How to Create Smart Playlists in Apple Music & iTunes

Let your rules guide the curation of your next set of favorite songs

Woman laying on couch listening to music through headphones from computer

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When you want to automatically make playlists in Apple Music and iTunes, use Smart Playlists to create interesting and fun mixes. A Smart Playlist contains a set of rules that Apple Music and iTunes follows to add songs to the playlist.

For example, create a Smart Playlist of songs that you rated five stars, played more than 50 times, or added to your library in the last 30 days. Then, set up Smart Playlists rules to automatically update the set of songs in the playlist when your music library changes.

The instructions in this article apply to both iTunes and the Apple Music app running on Macs and PCs. On the Mac, iTunes was replaced by Apple Music in 2019. On PCs, iTunes is still Apple's music-management software.

How to Create a Smart Playlist in Apple Music & iTunes

There are three options to create a Smart Playlist in Apple Music and iTunes:

Use the File Menu

In Apple Music or iTunes, go to File, select New, then choose Smart Playlist.

Creating a Smart Playlist

Use the Mouse

In Apple Music, right-click the Playlists header. In iTunes, right-click a blank area beneath the list of playlists. From the pop-up menu, select New Smart Playlist.

Creating a Smart Playlist in iTunes

Use a Keyboard Shortcut

Press Control+Alt+N (on Windows) or Option+Command+N (on a Mac).

You can only create Smart Playlists on a computer using Apple Music or iTunes. While Smart Playlists can be synced to your iOS device, you can't create a Smart Playlist on a device.

How to Set Rules for Your Smart Playlist in Apple Music & iTunes

Next, create the Smart Playlists rules to generate exact the set of songs you want. Select the criteria that determine which songs are added to your Smart Playlist now and in the future.

  1. In the Smart Playlist dialog box, click the dropdown arrow and choose a category. For example, choose Artist to add songs by a specific musician or band.

    Setting a rule for a Smart Playlist
  2. Enter a name or keyword to be matched. For example, enter Willie Nelson to search the artists in your music library and add songs by Willie Nelson. 

    Setting a rule for a Smart Playlist
  3. To add more rules to a Smart Playlist, click + to add a new row, then enter the matching criteria. For example, add a new row, then choose the Album Rating category to add songs that have 5 stars.

    To delete a rule, remove the row that contains the rule criteria. To remove a row, click -.

    Setting additional rules in a Smart Playlist
  4. To set limits for the Smart Playlist, select the Limit to checkbox, enter a number, then select what you want to limit (for example, items, time, or file size).

    Setting a limit on a Smart Playlist
  5. Click the selected by dropdown arrow, then choose how to select songs.

    Setting a limit on a Smart Playlist
  6. You may have set some songs in your library not to sync to your iOS device. If so, and if you want to sync only some songs with your Smart Playlist, select the Match only checked items checkbox to add songs from your music library that have a check in the box to the left of the song.

    Match only checked items in a Smart Playlist
  7. To automatically update the Smart Playlist every time new music is added or other changes are made to your library, click the Live updating checkbox.

    Live updating a Smart Playlist
  8. Click OK to create the Smart Playlist and add it to your list of Playlists.

  9. To rename the playlist, go to Playlists and click the playlist. Click the playlist name at the top of the screen, wait for it to become editable, type a name, and press Enter.

How to Edit Smart Playlists

There are three ways to edit your Smart Playlist:s:

  • To rearrange the order, drag a song to a different location in the list.
  • To remove a song from the playlist (but not from your music Library), select the song and press Delete or right-click the song and select Remove from Playlist.
  • To change the rules used to create the playlist, select Edit Rules, then change the settings.
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