Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Make an iTunes Workout or Mood Playlist With Itunes, MixMeister & ITLU

I've been experimenting with different music play lists for my workouts and made a few by manually searching through my tunes and finding ones I thought would be good for workouts, but I wanted a more automated way of making random play lists for workouts. I'm going to tell you what I ended up doing to make this process easier and more automated for me. Hopefully it will help you as well.

This How-To was written with the intent of making exercise play lists, but really the same concept could be used to make different mood-based play lists. We'll start by identifying the Bets Per Minute (BPM) for each of the songs in our music collection. Beats per minute is basically the average beats of percussion per minute for a song. The more beats, the faster paced the song in theory.

Using two free programs, we can add the beats per minute (BPM) tag to all of the music files in your music collection.

MixMeister is a free download that does a pretty good job and finding the average BPM for songs and applying the BPM value into the ID3 tag.
  • Download MixMeister here
  • Run MixMeister and select "import music files" from MixMeister
  • MixMeister will now review every music file you selected and assign the average BPM to each file. This will be written to the files ID3 tag. (note that this could take some time if you have a large music collection - it took several hours for my very large collection)
Now you have the BPM's marked in all of your music files, but because iTunes doesn't yet see the changes you made to the ID3 tags (with the BPM data), you need to use the free, iTunes Library Updater (ITLU) program to update the music tags that have changed.

  • Download ITLU from here
  • Install & run ITLU
  • Select the music folder/s with the updated tags
  • Once ITLU is complete, iTunes should then now have the BPM field populated.
Now you can make smart play lists in iTunes using the Beats Per Minute. If you need guidance on creating a smart play list in iTunes, read this how-to by Apple. While you are making your smart playlist, be sure and keep in mind that this process is based on average beats per minute. It doesn't take in to account a slow start of a song or varying speed within one song. It also ignores the genre of the songs. You may still need to scan through your finished play list to give it the "human check" and be sure it resulted in a play list you want.

For my fast-paced smart playlist I had the following fields selected:

  • BPM is greater than 130
  • Genre is not Podcast
  • Genre is not Oldies
  • My Rating is greater than **
  • Last Played is not in the last 10 days
  • Limit to 75 items selected by random

You now have the tools you need to make playlists with the BPU info. I have three smart play lists for workouts. One for the slow portion of my workouts like stretching and other slower exercises, a second for moderate movement exercises and a third for fast-paced exercises. Below are some very basic guidelines for BPM and the types of workout speed I associate with them.

Guidelines for BPM:
  • Under 100 BPM - Songs in this range are fairly slow. Use these songs for parts of your workout that are slower paced.
  • 100-130 BPM - For walking and other portions of your workout that are a little faster paced
  • 130 and up BPM - These songs are better for higher impact exercise such as jogging, running and other cardio. Over 180 seems to be pretty good for out-right running.
You can find suggestions for workout playlists/songs at these links also:

Bodybuilding Forums

If any of you have other suggestions for workout playlist building I'd love to hear from you in the comments.