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How Do You Request Music Using Siri?

Usually, I like to offer solutions in TidBITS articles, but when it comes to the black box of controlling Apple Music using Siri, I have no sense that my approach is ideal. So I’m going to describe my frustrations, and I hope those of you who have different approaches that work well for you will chime in with suggestions.

Tonya and I have two HomePods and a HomePod mini, and overall, we like them a lot for listening to music and controlling our HomeKit-driven lights. Nevertheless, Siri has problems, and it’s common to have to repeat a missed command or rephrase a request to get Siri to behave as desired.

Now we know why. In How Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant Lost the A.I. Race, New York Times reporters explained that Siri is essentially a “command-and-control system” that has to be hard-coded to understand all the words in a request. Siri’s database contains a massive list of words, including the names of musical artists, albums, and songs. And, of course, it understands various music-related commands. Many of these you’ll have guessed, but others will likely be new to you. The best roundup I’ve found is at Smartenlight, though it’s still not entirely satisfying. The article is from December 2019, and quite a few of the commands didn’t work or worked sporadically for me. Your mileage may vary.

My frustrations with using Siri to play music on HomePods are twofold:

  • I sometimes struggle to think of what I want to listen to without a visual cue.
  • Once I have a sense of what sort of music I want to hear, I have trouble getting Siri to play it.

My problems may be partly age-related. Without playing into stereotypes about memory loss, the number of artists I have in my Apple Music library is vastly larger than those whose CDs we owned before music moved online. There’s a lot more to keep in my head now than 25 years ago.

The way I listen to music has also changed significantly, twice. Neither Tonya nor I had many record albums as teens—they were too expensive for us—and CDs caught on once we were in college, so most of our music was originally in that format. Starting in the early 1990s, we played music in a six-CD changer, and once we moved to a larger house with separate offices, we added a pair of portable boombox stereos that also held six CDs each. We’d look through our alphabetized collection, select six CDs, and play them for a few days, often on shuffle, with the CD jewel boxes extracted from the shelf and prominently displayed.

Jeff Robbin put an end to that era. With Bill Kincaid and Dave Heller, he wrote SoundJam, which Apple later bought and turned into iTunes. (I last spoke with Jeff in person when he was walking the floor with Steve Jobs at the Macworld Expo after Apple’s acquisition—it was also the last time I met Jobs.) Starting in 1999 with SoundJam and then iTunes, I ripped all our CDs to MP3 format and played them from a laptop, first through directly connected speakers and later using AirPlay from an AirPort Express attached to a stereo. When Apple introduced the iTunes Store, we purchased new music there because it was clear that physical CDs were on the way out. Regardless of how the music got into the Mac, finding something to play involved scrolling through a list of artists and selecting an album.

So I have spent decades selecting music by looking through an alphabetized collection—either a lineup of CDs on a shelf or a scrolling list of artists. The CDs were particularly effective because favorite artists stood out by virtue of occupying more shelf space, whereas in iTunes and now Music, David Bowie takes up the same amount of space as Vib Gyor. (Until searching, I had no idea who Vib Gyor is, and they’re not in Apple Music. I think the iTunes Store gave their “We Are Not An Island” song away in its New Music Tuesdays promotions, which were a slightly helpful way to find new music.)

With voice commands directed to a HomePod, though, I have to figure out what I want to listen to without any visual reminders that might trigger a positive—or negative—response, and I’m not happy with how well I’m doing that. I find that I listen to a relatively small subset of music simply due to the limited details I can bring to mind at any given time. Of course, I could pull out my iPhone and scroll through the Music app whenever I want to play music—and I do that occasionally, but it’s too much work most of the time.

How My Brain Manages Music

With that in mind, here’s how I think about music. (Before someone comments, I rarely listen to classical, which I know is extremely different.) I remember my favorite artists fairly well and categorize them into mental buckets. The Beatles go with the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. Leonard Cohen matches up with Bob Dylan and Jennifer Warnes. The Eagles fit into the same category as Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, and Carole King. Tom Petty and the Wallflowers. I can’t even quite remember the difference between the Counting Crows and the Crash Test Dummies until I hear a song. Given the range of his music, David Bowie stands alone.

