After more than a year of not using iTunes, (now Apple Music), it’s now again my music streaming service of choice because of the missing features in Google Music and its lack of a solid application platform for the Mac.
My love of music was rekindled with the release iTunes back in 2001. Though I grew up with vinyl LPs, music cassette players, and CDs, I didn’t hesitate to immediately transfer my music collection to iTunes back then.
What I enjoyed most about the iTunes music player was building a catalog of music, rating tracks, and creating playlists. That to me was a revolutionary way of listening to music.
But starting in 2015, iTunes became a bloated application, and out of frustration I stopped using it in late 2018, and switched over to the Google Music Player, which is also a part of the YouTube Premium service that I subscribe to.
But unfortunately, I’ve become frustrated with Google Music especially after Google stopped supporting the Google Play Music Desktop Player. I also found the web version of Google Music lacking as well, which I will discuss a little more in this article.
But the purpose of this article is to show how I’m using Apple Music and trigging many its important shortcuts using Keyboard Maestro and BetterTouchTool.
Table of Contents
Smart and Genius Playlists
One of the two features I’ve always liked about iTunes are smart playlists, and now Genius Playlist in Apple Music.
Apple says Genius is “A feature that enables you to find new music—in your library and in the iTunes Store—related to music already in your library.”
But Genius not only finds new music, it seems to use an algorithm to create a list of related tracks based on a currently playing or selected track. Genius almost takes away the need to manually create playlists, because it delivers a curated playlist that seems handpicked.
Creating a Genius playlist is very simple:
- Right-click on a selected track, even if its playing, and either click Start Genius or Save as Playlist.
When you select Genius Suggestions, it will show some of the related songs it’s geared up to play, so just sit back and enjoy.
Genius playlists have a special icon, and after you create and select a Genius playlist, you get various options for playing, pausing, and even duplicating the playlist. You can also Refresh a playlist and add more songs to it.
By the way, you can also start a Genius list by right-clicking on the Music icon in the dock.
Apple Music Smart Playlists
Smart Playlists have always been a great way to mange and curate music in iTunes/Music.
Like smart mailboxes, smart folders, and smart photo albums, smart playlists are based rules you set for the type of tracks you want to curate.
For instance, I have a smart playlist called Lost Favorites which collects jazz tracks that have a 2+ rating, but have not been played in the last two weeks.
Smart playlists are useful if you have a fairly large music library, and you don’t have time to curate handpicked playlists.
Here are just a few examples of smart playlists.
Click here to view some other Smart Playlist ideas.
Creating Smart Playlists
To create a smart playlist, select File > New Smart Playlist.
Add rules to create your list. When you’re selecting your criteria, you need to decide if the criteria should match All or Any of the multiple rules you select. The screenshot below shows nearly all the available rules.
Love vs 5 Ratings
Another fairly new feature of Music is liking and disliking tracks. In the past, you simply rated your tracks 1 thru 5 based on how well you liked or disliked a selected track. But there’s another option in Music to like or dislike tracks.
When you “Loved” a track, it tells Apple Music that you want it to recommend more songs like it, and to show less songs similar to the ones you’ve dislike. You can also make these selections on the iOS version of Apple Music.
I really hope that Apple Music will pay attention to the tracks I dislike so that it recommends primarily jazz music in my collection.
Note: I’m only applying “Loved” to tracks that really stand out for me. Those tracks are ones that I might play several times over a few months time.
Online Apple Music
Another joy in coming back to Apple Music is that there’s now a web version of the service. While I can easily access Apple Music on all my Mac and iOS devices, what’s really useful is ability to bookmark pages in the web version of Apple Music.
In my older age, my music preference list limited to jazz. So it’s distracting to go into Apple Music and click the Categories button and then take another few seconds to find and click the Jazz category. Now I have jazz category page pinned in my Safari and Biscuit web browser for quick easy access. If I’m going to pay a monthly subscription, I want to check that page regularly.
Navigating and Controlling Apple Music
Several months ago, Google stopped supporting Google Play Music Desktop to the point of disabling the shortcuts and controls in the application.
I tried using the web version of Google Music, but I detested having to navigate to the website in order to pause and play music or select new songs. Above all, I lost the ability to navigate and control its music application using BetterTouchTool and Keyboard Maestro.
