It’s True – You Can Judge Music

Ever since I’ve started using iTunes I’ve never really cared much for the ratings feature. I’ve pretty much been the kind of person that questions how you can measure quality of music and how the properties of quality are defined (yes, I finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance recently).

I’ve given that up. Clearly, for me, there is music that is great and music that just plain sucks. Somehow I’ve defined what makes up or is lacking in both extremes. Because of this, I’ve found the ratings feature to be useful. In fact, the ratings feature is more like a reminder of how often I’m likely to listen to something.

1 Star: Music I don’t particularly like but is for some reason important for me to keep around, otherwise I would’ve deleted it. Usually it’s the one completely terrible track on one of my favorite albums. Current count: 37.

2 Stars: Music that’s not completely terrible, but could be a short throwaway track from an album I enjoy. Current count: 269

3 Stars: Doesn’t really thrill me, but I don’t hate it either. Current count: 1,352.

4 Stars: Like this track and want to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the library, which is weird because I think most tracks may fall under this. Current count: 1,481.

5 Stars: Should be played at my funeral. Current count: 234

The other reason to rate music is to craft playlists. Maybe I’ll want to make a smart playlist of music with 1 star to go through and ask myself why I think this track only deserves one star. Or, if I’ve rated something 4 stars or higher and it’s not in my “Notables” playlist (a conglomeration of my favorite playlists) I can make a playlist that points those tracks out.

Of course, the problem with rating tracks is that it’s a tedious and time consuming process. Sizzlingkeys attempts to solve that and most iTunes issues.

The problem with using iTunes in a working environment is that there’s no system-wide process in OSX to change tracks, volume, etc. If I’m writing a paper in Word and some track comes on that I don’t want to listen to, I’d have to STOP whatever I’m doing in Word and switch to iTunes to change the track. If I’ve got iTunes floating as a mini window I’d have to take my hands off the keyboard to use my mouse to change the track.

What Sizzlingkeys does is enable system level shortcuts for iTunes. It won’t matter what program is currently active, I can control iTunes the same way as I could copy something to the clipboard. For example, I’ve assigned ALT+COMMAND+RIGHT ARROW to go to the next track. Similar shortcuts exist for muting, almost muting, playing, and setting the volume.

Sizzlingkeys is also responsible for getting me interested in rating tracks. CTRL+(a number) easily assigns the currently playing track a rating. So if I’m listening to a track and hit CTRL+3 I’ve just assigned that track 3 stars. So, I rate music as I’m listening to it, and since I use my iPod at work (in a manually managed mode on my Mac there) the ratings I’ve assigned during the day sync back up with my main iTunes library.

I’ve been doing this for a month and have about 8,000 unrated tracks.

Sizzlingkeys has changed the way I listen to music and it’s free. You can get the “Pro” version with more features for $5. Check it out here.