Where I have more trouble is with artists I’ve discovered in recent years. Off the top of my head, I can come up with Dave’s True Story, Farewell Milwaukee, Thea Gilmore, Chris Isaak, BLACK, Joan As Policewoman, Mel Parsons, J.J. Cale, and others. But there are plenty of artists I’ve found and enjoy whose names I can’t pull out of my increasingly full memory (looking through my artist list, they would include Asaf Avidan, Amy Winehouse, Of Monsters and Men, and Warhaus). I always add newly found artists to my Apple Music library, so I might see them when scrolling through a list, but I have trouble remembering them when trying to start music on a HomePod.

I seldom start music by playing an album because I don’t know most album names. Those I can think of go with our historical CD collection, which now lives in what the family that built our house considered their media room but we use primarily for storage. It’s an ode to the media formats of 1984, with purpose-built shelves for CDs, a cabinet with dividers for LPs, a place for stereo equipment that would connect to in-wall speaker wiring throughout the downstairs, and bookshelves surrounding a spot for a 19-inch CRT television, complete with a custom shelf for a cable box. Our books, CDs, and record albums occupy their designated shelves, and we even have an old stereo system and speakers in the room, but it all sits unused. The HomePods are much easier to use, and the audio quality is perfectly fine for our needs.

I’m only slightly more likely to remember a song title than an album; some have stuck in my head, but most others are a mashup of the title and the most notable lyric. Regardless, if I want to listen to music, I want to hear more than a single song, so I rarely ask for just one.

Finally, I’ve never found playlists helpful. Even though I can say which artists I think are similar, I don’t have words for those collections, and my somewhat obsessive personality has trouble with any groupings I try to create—there are always songs that are exceptions or artists who should be added but slip my mind. With over 11,000 tracks in my Apple Music library, some of which are replicated multiple times due to songs appearing on multiple albums, I find the idea of trying to make sensible playlists overwhelming.

Playing Music with Voice Commands

Here’s what I do to cue up music with voice commands and where my approach falls down.

Despite my trouble remembering many artist names, my most common command is “Hey Siri, play music by <artist>” because that’s what I’m going to remember most easily. It also works well for getting something playing, apart from BLACK, where saying, “Hey Siri, play the artist BLACK” works most of the time on the HomePods but seldom on the iPhone or Mac.

However, asking for an artist suffers from two problems. First, it seems to prefer the artist’s top songs, which makes perfect sense when playing an unfamiliar artist but gets old with an artist you want to listen to regularly. When I notice Siri overemphasizing hit songs, I sometimes try again with “Hey Siri, shuffle music by <artist>.”

Second, my real goal is to listen to music that the artist represents. Most of the time, when I’m asking for the Eagles, what I really want is a combination of the Eagles, Jackson Brown, Fleetwood Mac, and so on. Previously, such a set list was readily accessible with “Hey Siri, play music like the Eagles” or “Hey Siri, create a radio station based on the Eagles.” When I try those commands now, however, Apple Music plays only songs by the named artist. I’ve verified this by skipping song after song—I never get music from other artists.

(As I write this, I’m doing some of the testing on my iMac, where I usually rely on the Music app rather than Siri. So, of course, just to prove me wrong, “Hey Siri, play music like the Eagles” did what it was supposed to on the Mac, just seconds after it failed to work correctly on a HomePod. So, along with the BLACK example above, add to the list of complaints about Siri that it doesn’t act the same on all of Apple’s platforms.)

A better approach has been to wait until a song that exemplifies the type of music I want comes on and then to say, “Hey Siri, play more like this.” That usually triggers an interesting collection of songs from different artists. I’ve tried to short-circuit this process by asking for music like a song, especially after Tonya had notably good luck with music like David Bowie’s “Tonight,” but that has proved maddening. No form of the “play music like” command recognized “Tonight,” even when I specified it was from Bowie, and I only managed to get the HomePod to play the song at all with this exact command, “Hey Siri, play David Bowie’s Tonight.”—all other variants failed. Now that I look the song up in the Music app, perhaps it’s problematic because it’s sung by both David Bowie and Tina Turner, but how is anyone supposed to guess that without liner notes?

