iTunes can tell you a lot about a song. It can tell you the title, the artist, the album, and the genre. It can tell you the year a song was released and when it was added to your iTunes library. iTunes can even tell you the bit rate of a recording, and how many times you have played or skipped a particular track. What iTunes can’t tell you is what a particular song is worth to you. iTunes can not place value on your music, and provides only clues when it comes to deciding which songs get synced to your iPod. Unless you are happy auto-filling your iPod randomly it is time to give your music value.
iTunes 3 gave us ratings. A chance to evaluate our music with a six point scale. To most people the idea of rating all of their music sounds tedious, and if you have several thousand songs it is certainly more of a chore than auto-filling your iPod. But the rewards are real. By telling iTunes how you value a song you can have it make smarter decisions about syncing your music. For instance you could have iTunes only fill your iPod with songs rated four or five stars. Or you could choose your top rated songs from a particular genre, or artist. Rating your music teaches iTunes its value, and the process of awarding stars becomes simpler when you look at the clues iTunes provides.
Let’s start with the easiest rating five stars, the best of the best. Finding your favorite tracks should be simple, but give iTunes the chance to help out by displaying the music you listen to most. Under the View menu while in iTunes choose the View Options command and make sure Ratings and Plays are both checked. Next click the header of your newly established Plays column to display the songs most played in your iTunes Library. If these aren’t your favorite songs you must have an ear for punishment. Finish by visiting your favorite artists and albums and rating the five star songs iTunes might have missed.
Four star songs are still songs I would choose to listen to. Songs I would play at my party. Songs I would keep on my iPod. They may not be the best in my collection, but not every song can be my absolute favorite. Often these songs can be found within albums containing five star rated songs and within the works of your favorite artists. I try to keep my four and five star rated music within the capacity of my iPod. Rating too much music four stars only means you need to buy a bigger iPod.
Three star music is filler. The songs that sit between the four and five star tracks completing the album. On their own they might sound good, but you won’t ever go to them by name. It takes a decision to determine the difference between a three star track and a four star song. The three star rating is the divide between what goes on my iPod and what stays at home.
A rating of two stars is bestowed on unfavorable music, that although listenable, isn’t something I need to necessarily have in my collection. A rating of two stars or less denotes music I wouldn’t choose for myself, and wouldn’t miss losing.
A one star rating describes an unenjoyable listening experience. In my collection that includes artist interviews, album intros, and hidden bonus tracks full of noise. One star rated songs would normally be deleted from my computer if they weren’t part of a complete album.
All media in iTunes starts off with zero stars. A zero star rating in my iTunes library means a song’s value has yet to be determined, and not that it is without value. If sorting through your iTunes Library turns up a lot of songs with no rating it just means you have a lot of listening to do. Luckily the Potion Factory is here is help with their free utility I Lover Stars. No, it won’t rate your music for you, but while you are sitting in front of your computer listening to music I Love Stars gives you the chance to rate the currently playing song in the Menubar before going onto the next track. Listening to music is the best way to get started rating your collection.
Putting it in a Playlist
My iTunes Library has playlists for all of my star ratings, but the two most important are my 5 Star, and 4 Star Plus smart playlists. My 5 Star smart playlist contains just what you think it does, songs whose rating is five stars, in the playlist of Music. My Four Star Plus smart playlist contains songs that are rated in the range of four to five stars, also in the playlist of Music. Neither playlist has any limits, and both are live updating in anticipation of new music I will rate favorably in the future. With my songs rated and my smart playlists generated the only thing left to do is sync my iPod. By telling iTunes to only sync my Five Star and Four Star Plus playlists to my iPod I am telling iTunes to make a smart choice based on the ratings I have given my music. That is how I sync my iPod.