Now that I’m back in the Music player, there’s so much I can do without having to press keyboard shortcuts or constantly open the player.
Keyboard Maestro Music Controls
Keyboard Maestro has over a dozen default actions to control the Music player. The actions can control Music from within any application. (Note: if you’re not familiar with how to use Keyboard Maestro, here’s an introductory article.)
One of my most used triggers for Music are a couple of Keyboard Maestro macros, one that allows me to type a string trigger to play and pause music from within any application where I’m typing. I’ve set up similar macros for skipping to the next song from within an application where I’m typing.
Rating Songs with Keyboard Maestro Pallet
I also created a Keyboard Maestro global pallet that stays parked on my 27″ iMac. I use it whenever my hand is on my trackpad and I want or need to quickly rate a song or control Music from within any application.
The volume actions/triggers in the pallet are especially useful, because I send Music to my HomePod, I can’t control the volume using the volume control on the keyboard. But the KM actions allow me to control the HomePod volume from within any application.
Also, though I can rate songs using the pallet, I can also type an assigned trigger, “fstars” from within any application in which I’m typing in order to rate the currently playing song. This little automation is so powerful, because it saves me from having to take my hands off of my keyboard in order to rate a song.
Unless I’m typing, my hand is usually on my trackpad, so this palette is very convenient, and I will probably add a few more items if I find myself repeatedly performing other actions.
Most of my BetterTouchTool triggers for Music are used inside of the Music application.
For instance, when I want to quickly open the Music Mini Player, instead of navigating to the menu bar or using the assigned keyboard shortcut, I do a 4 Finger Swipe Left, which opens the Mini Player appearing where it was last parked—on right side of my second monitor.
I have another finger gesture to quickly show Album view in a multi-album playlist, and a 3 Finger Clickswipe Left for triggering the Next Song shortcut.
I’m still figuring out what other BetterTouchTool triggers I need for Music. The triggers are often based on the actions I perform repeatedly in an application, and if an assigned finger gesture action will help perform those actions quicker.
(Note: if you’re not familiar with how to use BetterTouchTool, here’s an introductory article.)
Alfred Mini Player
Alfred also has a mini player for Apple Music that could be useful for quick searches in your Music library.
It allows for searching albums, artists, and genres. You can also rate songs and control the player. There might also be some Alfred workflows available for the music player.
I wish the Alfred Player would allow me to search the Recently Added list, since that’s where playing songs from mostly these days.
Here’s so more information about Alfred if you’ve never used it.
Is Apple Music Worth It?
I’m not a fan of subscription-based streaming music because obviously you never get to all of the songs in your step of the annual subscription. But the $10 a month subscription allows me to listen to way more albums that I would not like to individually pay for. So in this regard, Apple Music is worth a subscription.
Apple Music’s Listen Now section provides recommendations of music based on my listening habits which can also be helpful.
And in the web version of Apple Music’s Listen Now also features a collection of annual Replay playlists based on the songs I played the most going back to 2015. I have nothing for 2020 because I was using Google Music Play.
There are other features in Apple Music that I haven’t had a chance to look into yet.
For the next few months, I plan to mostly catch up on jazz albums that are new to me. I’m currently listening to a collection of “top jazz albums” of 2020, and I’m also adding 2021 jazz albums to a playlist and rating the ones I like. (By the way, if you’re a jazz lover and an Apple Music subscriber, I invite you to follow me (@Bakari) in that space.
Fortunately, because I work from home, I can play music throughout the day, so I can probably get my money’s worth out of Apple Music.
iTunes has gone through significant changes over the last twenty years, but its latest Apple Music iteration is less bloated and easier to navigate.
There are still some features missing from Music that I would like to see, such as showing the current rating for a song in the Mini Player, or creating a custom music page of self-selected album and song choices.
But overall I’m glad to be back using Music because it offers keyboard shortcuts and menu items that I can trigger using Keyboard Maestro and BetterTouchTool. It’s important that while I’m working that I’m not getting distracted by hanging out in Apple Music.
Let me know if you’re using Apple Music and how it’s working out for you.
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I use the Apple Music App but am not an Apple Music subscriber. Genius generally works on songs pre-2016 but songs later than that don’t have a “Genius Suggestion” option. What changed?
Thanks for your feedback. I think to Apply put iTunes on the back burner for a long time, and now it’s not a priority to them. It’s not as good as it used to be.