How to Create Smart Playlists in 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 iTunes, use the Smart Playlists feature to create interesting and fun mixes. A Smart Playlist contains a set of rules that iTunes follows to add songs to the playlist. For example, set up rules that create a Smart Playlist of songs that you rated five stars, played more than 50 times, or added to your iTunes library in the last 30 days. You can even update Smart Playlists automatically when your iTunes library changes.

Smart playlists have been supported since iTunes 3.0, released in 2002.

Create a Smart Playlist

There are three ways to create a Smart Playlist. Choose the method that works best for you:

  1. To use the iTunes menu, go to File, select New, then choose Smart Playlist.

    Creating a Smart Playlist
  2. To use the mouse, right-click a blank area beneath the list of playlists and select New Smart Playlist.

    Creating a Smart Playlist in iTunes
  3. To use a keyboard shortcut, press Control+Alt+N (on Windows) or Option+Command+N (on a Mac).

Set Rules for Your Smart Playlist

For each new Smart Playlist, select the criteria that determine which songs show up in your Smart Playlist.

  1. In the Smart Playlist dialog box, select the dropdown arrow and choose a category. For example, choose Artist to add songs by a specified 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 artist listing in your iTunes Library and add songs by Willie Nelson. 

    Setting a rule for a Smart Playlist
  3. To add more rules to a Smart Playlist, select Add ( + ) 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 by Willie Nelson that have 5 stars.

    Setting additional rules in a Smart Playlist

    To delete a rule, remove the row that contains the rule criteria. To remove a row, select Delete ( - ).

  4. To set limits for the Smart Playlist, select the Limit to check box, 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. Select the selected by dropdown arrow and choose how you want songs selected.

    Setting a limit on a Smart Playlist
  6. To sync only some songs, select the Match only checked items check box to add songs from your iTunes 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, select the Live updating check box.

    Live updating a Smart Playlist
  8. Select OK to add the Smart Playlist to your list of Music Playlists.

  9. To rename the playlist, go to Music Playlists, select the playlist, type a name, and press Enter.

Edit and Sync the Smart Playlist

There are three ways to edit the playlist:

  1. To rearrange the order, drag a song to a different location in the list.

  2. To remove a song from the playlist (but not from your iTunes Library), select the song and press Delete. Or, right-click the song and select Delete from Library.

    Removing a song from a Smart Playlist
  3. To change the rules used to create the playlist, select Edit Rules and change the settings.