Often, I give up on playing an artist and say, “Hey Siri, play my music,” which shuffles music from my extensive Apple Music library. That’s quite effective because my library is both curated and quite large—I’ll probably enjoy what I hear and probably won’t have heard it recently. But because it’s random, the music genre can vary greatly from track to track, which I don’t like. It might even play Christmas music, which I categorically never listen to other than between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

I may forget the exact wording and instead say, “Hey Siri, play my favorites,” which accurately triggers a smart playlist that collects all the songs I’ve said I “loved.” I can’t remember if I created that playlist or if it shipped with iTunes or Music at some point, but it contains 450 songs. I do indeed really like all of them, but I’ve heard them so many times that they can get boring.

For some reason, saying, “Hey Siri, play my favorite music,” currently triggers a song called “favorite crime” by Olivia Rodrigo, who I’ve never heard of before. It’s nice enough, but it’s not even in my Apple Music library, much less some sort of favorite. I can’t imagine why Siri plays it.

On the other hand, saying, “Hey Siri, play music I like” to create my personal station works pretty well, selecting both songs from my library and others that are similar. Again, the genres can vary more than I’d prefer, but at least it guesses pretty well.

Apart from 1980s rock from my teenage years, I rarely ask Siri for music from a genre or time period because the results are too random. Apparently, I don’t think like the people at Apple who develop playlists.

That said, I have long wanted the ability to access a subset of my library this way, and the Smartenlight article claims that saying “from my library” should do that. It seems to work for artists, which could be handy if you want to avoid specific albums by an otherwise favorite artist. But while “Hey Siri, play <genre> from my library” works with some genres (blues, country, jazz, and rock) on my iPhone, it fails nearly every time on both the HomePod and the Mac.

You can also ask Siri to play music for certain activities and moods, but those commands trigger pre-made stations. Whenever I try one of these, I recoil in horror from what it plays. Sadly, you can’t ask Siri to limit music for an activity or mood to tracks from your library.

So that’s me. What do you do?

ML and AI to the Rescue?

I realized we’re deep into wishlist territory here, but to my mind, the solution has to come from ML and AI.

It’s surprising that Apple hasn’t applied its machine-learning chops to personalized recommendations in Apple Music—or at least promoted how it has done so. Every Apple Music user must generate a vast amount of data Apple could use to personalize music feeds. What sort of music do you listen to at different times of day or days of the week? Which artists or genres make up the majority of your library? Which do you play the most often, and which songs are played disproportionately too little for their similarity to more popular tracks? Which automatically generated suggestions do you skip because you hate them? Do you play different music in different locations? How about in the car?

Apple must be doing some sort of algorithmic selection of songs for its autoplay feature that plays similar songs after a requested song or album ends, and that works reasonably well. But given that Apple doesn’t promote how it’s using machine learning to play the best music for you at any given moment, I suspect that it’s nowhere near what the company has done with computational photography and other ML-driven photography features.

Siri is a tougher nut to crack, given its importance to the Apple ecosystem. Siri may not be as good as we’d like now, but Apple can’t afford for it to get worse. Generative AI like ChatGPT could be more flexible about its input, so we wouldn’t be forced into today’s often stilted speech to get good results. But much of what Siri does might not work well with the well-known accuracy problems of generative AI. We don’t want Siri making up hours for a recommended restaurant, messing up basic math, or confidently returning invented details for a Web search.

However, music recommendations are fuzzier and have lower stakes. If you were to say, “Hey Siri, play hard-driving workout music from the 1980s along the lines of Queen and the theme songs to the ‘Rocky’ movies,” there’s no right answer. There are wrong answers, but when I asked ChatGPT to recommend music using that prompt, the suggestions were spot on. (In contrast, Siri came up with some songs that could never be described as “hard-driving.”) ChatGPT also produced reasonable suggestions in response to other complex music prompts.

Apple Music might be the perfect place for Apple to experiment with generative AI input and output.

