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iTunes Smart Playlist: Three Plays

I’ve written before about some of the ways I use Smart Playlists in iTunes to enjoy my music more. I’ve got a large music collection with 1,463 albums containing 19,392 songs. I have a challenge keeping new music highlighted in this big pool of nearly twenty thousand songs. Today I had an idea for a Smart Playlist that I’m finding very useful.

I call the playlist Three Plays and the basic idea is that any new track added to my collection should get three plays before it gets shuffled into the general archive. The playlist works like this:

Three Plays Smart Playlist

The criteria are pretty straight forward:

  • The first five rules are all about restricting the content to just music. The “stream” rule makes sure that no Internet radio stations I’ve manually added in iTunes show up. I’m using my No Playlist Playlist here to pull a bunch of content out. I’m also excluding Jazz and Classical because I listen to them differently than other genres.
  • The 6th rule is the critical one, show me tracks played less than 3 times, and combine that with a limitation to 50 items selected by most recently added. Show me new stuff that I’ve listened to less than three times.
  • The rating rules help me kill a track if I just don’t like it. Give it a 1-star or 2-star rating and it goes out of rotation right away.
  • The last rule is really slick to keep things fresh. Without it you would be listening to the same new stuff over and over until you listen three times. Not good. This spreads the listens out over time.

I’m finding this really useful and a great playlist to just fire up when I sit down at the computer. Give it a whirl and see what you think!


  1. just gave this a shot at less than 5 and I was surprised at some of the music that came in with so few plays (though I only have half my music library ripped so far).

    was curious how you manage genres in itunes since the same group can come in with multiple ones or half my CDs will be “alternative” which isn’t very descriptive.

    also curious what settings you like for importing.

    • @Mindtron, I’ve been amazed at how many tracks I have with very few listens. And in the vast majority of cases it isn’t because I don’t like it, I just forgot about it! Tweaking the parameters for this one makes a lot of sense to target your listening style.

      Genre’s is an entire can of worms that could use several posts on it’s own. In short, I find them challenging. :-)

      I do all more importing lately using Apple Lossless. But honestly I’m rarely buying and ripping. Now that we’ve gotten past the bad years of DRM I’m fine buying AAC files on the web. And, I’m pretty intrigued by iTunes LP.

  2. Thanks Jamie. This is just what I needed to freshen up my listening. I was getting kind of tired of Internet Radio and was too lazy to something different.

    Feels like I have a brand new library of music.


  3. OK, I don’t have iTunes so forgive me if this is less than smart. But does this limit your play list only to new songs until you have heard them 3 times and only to 50 songs?

    I like the idea of being able to weight a song so that it might play more or less based on some criteria.

    • @Arthur, that is the basic gist of it. These smart playlists are by far one of the most useful things that I’ve found in iTunes for managing large volumes of music. They also seem to be a gift that keeps giving. Even after a couple of years of using them, I continue to find new and interesting ways to use rules to get more out of my music collection.

  4. Just an FYI, I had never used a Smart Playlist until you first posted about it. Very cool, so keep these tips coming! :-)

  5. I’m a bit late to the party, but this is a great idea Jamie. I started using Smart Playlists more often but hadn’t gotten into the same level of customization that you have.

    Since adding your ideas, I’ve already found several gem hidden among my music files.

    Thanks for sharing!

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