Before the iPhone launched in 2007 there was the iPod. Apple’s music player lives on inside the iPhone in the form of the Music app and the accompanying iTunes Store app.
Those of us who have been using iTunes since we had our first iPod may have thousands of tracks already queued up ready to play on our iPhone, while others may have just got an iPhone for the first time and be wondering how to listen to music on the iPhone.
In this complete guide to using music on the iPhone we’ll look at some of the basics of using the Music app on the iPhone, along with ways to get music on your phone, how to create playlists, how to play tracks on repeat, how to view lyrics, and how to rank your favourite tunes.
We’ll also talk about Apple Music and iTunes Match, and all the other ways in which you can enhance your music collection.
We’ll start with the basics, you can skip to another section by clicking on the links above.
The iPhone Music app
We’ll start by running through the Music app.
Start by clicking on the Music icon on your iPhone (shown below). This will open up the Library view (unless you are opening up the Music app for the first time in which case you may see a screen encouraging you to sign up for Apple Music – you don’t have to, you could just dismiss the option. On doing so you will enter the Library interface.)
If you have no music on your iPhone you will see a message saying Looking for your music? We’ll talk through adding music to an iPhone below, we also have this article: How to add music to iPhone.
If you do have music on your iPhone, you’ll see the following options: Playlists, Artists, Albums, Songs, Genres, Compilations, and Downloaded Music. Under that is Recently Added and at the bottom of the screen is a link to whatever is playing (if nothing is playing it will say Not Playing). Below all that you will see tabs for Library, For You, Browse, Radio and Search.
Click on Songs, here you will see any tracks you already have added to your iPhone, in alphabetical order. You can scroll through this list to see what tracks you might like to play (we’ll look at some of the reasons you might not be able to play tracks below).
If you have a lot of music in your iPhone you might find it easier to look at the Artist or Album view rather than Song view – both are accessed from the Library tab (tap at the top left of the screen to go back a step, or tap on Library at the bottom of the screen to return to the Library view).
There are various different ways to organise your music on your iPhone to make it easier to play the music you like. Click on Library and choose Playlists. Here you can add a playlist of tracks you want to listen to, for example, when you are at the gym, or when you are commuting to work. We’ll look in more detail at playlists below.
Alternatively, you can get your iPhone to play music from a particular Genre. Tap on Genres in the list on the Library page. There are lots of options here including Acoustic, Ambient, Classic Rock, Dance, Folk, Indie Rock, Metal, New Age and Oldies. How populated these categories are will depend on how much music you have on your iPhone. There’s also a tab for Compilations back on the Library screen.
Finally if you click Downloaded Music you can see only the music that is stored on your iPhone, we will discuss below how you can choose not to store all your music on your iPhone in order to save space, only downloading tracks when you want to play them.
Along side the Library tab at the bottom of the screen you’ll see the following options: For You, Browse, Radio and Search. For You will take you to Apple Music – we look in depth at what’s offered by the Apple Music here.
The Browse tab also showcases Apple Music content, including Apple Music Playlists, Music Videos, and Charts.
The Radio tab takes you to the Radio channels offered by Apple Music – again you’d need a subscription to the service to enjoy these.
Finally Search allows you to search Apple Music or Your Library for a track or artist. It searches Apple Music by default, but you can ta on the Your Library tab to just search your own collection.
That’s a quick overview. Now onto the nitty gritty.
How to add music to the iPhone
As we said above, we cover adding music to an iPhone in a separate article, however, to summarise:
There are a number of ways you can add music to your iPhone.
- You can purchase music from the iTunes Store.
- You can sign up to Apple Music.
- You can import music into iTunes on your Mac or PC and sync it with your iPhone.
- You can sign up for iTunes Match to sync your music across all your devices.
You will need an Apple ID in order to purchase music or sign up to Apple Music. We explain how to get an Apple ID here.
Next we will look at these methods of adding music to your iPhone.
How to purchase music from iTunes
To purchase music from the iTunes Store, click on the iTunes app on your iPhone (or iPad). It’s separate to the Music app.
You can browse the Store, look at Charts, or search for particular tracks. When you find something you want to buy you can play a sample of it, and then click on the price to buy it. The track will download and be added to your music collection.
How to import music from a Mac or PC
The easiest way to get your music from your Mac (or PC) onto your iPhone is via iTunes on your Mac (or PC).
