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Digital Audio Essentials by Bruce Fries, Marty Fries

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Playlists

A playlist is a list of songs to be played in a certain order. Playlists can be used like tapes, but without the limitations of recording songs onto physical media (time-consuming, high cost, limited capacity, difficult to make changes).

Creating and managing playlists is one of the most important functions of your jukebox program. Without some way to automatically feed the player program with one song after another, you would have to sit at your computer and select each song at the time it was to be played. With a jukebox program, you can easily create a playlist that contains hundreds of songs in a just few minutes. It would take you dozens of hours to record the same songs on cassette tapes, plus you would have to buy all those blank tapes!

You can have as many playlists as you want, with as many songs as you like in them. The same song may appear in multiple lists, or multiple times on the same list. Playlists can even contain a mix of audio file types, as long as the player software supports them.

You might want playlists for specific occasions, such as parties or weddings. You might like to have playlists for certain types of music (classical, ’60s rock, jazz, etc.). Or you might want playlists for certain situations (dance music, romantic music, easy listening) or for certain moods (broken-hearted, energetic, mad as hell). Your imagination, music collection, and musical tastes are the only limiting factors.

You can burn songs in a playlist to a CD, or send them to your portable digital audio player. You can also print playlists for easy reference, so if someone compliments your music selection, you can give them a copy and they can use it as a shopping list. Just don’t give them copies of the audio files, because that would be copyright infringement (more on that in Chapter 17).

Creating and editing playlists

Creating playlists is easy, and to populate them you simply drag and drop files from the music library. Once a playlist is loaded, you can play individual songs either by double-clicking on them or by highlighting them and clicking the “Play” button. The Loop and Random (shuffle) play modes are useful if you want to recycle a long playlist, because the order of the songs will be different each time.

Once you have a playlist, it’s very easy to add and delete songs or change the order. To change the order, select one or more songs and drag them to a different location in the list. To delete a song, highlight it and then press the Delete key.

Following are instructions for creating playlists in each jukebox program.

iTunes

To create a playlist in iTunes, click the plus sign at the bottom-left corner of the main window, or select “New Playlist” from the File menu. Type a name for the playlist, then click “Library” in the Source window and drag and drop songs into the playlist.

Note

To display a playlist in a separate window, double-click on its icon. It’s much easier to create and edit playlists when you can see the songs in the playlist and the music library at the same time.

Media Jukebox

To create a playlist in Media Jukebox, right-click the “Playlists” folder and choose “Add playlist.” Type in a name for it, then drag and drop songs from the Media Library into the list. To save the playlist with the new order, right-click on it, then select “Update Order.”

Note

With Media Jukebox, you can highlight a song or group of songs and use the “Send to” option to add them to a playlist. To do this, highlight the songs and right-click. Select Send to Playlist, and choose a playlist from the list. The playlist is automatically saved with the new songs.

Musicmatch

To create a playlist in Musicmatch, click “My Library” to display the Music Library, then drag and drop songs from the library into the playlist window. If an existing playlist is already loaded, click “Clear” to remove the songs from the window. To save a playlist, click “Save,” type in a name, then click “Save” again to store it.

Automatically generated playlists

If you’re having a party and someone suggests that you play some killer dance music from the ’90s, you can use iTunes’s Smart Playlists, Media Jukebox’s Smartlists, or Musicmatch’s AutoDJ to automatically create a playlist based on those criteria—that is, you can specify that the playlist include all songs released later than 1990, but only those that are identified as suitable for dancing. You can also specify that the genre be either rock or techno, but not funk or disco. Songs that meet these criteria will be selected and added to the playlist. You can then play individual songs or all songs on the list, and you can save it for future occasions.

Note

Before you can automatically create playlists based on criteria such as mood, situation, tempo, or preference, the relevant information must be added to the metadata of each song. You can edit the metadata manually, which is very time-consuming, or you can use a program such as MoodLogic (covered later in this section), which works with an online database of thousands of songs that have already been profiled with this type of information.

iTunes

To create a Smart Playlist in iTunes, select File New Smart List. Select a field from the first column and a criterion (contains, starts with, etc.) from the second column. Next, enter a value in the third column. Click the plus sign to add additional conditions. In the drop-down box next to “Match,” choose all or any. The “any” choice acts as an “OR” function between conditions. Check “Live updating” to have iTunes automatically update the list whenever new songs are added to the library.

Figure 4-3 shows the properties of an iTunes Smart Playlist that includes only big band music by Frank Sinatra released prior to 1970. If “all” were changed to “any,” the list would include all big band music in your library, regardless of the year, all songs by Frank Sinatra, regardless of genre, plus any songs released before 1970, regardless of artist or genre.

iTunes Smart Playlist

Figure 4-3. iTunes Smart Playlist

The iTunes Party Shuffle feature (added in Version 4.5) automatically generates a playlist from songs randomly selected from your music library. To use this feature, simply click on “Party Shuffle” in the Source pane. The “Source” box below the list of songs in the main window allows you to have Party Shuffle select songs from your entire library or just from an existing playlist. Click the “Refresh” button to generate a new list. If you’ve entered your own ratings for individual songs, click “Play higher rated songs more often” before you click “Refresh.”

