How to create a Smart Playlist in iTunes for running

I mentioned it briefly in my first post, but since I’ve been saying that one of the things I like the most about creating running playlists is rediscovering old music, I thought I’d explain how to create a smart playlist in iTunes it in a little more detail.

What is a Smart Playlist?

In iTunes, a Smart Playlist is one that’s generated based on pre-defined criteria. You define this criteria and iTunes automatically fills it to match. Smart Playlists are also “live”, meaning they’ll change automatically if the criteria changes.

A good example is the “Recently Added”, or “My Top Rated” playlists that come pre-built into iTunes. The content of these will automatically update based on what you do. Add new songs and the “Recently Added” will pull them in. Rate a song 5 stars and it’ll be automatically included in the “My Top Rated” playlist.

How to create a Smart Playlist for running?

If you want to use beats-per-minute (BPM), which I recommend, you first need to add this data to your songs. Unfortunately, songs you purchase don’t come with this information embedded, so you have to figure out a way to add it. I explained how I added BPM for free here. Other than that, it’s really simple:

1. Open iTunes and select ‘Music’ from the Library dropdown on the left and click on ‘Playlists’.

itunes-library-playlists

2. In the lower left, there’s a ‘+’ (plus sign) next to a gear sign. Click on the plus sign and choose ‘New Smart Playlist’. A new window will open where you can select the criteria for your playlist.

itunes-playlist-criteria

In the example above, I’ve chosen:

  • BPM is in the range of 160 to 170
  • Genre is Electronic
  • Plays is 0
  • Limit it to 45 minutes

Note that at the top I checked to match ‘all’ of the following rules. This is important as otherwise it’ll pull songs that match any criteria, not necessarily all.

The BPM will ensure all songs are at a high and consistent tempo. You don’t want to be listening to a very fast song and then get a ballad when you’re in the zone. Genre is self explanatory. Plays at zero means it’s a song that hasn’t been played before. As I mentioned, I have a lot of music that I haven’t gotten around to listening (or that I haven’t heard since I put them in iTunes), and I like to run to music I haven’t heard in a while. The limit ensures the playlist is contained to a certain amount of time.

That’s it. Click OK and a new playlist will be created in your Playlists list in iTunes.

Since the BPM is unfortunately not always correct, I tend to create playlists with more music than I need and then delete the ones that don’t work for running. To do this, just change the limit. For example, if I want a 45 minute playlist I’ll limit it to 60 minutes, giving me a few extra songs.

If I find a playlist that I really like I just copy the songs into a normal playlist and that way they’ll never change.

So there you go. If you were wondering how to create a smart playlist in iTunes, specifically for running, this is a good way.