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Mixtape Mondays: Discovering Playlists with iTunes, Grooveshark, Pandora

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This is a crazy week for me since summer camp is over now… that means I’m not at the computer very much, and I’m spending a lot of time with Zachary before he starts Preschool next Monday. So, the mixes I’ve been listening to are a little different from usual and I don’t have a mix for you this week. Instead… I wanted to write a post about how to discover new mixes and new music when you want a good variety of songs and don’t want to listen to the same old stuff all the time, or even if you just don’t have the time or energy to create something new (like me this week)!

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Occasionally I listen to music using the iTunes Genius Playlists. You can use this feature on your computer, iPhone, iPod, etc. I’ve been using it on my iPhone since that’s been easiest this past week, as I just plug my iPhone into my iHome device. I like it because I pick a song that I’m in the mood for, and it creates a playlist from your music library based on the “feel” of that song. Most of the time it’s pretty good, but sometimes it throws something in that really doesn’t belong… like a random Britney Spears track that is in my music library, but really shouldn’t be in the playlist.

Overall it’s a pretty good way of listening to music that you will overall be in the mood for. I find that it works best for me when my library is already narrowed down to my favorite tunes, such as on my phone rather than my full library of thousands of songs, but then again, it gets more boring that way. I should probably change up some of the music on my phone so I can utilize the Genius feature better.

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The second method I use is a service called Pandora. To use Pandora, you have to sign up for a free account with them. You can listen from your iPod touch, computer, iPhone, Droid, and maybe other types of smart phones as well… Their selections for you are really spot on and I like being able to bookmark certain artists or songs that I like so that I can check into them later. You can also give thumbs up or thumbs down to songs that you like or don’t like, or just skip over songs that you’re not in the mood for (though they do seem to limit the number of songs that you can skip in a certain period of time).

With Pandora, you create different “stations” based on what you’re interested in. They have a million different genres to select from – Protest music, College indie, Cuban, Rockabilly, Showtunes, even Bollywood. No matter what your music tastes are or whatever you want to hear… it’s on Pandora. You can also create your own station based on the artist that you’d like to hear. They will play that artist’s songs as well as songs by similar musicians. I have a few that I created based on some of my favorite artists, and I also created a Laurie Berkner station (make sure you enter my giveaway for her new CD) so I could listen to music with Zachary in an easy way. I love Pandora because it’s an amazing way to discover new music that you never would have heard otherwise, and it’s easy to bookmark songs that you like if you want to remember them.

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The third and final way I listen to new music online is with Grooveshark. I’ve only just started using this web application, and it’s incredibly powerful. I know I have not yet tapped its potential and look forward to discovering everything that it has to offer. I first learned about Grooveshark because of referrals from friends, plus I found out that they’re from Gainesville, which is where I went to college (at the University of Florida).

They have a huge stock of music that is online and searchable so you can listen to all kinds of music on demand, even if it’s not in your own personal music library. I like this for when I’m in the mood to hear a song that I don’t necessarily want to purchase. They have an iPhone app, however it’s only free for 30 days, and then appears to be about $3 per month. With the iPhone app, you can access all the playlists that you create online or search for “any song in the word” and add it to a new playlist. You have all kinds of controls and even an option to purchase the song from iTunes if desired.

On both the desktop and iPhone app, they have a radio feature, similar to Pandora, where they’ll play a similar song to the one you have selected if you have “radio” turned on. Their iPhone app seems to be just as fast as Pandora. I’m not so sure about some of the song selections on the radio feature, but I’m sure that will get better with time, too. Grooveshark also allows you to bookmark songs that you like by adding them to your favorites when you hear them played on the “radio” and you can give a happy or sad face to songs that you think are good or bad.

One more cool thing about Grooveshark that the others don’t have is that you can connect with friends who are also using Grooveshark and view playlists they’ve created and artists they’ve bookmarked. This is way cool, especially if you have friends who either like the same type of music as you, or if you want to discover something new from a friend who is interested in a different genre. Overall, Grooveshark rocks, and I can’t wait to learn how to use it better!

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So, those are my 3 favorite ways to listen to music using my computer and iPhone. Overall, my favorite option for listening on the computer is Grooveshark. Their desktop web-app is amazing! On the iPhone I definitely prefer Pandora over iTunes Genius for listening to new music, but if I want to listen to a good variety in my music library and not stick with the same mix or same album, I enjoy changing things up with a good Genius playlist, though that seems to work best with a better variety of my favorite tunes.

Hope you enjoyed my review of these 3 applications… Happy listening!

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