Media Jukebox

To create a Smartlist in Media Jukebox, right-click the "Playlists” folder, choose “Add Smartlist,” then type in a name for it. Click “Add Rule,” then select a field and check one or more choices from the list of possible values. To add additional rules and narrow the list, click “Add Rule.” To insert an “OR” function between rules, right-click anywhere in the summary window and choose Add Keyword OR.

Media Jukebox’s Smartlists are very flexible and allow users to include or exclude songs that match the given criteria. The “OR” function allows advanced users to create complex combinations of rules. The use of brackets allows nested functions within a rule.

Figure 4-4 shows a Media Jukebox Smartlist that includes songs from either the pop or rock genres, plus any songs by Sheryl Crow or the Talking Heads (regardless of the genre), and absolutely no songs by the Village People.

Media Jukebox Smartlist

Figure 4-4. Media Jukebox Smartlist

Musicmatch

To create a playlist with Musicmatch’s Auto DJ, select the “Playlists” button, then choose “AutoDJ.” Enter a value in the “Enter Play Time” box to control the length of the list. Select a field from the list, then select one or more values. To add another criterion, check “Second Criteria” and follow the same procedure. Check either “And” or “And Not.”

Click the “Preview” button to see a list of the tracks that meet the criteria. Click the “Get Tracks” button to add the tracks to Musicmatch’s playlist window. Modify the order of the list if needed, then click “Save,” enter a name for the playlist, and click “Save” again to store it. As of Version 9.0, Musicmatch’s AutoDJ does not have an option to automatically update playlists as new songs are added to its library.

AutoDJ allows you to automatically generate playlists based on up to three sets of criteria. You can also limit the number of songs selected by specifying a maximum playtime. Figure 4-5 shows the criteria for an AutoDJ playlist that is limited to a maximum of one hour, with either Dance, Disco, or Funk as the genre and Excellent or Very Good as the preference. For this to work, you must first edit the properties of each song and specify a value for the “Preference” field.

Musicmatch Jukebox AutoDJ

Figure 4-5. Musicmatch Jukebox AutoDJ

MoodLogic

MoodLogic is a sophisticated playlist generator that works in conjunction with an online database of “verified” metadata that has been compiled for thousands of songs. The online database is compiled via input from MoodLogic users who contribute by profiling songs that are not already in the database, or songs that are included but not fully profiled.

When profiling a song, the profiler enters information for 40 to 50 “data points.” Data points include characteristics, such as tempo, energy level, main genre and subgenres, the mood the music evokes, and the types of vocals and instruments. The profiler also selects groups of artists who have similar music.

When you install MoodLogic, it scans your computer for music and analyzes each song to generate a “fingerprint” from the audio content of the file. The fingerprints are cross-referenced against the online database. Whenever a match is found, the metadata for that song is downloaded to a local database on your computer.

Songs that have been fully profiled are listed next to a round icon that contains the letter “m.” You can manually profile any songs that are not profiled in the online database; the MoodLogic profiler walks you through a series of questions, and when you are done the song profile is uploaded to the database so other users can benefit from the information.

Once you “activate” your music library, you can generate playlists in a number of ways. One of the most interesting methods is to select a song and have MoodLogic generate a “mix” that contains songs with similar characteristics. To do this, just select a song with a circled “m” next to it and then click the “Mix” button.

To generate a mix containing songs by artists whose music is similar to that of a particular artist, select any artist with a circled “m” next to the listing before you click “Mix.” To generate the mix, click one of the mood buttons, or click the surprise button to let MoodLogic choose for you.

The Variety slider in the Instant Mix window controls how closely songs must match the “Feels like” choice (song or artist) to be included in the mix. The “Shuffle” button randomly reorders the songs in the list.

The system is not perfect, but it’s a huge timesaver. You can easily remove from the mix any songs that are not appropriate, and you can add songs to existing mixes by dragging them from the library and dropping them onto the icon for the mix.

You can also export mixes to playlist files (with an .m3u extension), which you can then import into your jukebox program. To export a mix, right-click on its icon and choose “Export mix as .m3u.” Browse to the location where you want to store the file and click “Save.” With the optional DeviceLink ($19.95) feature, you can even copy MoodLogic playlists and the associated songs to portable players.

In the MoodLogic main window, you can generate mixes by selecting genres and/or artists. To further narrow the selection, check “Tempo” or “Year” and drag each end of the slider to specify a range of values. The row of “mood” buttons below the slider allows you to further narrow the list. Once you’ve made your selections, click the “Mix” button to generate the playlist. Figure 4-6 shows the MoodLogic main window (left), along with an instant mix of songs (right) from artists whose music is similar to music by the Grateful Dead.

Generating mixes with MoodLogic

Figure 4-6. Generating mixes with MoodLogic

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