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Comments About How Do You Request Music Using Siri?

Notable Replies

  1. I still hugely miss the old “genius mix” feature where you could create a playlist of songs from your own library based off of any song. Radio stations are OK, but I want songs from my library, not random stuff from the entire streaming music universe.

    Generative AI seems like a good way of recreating the feature – as you mentioned in the article, chatGPT can easily come up with a good list of songs for pretty much any query. These just need to be filtered to match what’s in your music library.

  2. Siri is busted. It’s been working increasingly less well the last 18 months or so.

    My first thought is about curation, You don’t have to make playlists, but you need to uncheck Christmas music if you don’t want to hear it. I would strongly suggest you also create a playlist of that music.

    Curate by telling Sirii I like this when you hear something you like more than most of your library.

    This will encourage Apple to create Adam’s station, which will include music you have liked and similar music. This can be called by name, or you can tell Siri to “play music I like,” which will only play Liked tracks.

    If Siri plays something you don’t like, say “I don’t like this.”

    Try thinking about playlists in broad categories; music for workouts, music for background listening, etc.

    Possibly music by decade.

  3. I agree with Lisa, the answer for me is playlists and curation. I do rely on curated playlists by Apple’s editors to introduce me to new music, I have a playlist called Apple Music Discoveries which I add new material to on an ongoing basis. Then as appropriate I add them to a Focus playlist or a Driving one etc.

    I love music but I’m no expert, limited by the decades I grew up through and contexts I’ve lived in. And so I value good curators such as Apple’s, as well as those friends or DJs who guide us to listen to new material. There’s a couple of late evening DJs on our National radio station who consistently play interesting music, and yes, I use “Hey Siri, what am I listening to” and “Hey Siri, add this to Discoveries”.

  4. I echo your complaints about Siri handling music, particularly when requesting albums and artists when driving the car and using my iPhone. It is a frustrating business and I have to keep my temper in check. After I give up on attempts to get make specific selections, I try “Hey Siri, play my music,” and then I get Siri wanting to go to Apple Music, to which I don’t subscribe, and the frustrations continue. I remain certain that the maze Siri creates is designed to push me into becoming an Apple Music subscriber. I am certain that Apple software engineers and the higher ups rarely venture into the real world.

  5. I had Apple Music (free with a purchase or upgrade of Fios…CRS kicking in) then let it expire. Now, Siri just handles my playlists or shuffle of my iTunes from the networked mac. But I mostly prefer getting music (new and ripped) to my phone, via iTunes store and syncing. Then I use BT for my headphones or earbuds while working. One time, I realized I had a soundbar that would airplay, along with my Homepods, and my Onkyo…so I could broadcast… well… Siri isn’t smart and I’m not getting too complicated just to listen to my music. Sign me up for Siri’s music handling, and while I’m here, iTunes Store is just most convoluted, complex, poorly designed system that is getting costly for songs and not good at finding my artists or similar based on previous purchases. Manually, I have more fun, but time, I don’t always have.

  6. Very frustrating using Siri to play music. I have to pick my words carefully, in the right order, just to get it to find the right tune in my library. On iPhone. Many times it just says it will find me a link online. Apple has really dropped the ball on this one.

  7. I have been a tidbits reader since the beginning. I have never before logged in to comment, but this drives me so nuts I had to.

    As others have said, playlists work. I’ve carefully named my playlist so the idiot Siri can’t mistake them for anything else.

    One command I do like is, “hey Siri, play some music just for me”. This seems to play highly rated and or high play count songs.

    What really drives me nuts is trying to get Siri to play radio stations. In the morning I want to hear my local NPR station and get the news, then sometime after that we listen to a local college station. Every day, we do the same thing. Every day. And Siri can’t do it.
    if you ask for the call letters, KCRW, it seems to grab the W, and Siri plays a station that starts with a W, something from the east coast, some random format, country, news, rap, pop, whatever.
    Ask for the station number, and again, you get some random station from somewhere in the world at that frequency, not the local one, not the one you played yesterday. What the heck.
    What works is just trial and error. A mix of both name and numbers. Eventually, Siri will say, Here’s KCRW on Air, provided by I Heart Radio. And that’s the secret. In I Heart Radio, every station has a nickname. And you need to call the station exactly by that exact nickname for it to work.

