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 Smart Playlists 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, 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. Then, set up Smart Playlists to automatically update when your iTunes library changes.

Instructions in this article apply to iTunes 3.0 and later.

Create a Smart Playlist

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

Use the iTunes Menu

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

Creating a Smart Playlist

Use the Mouse

Right-click a blank area beneath the list of playlists, then 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).

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.

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

    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. To sync only some songs, select the Match only checked items checkbox 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 checkbox.

    Live updating a Smart Playlist
  8. Click 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 Smart Playlist:

  • 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 iTunes Library), select the song and press Delete. Or, right-click the song and select Delete from Library.
  • To change the rules used to create the playlist, select Edit Rules, then change the settings.