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If music is part of your everyday work routine, workout, or commute, stuffing your player full of tunes and hitting shuffle just won't cut it. Scan these 10 tips for improving and expanding your music playlists.
Photo by Fey the Ferocious Feyrannosaur.
10. Build persistent online playlists
Last.fm, Pandora—they're both popular places to listen to tunes online, but they don't let you queue up music for later, unless you're a monthly subscriber. If you want to slot and stream exactly the music you want to hear anywhere there's a net connection, however, you've still got options. If you're the DIY type, check out our guide to hosting your own playlist with Opentape. If you're looking for a pre-built web solution ready to search and stack your picks, Mixtape.me, built by editor Adam Pash, and Grooveshark are a couple good choices among many options. If you're particularly fond of your own collection but can't bring it with you, head to our roundup of ways to stream your music over the net.
Apple really set the bar just a tad too high when it named iTunes' music recommendation service, and, in general, Genius doesn't provide awesome mix tape ideas from your subconscious. That doesn't mean it couldn't be better. Wired suggests a few ways to get along with Genius, like sticking with the iTunes store's genre labeling and un-checking suggestions that are way off. The general suggestion, though, is giving Genius time to figure out your library, which obviously means you need to buckle down at work and start tearing through albums. (Original post)
Some Lifehacker editors are partial to the ambient but beat-driven tracks available on Groove Salad, or the more traditional pick of Brian Eno. Our readers, however, are a hive mind unto themselves, and have a lot of strong picks for music that meshes well with work. In general, tracks that don't pull your attention away, or perhaps move in unpredictable patterns are great accompaniment for getting things done—classical works you're not familiar with, new and complex music, or, for some folks, tracks so familiar that they're just a comforting soundscape.
Any playlist gets better if you can bump up the sound quality. If your personal style, or office culture, forbids the ear-enveloping headphone "cans," in-ear earbuds can work just fine—if you know how to put them in. Luckily, a CNET audiophile can explain, with detailed pictures, exactly how to fit earbuds into your ears for better sound fidelity and long-term comfort.
6. Share music with friends and coworkers
If you hear someone with a killer tune playing from their own hard drive, they can usually be cajoled into sending a copy your way. But what if they've brought that track in on their MP3 player? Grab a copy of DoubleTwist for Mac or PC, hook up their phone or MP3 player, and you're on your way to really enjoying the benefits of mobile music. If you're strictly an iPhone or iPod person, our guide to copying music from your iPhone or iPod to you computer for free should have you covered.
5. Grab music outside your country restrictions
Sites like Lifehacker can seem like such a tease sometimes. We tell you about the best desktop music player we've ever used, then tell you about how it's blocked to the U.S. Well, Spotify and other music services are only blocked if you're traveling on normal, pedestrian web routes. We've previously mentioned ways to access U.S.-only content like Hulu or Pandora, and recommended tools like FoxyProxy, but, honestly, most popular services have already filled Google search results with work-arounds and routes to them. Tech news web site TechCrunch, for instance, is only too happy to suggest a route to sign up with Spotify.
4. Grab the music you're streaming
Sometimes your web radio station or music recommendation service, like Pandora or Last.fm, hit it right on the head. To grab those songs that sound right on, try the previously mentioned Tubemaster++, a browser wrap-around that can grab audio or video from any Flash-based page. There's also Screamer Radio, which adds in a lot of great radio stations to check out. For recording and decoding any kind of audio running across your system, however, we recommend having a copy of VLC on hand.
You're out for a jog or on the way home from work when, suddenly, an insipid, album-filler track just kills your whole groove. Don't try and make a mental note to banish that track—mark it one star. Then set up your music manager to never load one-star tracks onto your player, and you're on your way. (Original post)
If your music collection came from a lot of sources, some of them more shadow-y than others, your files are probably a librarian's worst nightmare. Tagging them all with the right genre, artist, album, track, and disc numbers can be done easier than you think with software tools like MediaMonkey or any of six reader selections for best MP3 tagging tools. While you're feeling all rebuild-y, go ahead and embed album art the easy way.
If you want iTunes (or another programmable music manager) to surprise you with good, relevant picks from your library, Smart Playlists are the way to go. Gina's recommended Smart Playlist settings can ensure you're hearing music you haven't heard in at least a week (unlike with, say, the radio), find the seldom-played gems in your collection, and compile best-of lists for the year so far, the holidays, or whenever.
Those are geeky suggestions, anyways, about how to give your regular listening material a boost. What have you done to improve your auditory organization? Tell us about it in the comments.