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Intimidated by your MP3 collection because it is too big to manage, or frustrated because it is too small? Use the Internet to find and enjoy your favourite songs, streamed to your computer or mobile device. Go back in time and evoke memories with these music tools.
Play Your Favourite MP3s In iTunes
It’s all too easy to load up iTunes and expect your favourite songs to play.
The truth is, they’re unlikely to start pumping on your stereo unless you actively go searching for them, or use a custom playlist to collect the songs together. After all, who wants to keep clicking through the same selection of songs day after day?
If you’re using iTunes on a desktop computer, simply open your music library, find the tracks you want to add to your playlist, right-click and select Add to Playlist; if no playlist is already created, tap CTRL+N to create a new one.
There are probably one or two iPad users reading this. You should already know about creating playlists on your tablet, but if you don’t, simply open Music, tap Playlists > New Playlist to begin adding tracks.
Using Spotify To Find The Tracks You Love
If iTunes isn’t your thing (either due to a principled dislike of Apple, a reluctance to install it on your Windows after previous bad experiences, or a lack of storage space for MP3s) then there are many online streaming services that will enable you to find (and in some cases collect) your favourite songs.
Easily the most popular at present is Spotify, again available for desktop and as a mobile app. You can also access your Spotify account through a web browser.
Creating custom playlists is easy, and using a combination of the search function and the right-click context menu you should be able to package your favourites into an easily accessed collection ready to play whenever you launch the app.
If this sounds too tricky, or you want something different, Spotify of course features the playlists of many other users that you can easily listen to whenever the mood strikes. Fans of 1990 acid house are particularly well provided for on Spotify!
Online Radio Stations Playing The Hits Of Your Youth
Many years ago, before I realised there were opportunities online as a writer, I decided to start my own radio station on Live365.com. While many other online stations were busy playlisting their favourite songs for 24 hours a day, I was busy creating the most ridiculous one-man sketches.
Thankfully, none of these survived (to my knowledge).
An even bigger relief is the fact that my so-called sense of humour didn’t bankrupt Live365.com, which is a great place to head if you have an urge to listen to music by a particular artist, or want to listen to tunes set to a particular topic. Unlike most of the other options listed here, Live365 stations are run by living, breathing people, as opposed to software agents.
You may get more of a radio vibe with this (and the same goes for anything you might find on Shoutcast.com) but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is it?
Automate Your Personal Music Curation
If you would rather save your time and let a computer do the hard work of finding music that you will like, there are many options available, from iTunes’ Genius tool to Last.fm and Pandora.
After enabling Genius (Store > Turn on Genius) right click a track and select Create Genius Playlist. On an indexed database of tracks, this will create a playlist of similar songs that you can sync with your iPhone or iPad.
If you prefer, you can create your playlist on your iOS device in the Music app, tap Genius Playlist and select the track that you want to use as the starting point.
Bakari’s guide to using Genius explains the tool in more detail.
What about Last.fm, Rdio, And Pandora?
With these, the process is similar, but requires a song stored online. For Last.fm, you would need to create an account, then search for a song to start things off. As the song is playing, other, similar songs are selected and played to you. If they’re suitable, you let them play, but if it is a track you dislike, then you can dismiss it or skip it. Each choice you makes helps the system learn and select which tracks are played to you.
Pandora works in a very similar way, although the user interface is arguably better. If you’re in the UK, Pandora is restricted thanks to region blocking, although plugins such as MediaHint or services like Hola Unblocker (which we previously showed you how to use) can resolve this comparatively minor inconvenience.
Rdio.com is another service, currently in the ascendency, offering an automatic music selection facility based on your choice of preferred tracks.
Automated Genre-Based Curated Music From 8Track.com
Last.fm and Pandora both rely on you selecting a preferred artist or group in order to build your tailored selection of music. However if you can’t think of an artist, or like a lot of groups in a particular genre, 8track.com is a great option.
This browser-based service requires not one, but two genres to be selected, so if you are nostalgic for acoustic folk music, you can select folk + acoustic to find a suitable playlist – created by another user – and then start chilling out!
Get Old-Time, Nostalgic Music On Your Phone With These Apps
Last.fm and Spotify have mobile apps, as does 8tracks. Using these apps you can listen to nostalgic music playlists on your Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone device. Pandora is also available as a mobile app in the USA.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to take the Shazam app with your on your phone. Heading to an old skool reunion or themed party night and want to take the playlist home with you? Use Shazam to identify and buy the tracks you can’t name!
Looking To The Distant Past For Musical Inspiration
There is a fair chance that not everyone reading will want to switch off to some dubstep or waste three cans of hairspray to relive the hair metal days of the 1980s.
Instead, you might be hoping to enjoy music from times of yore. World War II might seem a while ago to some of us, but tracks recorded in the 1940s still exist, and can be found in bargain buckets on CD or even on iTunes and Amazon on MP3.
We can go back further, however. There are many websites on the web dedicated to music from the past. A good index can be found at www.soundpiper.com/mln/musichistory.htm,
Wikipedia.org, meanwhile, offers samples of classical era composers of different styles, such as Romantic or Baroque. Although these are rarely complete pieces, they’re indicative of the time when the music was composed, and can help to identify composers and styles.
One particularly useful site that will help inform your nostalgia trip is Thisdayinmusic.com, where all manner of vital facts can be found on a daily basis.
Go Your Own Way
Forget the charts. Ignore what commercial radio is urging you to listen to, and switch off MTV.
Your personal playlist is waiting to be created. You might compile it manually, or rely on software to do the job for you. Perhaps you want something a bit more specialist, requiring a search through some music history websites.
Whatever you’re looking for, however you decide to find it, let us know which tool you use!