In the first part of How to Improve Your iTunes Experience, I listed a few tips to improve your music experience using only your existing music library. Here’s a quick recap: firstly, organize and properly tag your music so that you know what you’re listening to, will be able to find them quicker and easier; as well as allowing iTunes Genius to do its job by selecting songs which it thinks you may like.
Then, by attaching their album cover art, you’re adding a visual stimulant which will let you ‘see’ your music as you’re listening to it. Finally, how to automatically grab song lyrics and place them on the desktop so that you’ll be able to sing along. In between, I also added a little advice about music quality and not to neglect it.
Alright, let’s get on with Part 2!
Get In Control
Listening to your music while working might help you to relax (and perhaps make time pass a little quicker) but it may also serve as a distraction. What happens when you hear a song you really like and wonder “hey, this song is awesome. Who sang it? Did I rate it?” You’ll be led to switch from your work to focus on iTunes and find out the artist and title of the song, then rate it accordingly and hopefully, switch your attention back to work.
By using an iTunes controller, you’ll be able to do it in just 2 seconds and return back to work. Controllers are merely simple applications which show you the song that is playing by announcing the song title and artist each time a new song starts to play. Most controllers also allow you to rate your songs on the fly by invoking a hot-key which increases or decreases the song’s rating. This means that your focus will always be on the job at hand.
Besides that, some controllers will also display menu bar shortcuts which will help you to quickly pause and resume iTunes.
**Just a quick note about menu bar shortcuts: it may not always appear because other applications have slightly longer menu bar items, which could hide the iTunes controller’s shortcuts.**
The most popular, functional and free controllers are You Control: Tunes and GimmeSomeTune (The screenshot above shows the song alert from both You Control: Tunes and GimmeSomeTune respectively). Both provide menu bar shortcuts, alerts on song changes, hot-keys to allow you to quickly rate your songs and a convenient info-window that can be brought up to show you which song is currently being played. GimmeSomeTune has a slight advantage because it can also fetch lyrics and artwork for songs without any; and scrobble songs to Last.fm – which expeditiously cues my next tip…..
Scrobble Your Songs to Last.fm And Expand Your Music Collection
Last.fm is a social music network where you can find out more about the artists you like and discover others who you would have never have known about. Dave wrote a pretty concise article about Last.fm which you should check out if you have no idea what it is.
What on earth is “scrobbling”? Let me explain. After you get yourself a spanking new Last.fm account, it will be empty. By scrobbling, you are sending the artists and titles of the songs you’re playing in iTunes to your Last.fm profile. From there, Last.fm will analyze the types of songs you normally listen to and reward you with recommendations about artists it thinks you may enjoy. The more you scrobble, the better the recommendations get.
I’ve learnt about countless new artists using Last.fm. Most of whom are small and upcoming bands but they have some fantastic songs; some are just not very popular – it depends on your music taste. If you’re brave enough to venture off mainstream music, you will find that exploring for new, unheard-of artists can actually be very gratifying. By expanding your music interest to genres other than Pop, Alternative or R&B, you will realize that music can be more than just entertainment. Some music can be used for sleep therapy because they’re just so soothing. Be adventurous and try listening to a new genre. You might want to check out Tina’s article about how to broaden your musical horizons.
Back to scrobbling – there are a few methods by which you can scrobble your songs to Last.fm. For convenience, I’d recommend using the built-in Last.fm scrobbler from GimmeSomeTune. Other scrobblers you can try are SimpleScrobbler, ScrobblePod, iScrobbler and of course, Last.fm’s very own client.
Get A Free iTunes Store Account
The iTunes Store is a marvelous way to start expanding your music collection. If you’re already using iTunes to listen to music, why not use the iTunes Store to preview new songs and download some free stuff at the same time? Every Tuesday, iTunes gives away a “Free Single of the Week”, as well as other free stuff like the “Discovery Download”, “Free Music Video Of The Week”, even some TV show episodes in high definition (HD).
To get the most out of the iTunes Store, you will need to set your Store’s homepage to United States. They’ve got most of the free stuff. After that, go to the App Store, find a free app and click on ‘Get App’.
iTunes will prompt you to log in, at this point you can sign up for a new account. Fill in your details on the first page and click ‘Next’. On the subsequent page, you are supposed to fill in your payment details. Instead of choosing a credit card, select ‘None’ as your payment method. Then, fill in the rest of the details but remember to enter a valid US address and phone number. Complete the rest of the process and you’re done.
Listen To Your Music Before Bed And In The Mornings
Most of the time, we listen to music while driving or doing something monotonous. But what about the time just before we drift off to sleep while lying in bed? That’s when I appreciate my Smooth Jazz the most. It’s the time to reflect on the day’s activity and plan the upcoming events. It pays well to have a relaxed mind just before we sleep.
In the mornings as an alarm, I have a playlist called “Wake Me Up Before I Go-Go”. It’s filled with energetic songs to prep me for the rest of the day and to get the blood pumping. I listen to it while I’m washing up, getting dressed and eating brekkie. Then, I leave.
Oh and I forgot to mention: Everything is automated. After I’m sound asleep at night, iTunes will slowly fade out and sets itself to sleep. Then, it wakes itself to play the songs in the morning, then sleeps again after I’ve left my house. I use iTaf to preset the playlists which plays at those particular times and set my Mac to sleep (or shut down) after it’s done.
Dealing with Video in iTunes
Before iTunes 8 was released, many of us who have videos on iTunes were suffering because self-ripped ‘TV Shows’ were added as ‘Movies’ and iTunes 7 did not allow access to the ‘Get Info’ window when multiple tracks were selected. It’s an OCD nightmare when I have videos which cannot be properly arranged. Many resorted to using Doug’s “Set Video Kind Of Selected” script or “Make Video Tags” to quickly and easily change the Video Kind to “TV Show”. A problem which is now (partially) fixed on iTunes 8 – you can now change the Video Kind of multiple tracks as well as set its other attributes in one fell swoop.
Entering the episode for each video track is still limited to manual labor, or you could use the scripts I mentioned above.
Use Scripts To Help You Organize Your Library
This is a more advanced way of organization. If you have a large library with over thousands of songs, tagging and organizing your library manually can be a bit of a hassle. For instance, let’s say that you’d like to have a separate playlist for all the “One-hit Wonders” from your library, you’d have to go through your whole library to find the artists which are only represented by a single song e.g. Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby.
Using scripts to help you perform the task which you would otherwise perform by hand will save your sanity. Visit Doug’s Applescript for iTunes to find the type of scripts you need.
To install a script downloaded from Doug’s Applescripts, all you need to do is copy the script to ~/Library/iTunes/Scripts/. If there isn’t a Script folder there, just create one. You’ll notice that there will be a new icon on your iTunes menu bar – that’s your Scripts menu. Run your script and let the magic work.
Bring Your Library With You Wherever You Go
Does Simplify Media ring a bell? It should. It’s a very popular, free application which streams music to and from other Simplify Media users. In order to listen to your music from different locations, you only need to log in to both locations with the same username. You can also use Simplify Media to share songs between you, your friends and family, thereby expanding your music exposure.
Shared libraries will appear under the ‘Shared’ column in iTunes. It supports MP3, AAC, WMA and Apple Lossless media files. Simplify Media works on all operating platforms, iTunes, Winamp, Rhythmbox and even iPhone.
That’s all for this two-part article about how to improve your iTunes experience. I hope that many of you found this article useful and discovered new ways to enjoy your music library and are inspired to expand your music interest to new genres.
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