    I have them written down inside a kitchen cabinet door, but they do change from time to time.

  8. I only use Siri with music on my phone.

    Recent updates have made it nearly impossible to get anything while driving. I get a grey image of a car then it goes back to doing whatever it was doing and ignores my music command.

    I used to say “Hey Siri play music” and I would get my music shuffled. Now it may not do anything, or I may be told I don’t have any music.

    Now I have to say “Hey Siri shuffle all songs”

    I also have a difficult time playing an artist. I used to say “Play XYZ" (artist) and I’d get them all shuffled. Now if I say that I may get a song, or I may be told I don’t have anything by that artist.

    So I have to say “Shuffle all songs by XYZ”

    I’ve also gotten weird responses about songs not being on Apple Music (which I don’t have)

    In general Siri has gotten pretty bad in the last year or two (IMO)

    In my office I’m still streaming off an older iMac iTunes to BT speakers. There I either shuffle my entire library, or look at albums by artist and select them that way. The latter is how I grew up listening to music. Shuffle is still fun for me, I remember what a novelty it was when I first got an iPod. :)


  9. I’ve recently discovered under Radio in the Music app a station with my name on it.
    I’ve started listening to it occasionally and it’s very good, though often a bit more mellow than I might be looking for. But again the selection is Very Good.
    But this is on my phone and I’ve never yet figured out how to get Siri to play it.

  10. I had a similar experience. My radio station was really good for about a month before diverging into things I would never listen to. My genres in Music tend towards classic rock etc (I grew up on Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Who, Bowie, Stones, George Harrison and Beatles, and now live on FooFighters, U2, Buzzcocks etc).

    Somewhere along the line Music started feeding me Diana Ross and Abba. No offence intended to those who enjoys these artists but I have no idea how they ended up in my radio station.

    Agree with the Siri issues as well. I might say “hey Siri, play Foo Fighters” thinking it will play my preferred, downloaded Foo Fighters tracks but it delves off into Apple Music and plays things I’ve never heard of. I don’t understand why the default is to search the streaming services when I have all the music I want right here on my device.

  11. This, yes, this. Whether your subject is Siri or iTunes (or Music), Adam, they’re both cans of worms for me.

    I refuse to use Siri, flat-out. I don’t need the aggravation. It does not learn. Siri is not adaptive, agile or reasonable/logical; I have no more time for it. What a waste of a good idea. Visiting friends who persist in “using” Siri (or Alexa) provide me with ironic humor, like reruns of the commercial “Can you hear me now?”… but it’s been years, come on.

    Music, however, is horse of another color. You all are going to laugh at me, but the main purpose of my computer has been, and always will be, to listen to my music. Everything else is just bells & whistles, especially at this stage in my life. I like bells & whistles fine enough, fun stuff. But with over 25,000 song titles in my collection… you get the idea. I love music.

    This whole discussion echoes, for me, arguments from years when curated radio was the thing. DJ’s were announcers, usually; program managers were the brains in the outfit and they all worked their butts off glad-handing A&R reps and labels to listen to huge variety of music. Like advertising, no one knew how it worked but a lucrative industry was made of it, and it swung the trajectory of our culture. One thing those guys taught me was to categorize and group artists, mostly intuitively, honing that sense - not necessarily with labels or names, but using colors or numbers to tag them with for retrieval. Retrieval being more important than acquisition, right? Yes, I spend time each week going thru my catalogues of music and books to refine and revisit, maybe like King Midas, ok. I had great hopes when Jobs and Apple came along and cultivated respect for intuition via GUI, but then they got business-happy and lost me.

    our culture’s unwittingly made some potent choices to get us here. I miss good ol’ curated radio that not only played favorites but also sprinkled in similars. Today’s like a modern supermarket that’s got scads of aisles of the same thing in different boxes, netflixed into conformity, and most of us rotate our meals from a diminished palate. Radio’s gone now for the most part (and that which persists I support and listen to via iTunes or browser from afar, on my computer). Spotify, Pandora, iHeart, all suck - music on the cheap, algorithms replacing curation like self-serve gas stations and checkout stands: it’s just cheaper not smarter. Even Sirius XM kicked the bucket it had resurrected in the old days, fired the characters who were good at curating, and for the most part became the Walmart of streaming services. (Music, like most of the arts, is about passion; it should never hop into bed with business.) So, this is the bed we made; now just try to sleep in it.

