Authored by: joestalin on May 07, '04 06:59:17PM

I was slightly off with "movements" but I stand by my original point. See this thread.

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Authored by: erickaterman on May 08, '04 10:31:45PM

I thought this might clear things up a little bit. It's directly from the iTunes AS dictionary:

grouping Unicode text -- the grouping (piece) of the track. Generally used to denote movements within a classical work.

Personally, I use it for sub-genres.

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The Windows alternative
Authored by: lagroue on May 06, '04 01:22:21PM

Surely, such a deep metataging is very precious, and many algorithms may be developped to extract fabulous informations or playlists.

I've also heard of a juke box which would connect to the internet to find links between artists - the goal is to say to the computer : "play continuously from the Rolling Stones at 8pm, to the 5th of Beethoven at 2am, and include the Kill Bill "Bang Bang" song at 10pm."

It isn't supposed to connect to a centralized server, so I guess it will google around - IMHO I'm not sure it will be sufficient.

Anyway, the future of music machines seems pretty, no ?
iTunes already allows us - with some pain, indeed - to do nice things.

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Authored by: Lectrick on May 06, '04 07:36:09PM already has a music emotional categorization system. If someone were to write an app to automatically look up categorizations in this database and apply them to iTunes metadata, it would be absolutely awesome. is also cool in its own right.

In /dev/null, no one can hear you scream

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Authored by: ahbe on May 06, '04 07:51:55PM

Here here! You are really on to something with this one. I have already spent way to much time just getting all the ID3 tags correct, there's no way I will spend all the time it takes to do this mood based system. However, if someone could write a script, that would get the mood info from, that would be perfect. I would even pay for it. Hear that smart people out there? In fact, I like the idea so much, I might have to learn how to program apple script to do it myself. I've been meaning to anyway. Seriously, this is the greatest idea I have heard in a long time. Please, please, please make it happen.

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Authored by: on May 13, '04 11:52:20AM

I tried to do this with perl and WWW::Mechanize, however the all music guide uses javascript extensively (probably to thwart just this type data theft!) which WWW::Mechanize cannot seem to deal with. Ah well...

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Smart playlists that truly follow your mood
Authored by: Le_Bug on May 07, '04 09:22:14AM

For my part, I use a different "RATE" to do this.
1 star = feeling bad
max star = For party
etc ...

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Smart playlists that truly follow your mood
Authored by: lagroue on May 07, '04 06:04:08PM

Because of my system, I had to put away a rating so that I could tell with the iPod wether a tune is not well tagged... ** = to be re-tagged.

Too bad we have only five stars...

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Smart playlists that truly follow your mood
Authored by: Eravau on May 10, '04 11:53:18AM
If you set your rating via an AppleScript, you can set the rating anywhere from 0 to 100 (1 star = 20 points, 2 = 40, etc.). That's the way I rate all my songs...because 5 stars isn't enough...but 100 that's something to work with. I just assign a keyboard shortcut to the following AppleScript to rate the currently selected tune...

tell application "iTunes"
	set curr_track to the name of selection
	set curr_artist to the artist of the selection
	set curr_rating to the rating of the selection as text
	set new_rating to text returned of (display dialog ("Rate "" & curr_track & "" by " & curr_artist) default answer curr_rating buttons {"Rate"} default button 1)
	set rating of selection to (new_rating as number)
end tell

To change the script to run on the currently playing track, change everywhere the script says "selection" to "current track".

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Smart playlists that truly follow your mood
Authored by: hangon on May 07, '04 05:21:19PM

Something very annoying is limitations of ID3 tags

I want to be abble to put 2 artists with doing 'miles davis & john coltrane'...i want to be abble to add an artist like i add a phone number in address book

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add keywords to tracks
Authored by: Krioni on Aug 09, '04 11:40:03AM
When reading this discussion a long time ago, it gave me the idea for an application. TuneTags is what I came up with: TuneTags is an application that works with iTunes to let you add keywords, or "tunetags" to your music. Check it out at TuneTags on

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Smart playlists that truly follow your mood
Authored by: lagroue on Sep 09, '05 07:53:23AM
I keep on the research on the topic.

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