How to Create Great Playlists with iTunes Genius

Use a song in your library to make a track list you'll love.

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The iTunes Genius feature of iTunes does a number of things: It can help you discover new music you haven't heard before, and it can use its smarts to create Genius Playlists for you.

Genius Playlists are different from playlists you create yourself or even smart playlists, which iTunes generates based on sorting criteria you select. Genius Playlists use the collective intelligence of the iTunes Store and iTunes users to create playlists that automatically create sets of songs that will sound great.

Here's what you need to do to create a Genius Playlist.

These instructions apply to iTunes 8 or higher.

How to Create a Genius Playlist

To make iTunes build a playlist for you, you'll need to be sure that the Genius feature is on. Once that's set up, you'll need to pick a song to build the list around. Because every Genius Playlist is designed to put together songs that complement each other, you have to start with a song that's the basis for iTunes to figure out what will sound good with it.

  1. Navigate through your iTunes library to a song that you want to use as the foundation of the playlist. Once you've found that song, you have three ways to create the Genius Playlist:

    • Right-click on the song, go to Genius Suggestions, and then click Save as Playlist.
    • Click the ... icon next to the song, go to Genius Suggestions, and then click Save as Playlist 
    • Click on the File menu, click New, and then click Genius Playlist.
    Creating a Genius Playlist in iTunes
  2. iTunes takes the song you've selected and collects information from the iTunes Store and other Genius users. It looks at what other songs are popular with people who like the song you picked and then uses that information to generate the Genius Playlist.

    The standard Genius Playlist has 25 songs, beginning with the song you chose. You can either play it right away and see how you like it or make changes to it.

  3. Click on the 25 songs drop-down menu under the playlist name and select 50, 75, or 100 songs, and the playlist will expand.

    Menu showing length of a Genius Playlist in iTunes
  4. Click the Refresh button to add a new set of songs to the playlist. Some will have been in the last version, some will be new, and the order (other than the first song) will be different, too.

    Refresh button for an iTunes Genius playlist
  5. Click Shuffle All to play the playlist in random order.

    You can also drag and drop tracks to change the default order of the playlist.

    Shuffle All button in an iTunes Genius playlist
  6. Your next step depends on what version of iTunes you have. In iTunes 10 or earlier, if you're happy with the playlist, click the Save Playlist button. In iTunes 11 or higher, the playlist saves automatically and appears under the Music Playlists heading in the left menu.

    Genius playlists have the atom-shaped Genius logo next to them and have the same name as the song you used to create them.

    A Genius playlist in the Music Playlists heading in iTunes
  7. Repeat these steps with any song in your library to make as many playlists as you want.