- Connect your iPhone to your computer via the Lightning cable.
- Open iTunes on your computer.
- You should see an icon representing your iPhone appear in iTunes. Click on it.
- Click on Music and you should see an option to Sync Music. You can choose from selected playlists, artists, albums and more, or you can sync the entire music library (your choice will depend on how much space you have on your iPhone).
- The music will upload onto your iPhone.
How to sync music to your iPhone via WiFi
Alternatively, you could sync your music from your Mac to your iPhone over Wi-Fi. This is one of the options you’ll see when you plug your phone in to your Mac when using the Lightning cable.
- Plug in your iPhone as above.
- Under the Summary tab choose Sync with they iPhone over Wi-Fi.
Once you have selected Sync with they iPhone over Wi-Fi you won’t have to plug it in to your Mac again – ideal if you are likely to add music to your iTunes library.
Use iTunes Match to sync all your music
Another option is to sign up to iTunes Match. This will allow you to upload all your music to the cloud and then download any track onto any of your devices when you want to play it. This is a handy way to keep all your music in sync so you can play the same tunes on your work computer, your home computer, and on your iPhone and iPad.
iTunes Match costs £21.99 a year, one of the benefits is that you will automatically get 256Kbps quality versions of all your tracks that you can keep even if you don’t continue to subscribe.
We have a guide to using iTunes Match here, and a comparison between iTunes Match and Apple Music here. You can subscribe to iTunes Match here.
How to download music from Apple Music
If you sign up for Apple Music you’ll gain access to Apple’s entire catalogue of music – that’s 45 million tracks. It costs $9.99/£9.99 per month, or $14.99/£14.99 per month for a family subscription for six people.
If you decide to sign up to Apple Music you can stream any of these tracks on any of your devices. You can stream over a Wi-Fi connection or using 3G/4G (if you’d rather not pay for the data that way you can turn off mobile streaming).
If you’d like to have access to an track on Apple Music when you don’t have a data connection (for example, when you are on your daily commute) you can download tracks easily.
- Find the track you want to download.
- Tap on the + beside the track and wait for it to download.
- Go back to the Library view and you will find the track in Recently Added.
You can subscribe, or sign up for the free three month trial, to Apple Music here.
How to play music on the iPhone
Now that you have some music on your iPhone we can get onto how to play some tunes, and how to organise your library to make finding the music to match your mood easier.
Find the track you want to play, you could find something in Recently Added, or if you fancy listening to music from a particular genre tap on that option.
How you play the track depends on how you access it. If you are looking at a view with large album cover images (if no cover image is available you’ll see a default image of the iTunes musical notes) click on the cover image.
This will take you to a album view that could show other tracks from the same album (alternatively, if it’s a playlist you clicked on it will take you to a page showing the tracks in that playlist). Once in this view, click on the title of the track you want to play to start playing it.
Alternatively, click on the Songs tab to see all your individual songs listed, tap on one of these and the track will immediately start to play.
Now that a song is playing, you’ll see a flickering sound representation beside the track (if you are seeing this and not hearing anything you need to turn up the sound using the sound controls on the side of the phone).
If you want to see more information and have greater control over what you are hearing, tap on the bit at the bottom of the screen where you can see the cover picture, the name of the track and a pause and fast forward icon.
This will bring up a ‘card’ for the track playing. Here you will see a slider so you can quickly skip to a different part of the track, another slider to control the volume, forward, pause and reverse.
How to see lyrics
Want to sing along? When you have the Now Playing Card for the track playing open (as described above) you’ll notice that there are three dots in the bottom right. Click these to see a variety of options related to the track.
At the bottom of these options is Lyrics (this is available for most songs, but sometimes it won’t be there, in which case you’ll have to find the lyrics elsewhere).
Tap on Lyrics and it will bring up a page of lyrics for you. Enjoy singing along!
Alternatively, if you have the now playing card open all you need to do is swipe upwards on it and you’ll see the lyrics if they are available.
How to play a song on repeat
If you really like a particular song you might like to play it on repeat. (We won’t judge you!) Here’s how to do that:
Open the now playing card as above, then swipe upwards on it to reveal the Shuffle and Repeat tab.
If a song is stuck on repeat, you just need to swipe up on this and tap the Repeat button again.