  12. Predictably (every reader uses Siri on mobile; only a few own HomePods), the responses are almost entirely about Siri controlling music on mobile. But while Siri is crap for controlling music on mobile, it’s horrendous controlling music on HomePod. It’s not just awkward or inadequate, it’s well and truly broken.

    As Adam says, you can’t make it play genre, and you’ll grow tired of shuffled favorites. The only viable solution is Playlists, and they need to be huge so you don’t get bored.

    So I created a “Jazz” playlist with everything tagged genre:jazz. I’ll eventually do the same for other craved genres. Maybe “Upbeat”. Maybe “Reflective”.

    And I created a “Gutbucket” playlist with everything except spoken language, holiday music, random “New Music Tuesdays” promotional music, and anything else that might be weird shuffling in while friends stop by for drinks. That one gets a lot of play (on “shuffle”), and didn’t take long to set up.

    Massive go-to playlists are the answer for creating ambiance. And to play an artist, you have no choice but to go to your phone (at least on HomePod).

    Now if I can only figure out why my phone sometimes randomly disconnects from HomePod in mid-song…

  13. On my way to climbing tonight I wanted to play the only Buzzcocks song in my library and had this dialog with Siri:
    “Hey Siri, play Buzzcocks” —> starts playing song I’ve never heard and says “Playing Buzzcocks from Apple Music”.
    "Hey Siri, play Buzzcocks from my library "—> plays another song I don’t know and says “Playing Buzzcocks from Apple Music”.
    “F#@k me Siri” —> Sorry, I won’t respond to that :slight_smile:

    All this while driving and it’s soooo distracting as to be dangerous. Siri (and Music) is seriously broken - essentially useless unless you do everything manually in playlists.

  14. I am so glad I’m not the only one! I use Siri while driving, biking and washing dishes. I do not want to be touching the phone then!

    Someone mentioned a personalized radio station? Are you subscribed to Apple Music to see that? I looked and don’t see one but I don’t have a subscription. I also inadvertently hit something and Lizzo started playing. As a 60s-70s classic rock junkie, I did not like that.

    In the early iPod/iTunes days, I made playlists and they are still around on my phone. But that was when it was easy to manage your library on iTunes on a computer. Has it been improved? I have a Big Sur machine but honestly only use an older version on Sierra.

    I miss the old radio stations that were in iTunes 10+ years ago. I used to pick up good songs from there at times (and easy to buy from there). Regular radio is a joke these days!


  15. Yes! I’d forgotten about that feature, but that’s exactly what I want a lot of the time.

    I do have a playlist of Christmas music, and it turns out that I have unchecked those songs (which explains why they’re grayed out in Music, which was confusing me for a bit; since songs no longer in Apple Music are also grayed out).

    My guess is that the occasional Christmas song that plays during shuffle is something I added more recently that isn’t tagged with the Holiday genre. I’m not sure there’s any way to find them other than searching/scanning the entire library. Ugh…

    I do this when I particularly like something new, but otherwise it’s extremely haphazard because I never remember that I’ve done it and I feel silly potentially repeating myself.

    This happens only when Siri completely biffs a request and plays something I truly hate. I never get so far as saying “I don’t like this,” because I’m usually yelling, “Hey Siri, STOP!” in an irritated voice to get it to shut up.

    This has just never worked for me in my normal listening. Even when I can come up with a bucket in my head for such music (I can think of only one at the moment—music I listen to while doing physical therapy in the bedroom in the morning), I don’t have the time to select (and deselect) music for it. Decade doesn’t work for me for anything but the 1980s, though a fair amount of what I consider 80s music was really from the 70s. I might like some stuff from the 90s and later, but I have no sense of the temporal oeuvre.

