Your own iTunes music categories

I was trying to figure out how to classify Dan Hicks as I ripped Beatin' The Heat and some of his oldies for delivery to my iPod. The Gracenote database puts him under rock. Rock?--I don't think so. Maybe I need to create a Swing category, but that would make for some hairy decisions with some of my Jazz tunes. Maybe Country Swing. I don't think of Dan as country, but that would allow me to put him in there with Bob Wills, which I don't think Dan would mind. Maybe I need a String Swing category; then I can have Dan and Bob live with Django.

I have Eva Cassidy in Pop, with Frank Sinatra. As I hardly have any AM radio type Pop in my collection, Pop is an available category for me. Maybe I'll put Rickie Lee Jones' album of covers, It's Like This, in there. But creating a Vocals category, as vague as that would be, might speak to my listening habits better.

The playback options of disk-based music systems makes this categorizing question much more significant than just deciding how to arrange your LPs or CDs on a shelf. In my physical collection, I use as few categories as possible. iTunes calls for a different approach, without going overboard.

Any examples of music categories you've made up to fit your collection or listening habits better? Any stock categories that you find useless?
Organizing your music collection via iTunes can make for some interesting decisions. I personally put Dan Hicks in the pop genre, but then again pop is the most ill-defined grouping I keep. To some extent because of the smart playlist feature it really doesn't matter if you come up with highly specific genres. For instance, let's say you call Dan Hicks "pop/jazz/swing (western)", you can then create a genre based smart playlist where it will show up under "pop", "jazz", "swing" or "western", plus allow you to have the flexibility to not include it in certain playlist. You could do one where you specify swing, but not western. Also if you use the comment category you can get even more creative.

When I first started using iTunes I tried to keep the number of playlists to a minimum, but over time I've changed my strategy and now have more than a hundred separate playlists. Exactly how you organize will really be determined by your music collection and how you really listen to it. For me I couldn't tell the difference between jungle, drum & bass, techno and house, but I do have separate playlists for 50s R&B, 60's Soul, Motown, Urban R&B and Rap/Hip Hop. 50s Miles Davis is different than the 60s quintet which in turn is different than his fusion efforts. There's a Joni Mitchell pop list and a different Joni folk list. At the same time I got a single playlist for Bob Dylan/Elvis Costello (and this includes their songs performed by others).

There's no right or wrong way to do it. This is especially true since with the smart playlist feature the playlists are easily added, changed or deleted. The key is properly encoding the songs when you add them. For me song ratings, genre, comments and composer are the most useful categories.
You're right -- playlists are what give you the flexibility to program your own listening moods and habits into the iPod...and free yourself from artificial categories. I haven't spent much time creating playlists yet. But the fact that you can build playlists out of other playlists makes the possibilities endless. In the little bit of playlisting I've done, I've used playlists to make exceptions... that is, I've made playlists of music that I don't want to be included in a much larger playlist built from more general criteria. I like that a lot.

Sometime down the road, iPod software will include the ability to edit playlists on the iPod itself, and then to download the playlists to your computer. I can see the necessary software interface fitting right in with the current iPod interface. I will enjoy that, because the time that I have most available for messing around with playlists is when I'm actually listening to the iPod. But the iPod is great as is.

Right now, I don't have much time to sit at the computer and create playlists. Onhwy, I can see how having a disk-based home music system would lead one into playlisting as a serious recreational and intellectual activity.

The only way to maximize efficiency and descriptive nature is to have categories that can be AND'd together. I don't believe any of the current music library programs do this, though you can do it with "searches" selectively by putting in keywords in known fields. Still, I have found trying to set up WMP this was as fairly cumbersome and non-intuitive.

The most flexible version of this I have found to date was with the shareware program that was used to drive the SLINKE system - a serial port control box to control CD changers. Having all those wires was clunky, and the software had some significant issues, but they gave you a highly customizable keyword list for which you could set any that applied just by clicking on them. You could then search with complex logical equations. So, you could add keywords like "Live" or "Cover" to be able to take a typical genre and hear only live music of that genre. Not sure how useful that would be to many people, but the interface allowed for more possibility than anything I've seen yet.