How to fix the not so random shuffle in iTunes or on your iPod/iPhone

By Cliff Kapatais | September, 29, 2008 | 8 comments

Red iPod Nano

I love my iThings, but one thing really really really annoys me when listening to music on my iPod or on my computer via iTunes and that is the random shuffle function! Why? Because it simply doesn’t shuffle randomly…

The Problem
You have a couple of thousand songs and have set random shuffle in iTunes yet after a while you keep hearing the same songs over and over again!

The Explanation
Apple uses something called a smart play list, which in principle is a cool idea. Your iPod or iTunes keeps a count of how often you listen to a song and how often you skip a song and adapts its random shuffle accordingly so you keep hearing songs you “like” more often and songs you keep skipping get removed from the random shuffle. After a while however you will only hear the same songs again and again even though you have thousands of titles in your library.

The Solution
There are several solutions to this problem:

  • Use your own play lists and don’t random shuffle- duh!
  • Use smart play lists – select not played in the last 2 days or something similar
    or really solve the problem and
  • Reset the counters!
    Simply select all your songs (shortcut: ctrl+a / command+a) and then right-click on a selected title. In the context menu that pops up then select “Reset Play Count” and “Reset Skip Count” and you’re done!
    If you did this in your music library don’t forget to sync your device, you can also do this straight on your pod or phone when it is connected…
Reset Counters in iTunes

Reset Counters in iTunes

In my opinion this really “resets” the random shuffle to as random as it gets, you need to repeat this little trick occasionally to keep it random…

Any one else have any decent solutions to this problem? Please let me know…

Happy Shuffling! ;)

8 Responses to How to fix the not so random shuffle in iTunes or on your iPod/iPhone

  • Justin

    I just made a smart playlist that only grabs songs that are at 0 plays. I have been struggling with this for a long time. I have thousands of songs and I would always hear the same ones.

    I like your suggestion to reset the playcount. who needs that anyways.

  • Erich

    If you have an iPod Touch or iPhone, try True Shuffle ( ) Listen to all your songs, with no repeats ever! :-)

  • Nathan

    When I use shuffle on iTunes or my iPod, it clumps together all the songs of a band. It’s always the same band, too. Is this a problem with the files themselves, or in fact, with the shuffle?

  • Cliff

    Hi Nathan,

    The random suffle on the iPod is just really weird and doesn’t quite work imho. Read a great article about it here:

    You might want to try genius playlists and see if they help you solve your problem. If you find any other good solution please let me know…

    Cheers, Cliff.

  • chris

    You’ve given me an idea.

    Problem: Let’s say you have 10,000 + songs and after a year or two you haven’t even listened to 50+% of them and ‘shuffle’ ignores them.

    Solution: Make a new playlist called “zero plays”. Sort your library by # of plays & drag all the songs w/ zero plays to the new playlist. Put that playlist on shuffle!

  • matt

    Has anyone ever looked into the possibility that record companies can pay Apple to “elevate” the probability of their artists song coming up? Call it a personal conspiracy theory of mine but I have become aware that a certain artist suddenly is played a lot and upon checking yep they have a new album coming out. Today I listened to 4 Coldplay tracks in one hour after not hearing them for a month and you guessed it new album out soon!

  • blowby

    From another user, she makes a playlist like so:

    1) Create a Smart Playlist.
    2) Set the criteria: Last Played > is not in the last > 1 weeks (or another time period if you prefer.)
    3) Check the “Limit To” checkbox and set, for example, “25 > items > selected by random” (this is up to you.)
    4) Check the “Live Updating” checkbox.

    Works great. You can also add additional criteria like ratings, etc.

  • Prosit

    Problem with all these are that you need to use this useless piece of harddrive filler called iTunes…

    I love my iEverything, but hate iTunes with a passion… It’s interesting that the people who blame Microsoft for their controlling a browser are the same nerds who are ok with Apple’s crappy controlling software (yeah, don’t get me started :))

    Anyway, if you mr. Apple Developer is reading this (and I’m guessing you’re not)… Implement a true shuffle now… And let me control my music from my device… let me delete a song, add a song (without using the app-store) let ME decide what and how I want to do it. I know you are trying to protect the dumb from themselves, but the dumb wont get smarter if you don’t give them a chance to learn from making mistakes.

    My 2 cents…


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