    I used workout music as an example because I do in fact control the music at a twice-weekly group workout at Ithaca College, but we use their computer and Spotify/Pandora setup. Pandora was halfway decent at starting automatic playback based on an artist, but Spotify seems largely random in that regard. Plus, I’m always working quickly on a staff Windows machine so it’s hard to focus on it. My current plan is to bring a Lightning-to-headphone adapter and plug into their sound system and then use Apple Music from my iPhone, since at least that will get rid of the ads and I’ll be able to control it from my Apple Watch if necessary.

    This is an interesting thought—smart playlists that automatically collect certain genres in my library. I’ll have to see if they map to songs I’d want to listen to together.

  16. So if you tell Siri you don’t like a song, does it stop playing it all together? Again this is in my library so one could question why I have a song in my library I don’t like? Answer is some songs I don’t like as much but they are good filler when working in the office where I listen to music more quietly.


  17. Ray

    I had my Christmas music on a separate Mac and old iTunes and would just bring it up during the holidays, but because I have iTunes Match, they are still out there in the cloud and play at odd times. I will try to uncheck them and see if that helps.

  18. My wife and I are very much in the same boat. We’ve been talking about putting all of our CD covers into a binder so we can go back to that visual searching. But it’s yet another project we don’t have time for.

    Here’s how I’ve been muddling.

    First, I maintain a playlist called, quaintly, Andythology. I seeded it with my favorite music as found via a most-played utility list in iTunes. Whenever I hear anything I like in any other context, I’ll ask Siri to add it to Andythology. Every so often, I go through that list and sort it by skips and if I see something I’ve skipped a lot, that song gets removed. So the list is generally stuff I like and am not yet sick of. I have a lock screen widget (courtesy of some or other app that lets you add functional widgets to one of the four little icon spaces we get) that automatically starts Andythology on the Kitchen Home Pod Mini so I have my tunes when I cook food (especially because Siri has a really hard time with “Andythology” - so much so that for a long time before I did the lock screen widget I renamed it, “Stuff I like right now”).

    Next up, I use the recently added feature often in Music to find anything I added to my library recently. Generally works for the latest up and coming music. If I look at something and have no idea why it is there and listening for a minute or so does nothing for me I shrug and remove it from my library.

    Finally, I often use my iPad to curate what I listen to and there I use the app Albums, which provides exactly the visual approach I miss. (Marvis Pro and Soor can also do similar things but I just happen to like Albums). I also use Music Harbor to find out what is coming out that I want to check out.

    It’s not perfect but it gets the job done. Most of the time, anyway.

  19. It’s too bad that Siri doesn’t work well. I don’t use it, and seeing everyone’s experiences with it, I’m glad I don’t.

    Like Tommy and Lisa, I play music from playlists and curate my music, managing and storing it on my computer and sharing it with my iPods and iPhones. Ever since I started using iTunes almost 20 years ago, I’ve curated the music by differentiating the genre, rating, and unchecking the tracks I don’t want to hear. I’m not that picky about the music in my collection, so I assign easy genres as though they’re radio stations: rock, country, R&B, jazz, classical, humor, while I have a ‘pop’ genre for anything that doesn’t fall into one of the more definable types. The ratings help when I want to listen to songs based on how much they move me. Once the collection was big enough (about 10K then) and I had sufficiently curated the collection, I made a playlist that would prioritize the songs that haven’t been heard recently, where the periodicity varied based on the rating. I call it the “weighted” playlist, since it plays songs that I love more often than others, but includes them all. It’s sort of like the old-style radio stations that played the popular songs more often, but still threw in less popular songs along the way to keep it interesting. When I listen to the weighted playlist, I simply put it on shuffle mode and let it play.

    For the weighted playlist to work, I need a separate playlist for each of my ratings, and these provide the source for the weighted playlist. The 5-star playlist has the “last played” rule with the condition “not in the last”, and the number is 4 days. The 4-star playlist is set to 10 days, the 3-star to 28 days, and 2-star to 70 days. (I’ve tweaked these numbers over time.) If I were to let this playlist run continuously, it would take perhaps 6 months to get through all of the 2-star songs, while the 5, 4 and 3-star songs would have repeated along the way, but not too often to get bored with them.

