Use these smart Apple Music playlists to find old forgotten favorites

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record player smart playlists
The good old days etc.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple Music is great, but sometimes swiping and tapping around on your iPhone to find the right track is the opposite of great. That’s where Smart Playlists come in. These playlists automatically update themselves, based on criteria you choose, so you can quickly listen to, say, all the songs you have Loved, or everything you’ve added recently.

Let’s take a look at some of the best Smart Playlists for Apple Music on your iPhone.

iTunes is still good for something

To create these playlists, you’ll need a Mac running iTunes. The Music app on iOS has no way to build Smart Playlists, but thanks to Apple Music, and playlist you create in iTunes on a Mac will sync to your iPhone and/or iPad. Even better, they will automatically update themselves based on changes that happen on your iPhone itself. That is, once the playlist is synced to your iDevice, it becomes native to that device.

Create the a new Smart Playlist by navigating to File>New>Smart Playlist… in the iTunes menubar, or just hitting Command-Option-N on the keyboard. A blank Smart playlist looks like this.

You can build some amazing playlsits with a few ingredients.
You can build some amazing playlsits with a few ingredients.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Now, let’s check out some neat playlist ideas.

Smart Playlist for ‘Loved’ tracks

Start with this Smart Playlist for Loved tracks.
Start with this Smart Playlist for Loved tracks.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Let’s start with an easy one. This playlist will collect any tracks that you have marked as ‘Loved,’ either on your iPhone or your Mac. The criteria:

  • Love is Loved

When you’re done, click OK, and give your new Smart Playlist a name. After a few moments, open up the Music app on your iPhone and you should see this new playlist along with all your others. Bonus tip: If you tell the Music app to download this playlist, it will automatically download any new tracks that are added to it in the future. In this way, you can keep a local, always up-to-date copy of all your favorite tracks.

Long lost loves

This is similar to the previous Smart Playlist, only it rounds up old songs that you used to love, but haven’t listened to on a long time. We’ve created three versions here. All of them look for songs last played over a year ago. Then, the list looks for tracks which match one of the following:

  • Loved
  • A rating of three stars or more
  • A high play count

They look like this:

This matches Loved tracks you haven't listened to for a year.
This matches Loved tracks you haven’t listened to for a year.
Photo: Cult of Mac
The same, only for songs that you rated with three stars or better.
The same, only for songs that you rated with three stars or better.
Photo: Cult of Mac
This one matches songs you have listened to a lot in the past, but not for a while.
This one matches songs you have listened to a lot in the past, but not for a while.
Photo: Cult of Mac

The second of these uses star ratings, which is how we used to mark songs we liked in iTunes before Love and Dislike came along. For those of us who have used iTunes for years, many of our songs are rated like this, so it’s a great way to use Smart Playlists on older songs. Beware that, depending on how your library is set up, you may need an iTunes Match subscription to share your own library with the Music app on your iPhone. Turn star ratings on on your iPhone in Settings>Music>Show Star Ratings.

Variations

You can of course tailor the above to make your own versions. For instance, you might want to create several ‘long lost loves’ playlists based on different genres to suit your mood. And while you can use smart playlists to create generic-specific playlists, it’s usually easier just to ask Siri to play some classic rock or hip-hop for you.

The best way is to take a look at all the available playlist criteria in iTunes, and thing about how you could use them.