Homo Fabula

Synaptic Misfirings of an unpublished author

Monday, January 09, 2006

I've always had a problem with iTunes ratings.

That sounds a lot like a confession at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I know, but it's true. I love the program, don't get me wrong, and I use it a hell of a lot, even going as far as purchasing music with it, despite the (admittedly lax) DRM. But there's this thing, this littler irritant that's always niggled me about it.

Maybe it's just me, but I like a song more or less depending on its context, making assigning ratings very difficult. Say if I'm feeling happy, I don't want any songs that'll bring me down. Likewise, if I'm angry I either want to listen to happy songs to make me feel better, or smoulder for a bit in my angry songs.

I intially thought tagging was the answer: I've been on a flat hierarchy trip lately, Gmail and del.icio.us have been rockin' my work world so much I've installed a similar system on my Mac with the aid of spotlight comments. But on further investigation, it may be easy to tag a song with iTunes by sticking a word in the comments, but there's no way to append to these comments as far as I can tell, which is what I can do with Automator. I considered seeking an Applescript solution, but then I thought, hey, what if I'm out on the road with my iPod, find a new (ish) song, and want to categorize it on the fly?

So I chose to use ratings as a tagging system.

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This isn't ideal as I only have five categories for all of my music, meaning they end up as wider, emotional categories rather than the traditional narrow playlist. But then again, maybe that's a good thing.

Incidentally, that 'Baleetable" playlist is for any songs I want to delete. I'm not a completist about album listings, and I'm more than willing to sacrifice track 4 of an album even if it means things aren't all neat, like. But I guess I could jsut use it as an 'Unplayable' playlist.

So, if you're finding you're not using Ratings as much as you'd think, why not give this a try?


Anonymous kadavy said...

Great tip! But don't ever delete track 4 from an album. It is always the best track.

7:17 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't you use Genre instead? Admittedly, I can't remember if iTunes lets you directly add a genre, but I'm sure a bit of plist trickery or ID3 tag editing would get you the genre you want.

1:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey; I made a script that does just that (adds tags to comments) for OS X using Quicksilver to launch it, and another to dynamically create playlists quickly using tags. Get Quicksilver, and then check out the post I made for the script here. Enjoy! Modify it however you'd like.


1:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget - if your itunes ever crashes, or you need to reload all the music for some reason (new computer?), you'll lose all your playlists and ratings. I use the comments field (which isn't lost on reload) to label all the rated songs as "one-star", "two-star", etc. Then when I reload, I can search for "one-star" and change the rating on them all at once.

1:41 am  
Anonymous Arnþór Snær said...

Why not use "grouping" ?

1:53 am  
Anonymous Bryan said...

This is why he chose this route:

"I considered seeking an Applescript solution, but then I thought, hey, what if I'm out on the road with my iPod, find a new (ish) song, and want to categorize it on the fly?"

I agree that you should enter the star ratings in the comment field, in case something goes wrong with iTunes. :)

2:09 am  
Anonymous Robi said...

Use the comments field. It is much eaiser and you can then make an dynamic playlist based on it. For instance I have all the bands from my town tagged with "local" in the comments box. Then I create a local dynamic play list that has all the local bands in it. it works perfect fot what you want I think.

2:00 pm  
Anonymous nottma said...

I usually don't put that much time into organizing my music. I usually use my star system as a means to identify 1 music that needs to be deleted from my favorites, 2 songs needing to be adjusted(volume level, title), 3 songs that incur no mood, 4 songs that I enjoy to listen to now and then, and 5 songs that I can sing along to.

4:04 pm  
Blogger Ken said...

I'm closer to Nottma - I use 1 for songs I want to delete, 2 for songs I want to save, but don't always need to have on the iPod (e.g., holiday music, audiobooks), then 3 and above for how much I enjoy something.

I also use several smart playlists to mix it up, plus my own interpretation of musical genres:

*77 = the last 77 songs I've loaded that I scored 4 or 5

*Acoustic = I tag all non-jazz, non-classical acoustic music as a separate genre, for a quieter but ecclectic mix

*Groove = all R&B and hip-hop

*KEN = my fantasy radio mix



*Top20 = most played tunes, which I burn and recycle monthly

5:15 pm  
Blogger DarkHawke said...

Yeah, bryan hit the nail on the head here. I would have used comments (indeed, I did for a while), but it was too much trouble when adding comments to multiple songs was too much of a hassle, the inbuilt iTunes comment updater overwrites existing comments if you're adding them to multiple files, and I hadn't discovered Chris's TuneTag yet.

I like this system now it's set up, but I'll definitely backup my ratings to comments periodically.

7:21 pm  
Blogger DarkHawke said...

Oh, and kdavy's got it right - track 4's always the best one, and track 6 is normally pretty good.

7:22 pm  

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