    One reason why this system is best for me is my collection includes thousands of Japanese songs and thousands of humorous songs. (anyone remember Dr. Demento?) It’d take too long to find a DJ with the same tastes.

  20. I do this, by dragging and via Smart Playlists, grouping similar artists by name, but more often, by using tags in the Comment field like $Blues or $Background or $Child Ballads.

  21. One of the tells about how Siri functions and is designed (massive glossaries and lookup tables, rather than parsing) is that typing instructions works really well

  22. I mostly listen to radio stations on HomePod, and thru much trial and error, I have carefully crafted the following requests:

    • “play NPR News” (national, short latest news)
    • “play NPR Chicago” (or, Milwaukee or Nevada, if the Chicago station is playing a story about water rights in Zimbabwe or something else I don’t care to hear)
    • “play radio WCPT 820” (any variance of this, even the same words in a different order, usually fails.)

    I don’t listen to music as much, but I’ve found that using the words “song” or “album” makes Siri almost always get what I’m asking for.

  23. Me, daily.

    Also occurs when someone on the TV mentions Siri and it triggers our Homepod.

  24. My favourite way of listening to music is on Music using a smart playlist with those songs I have marked ‘loved’ (which is a subset of those I’ve ranked 5 star) that I haven’t listened to in the last 2 weeks playing with shuffle turned on. My 2nd favourite is the same except with all the 5 star rated songs I haven’t listened to in the last 2 weeks.

  25. Does Music seem to do the right thing with live updating of the smart playlist? I created one that showed music played today (in a couple of different ways) and it wouldn’t update after playing a song, either on the Mac or on the HomePod.

    This sort of approach would be useful to me only if it knew what had been played on any of my devices. But I like the idea of forcing it to play music I haven’t heard recently!

  26. I just use a playlist and don’t do music over the internet. I’m old school, but I have no issues!

  27. I’ve forever just wanted iTunes and now Music to play a shuffle of just downloaded music across artists or genres. But I have had zero success in getting a voice command to understand “downloaded music” or something like that. Even though it’s a specific section/subsection of music in the UI.

  28. You made me remember, I can’t make her play “Recently added”.

    I can’t even shuffle those manually, yet they are sitting right there as a section in my library.


  29. As mentioned earlier, Apple/Siri’s proclivity to pull songs from Apple Music rather than the local library is my pet hate.

    It’s so annoying it makes me want to cancel the Apple Music subscription. Surely it can’t be too hard to either default to the local library or at least give the user a preference to select the default search location.

  30. My smart playlists update as soon as the song is finished, it disappears from the playlist. It’s possible your problem with not updating is just your setup.

  31. In looking carefully at the contents of my smart playlist that shows music played in the last few days, it only shows songs played from my iPhone. I’m not sure why it’s not picking up stuff from Music on the Mac, but it did make me look more closely at our HomePods, and there the “Primary User” was set to “HomePod Account” rather than me. That would seem appropriate because if it doesn’t recognize my voice, it won’t change anything in my Apple Music account to account for what Tonya plays. But perhaps it’s not recognizing me at all, so everything is being recorded to HomePod Account rather than my Apple Music account. Time for some testing…

  32. I figured it out. Smart playlists only detect music you’ve played that already existed in your library and was played from your library. So if you play anything from Listen Now or use Siri, a smart playlist doesn’t know it happened.

  33. Also I find they only know about what was played from that particular device. When I switch from my Mac to my iPhone to my Windows laptop with iTunes the play lists of what I haven’t listened to recently are independent of each other.

  34. I believe the Preference settings item Use Listening History will help.

  35. One would expect it to, but it’s enabled on all my devices.

  36. Re ‘Apple/Siri’s proclivity to pull songs from Apple Music rather than the local library is my pet hate.’

    This is a hate of mine as well. It is made worse when I am driving in a remote pace where there is no internet available and Siri keeps wanting to go the Apple Music.

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