How to play more songs like this
If you really like a song rather than playing it over and over again you could get the Music app to make a playlist based on that track. If you subscribe to Apple Music, this can be a great way to discover new music.
After clicking on the three dots at the bottom right, tap on Create Station.
The next song that plays will be based on Apple’s algorithm that decides if a song is like another song.
How to make a playlist
Going on a car journey or wanting to create a playlist for the gym? It’s easy to make a playlist of your favourite tracks so that you can control what song plays next. There are a couple of ways to do this.
One way to start is from the Library tab. Tap on Playlists.
Here you can either add (or remove) songs from a playlist you have already created, or create a new playlist. Tap New Playlist to do the latter.
On the New Playlist screen you can add a Playlist Name, description and a image (if you don’t add an image it will create an image from the tracks you add). And, obviously you can add music.
To add music, tap where it says + Add Music. This will bring up your usual Library view, so you can find the tracks to add by looking under Artist, Genres, and Recently Added, for example. You can also search for tracks.
If you find. Song you want to add to the playlist tap on the track and the + will turn into a tick.
Tap on Done to return to your new playlist.
If there are tracks here that you have decided you don’t want in your playlist, tap on the red – and you’ll see the option to delete.
If you are playing a track and you think you’d like to put it in a playlist, you can do so by opening the now playing card, tapping the three dots, and tapping Add to Playlist.
You will be able to add the track to a new playlist, or to any of the playlists you have created.
How to find recently played, most played
We used to make playlists based on the tracks we liked the most – which tended to be the ones recently played, or most played. But since Apple introduced iOS 10 in 2016 it’s been tricky to find this information.
One way to see the tracks you have recently played is to open the For You section. Here you will see any playlists, or albums which you have recently played tracks from. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you the actual track you played, directing you instead to the album the track was on.
There is another way to see the tracks you recently played, but that involves leaving the Music app and opening Messages. Here’s how to do that:
- Open Messages and open a message thread.
- Tap the App Store icon and this will open various tabs.
- Click on the Music tab (signified by the musical note icon). Now you can see all the tracks you recently played.
You could tap on a track and share it with a friend who has Apple Music – or you could share the track with yourself by sending yourself an iMessage, at least then you have a record of the track. You can even play it directly from inside the Message thread.
We hope Apple will return this functionality to the Music app in iOS 12 when it arrives in autumn 2018.
As for finding your most played tracks or to create a playlist of your recently played tracks, this requires you to open iTunes on your Mac and create a Smart Playlist. We’ll look at how to do that next.
How to create smart playlists
Smart playlists can’t be created on an iPhone unfortunately. You’ll need iTunes on a Mac or PC to do this.
- Open iTunes on your Mac (or PC).
- File > New > Smart Playlist. (Or Alt/Option + Command + N)
- If you want to create a playlist of the songs played recently, create a rule that matches that criteria. So, for example: Match > Music for the following rules: Last Played > In the last > 12 Months (to get a playlist of all the music you have played over the past 12 months).
- If you want to limit your playlist to fewer items, you can choose to Limit to  items, and then select that by ‘Recently Played’, ‘Most Often Played’, or ‘Recently Added’.
- Finally, if you select Live updating, as soon as you play a track on your iPhone it will automatically appear in this smart playlist.
Note: If you have Apple Music and listen to suggested tracks there, via an Apple Music playlist for example, they will not appear in this list.
If you wanted to create a Most Played list, you could set the following rules: Last Played > In the last > 12 Months. Limit to 25 items selected by Most Often Played.
How to see what’s up next
Whether you are listening to an Apple Music playlist, a playlist you created yourself, or just have all your music on shuffle, you may be interested in what song will play next.
When a song is playing you can see what track will play next by opening the Now Playing Card and swiping upwards.
How to add a track to play next
While you are playing a track you can scoot off into your music library and find the next track you want to play. Here’s how to make that track automatically play after the one you are listening to finishes.
- Tap on the cover image for the track you want to play next.
- Then tap on the three dots in a red circle.
- Tap on Play Next. Your iPhone will play that track next.
Alternatively, tap on Play Later to add to the queue if you have already added a few tracks to play next.
How to change the order of tracks in Up Next
As before, you can open the Now Playing Card and swipe upwards.
Tap on the three lines on the left of the tracks that are queued up in Up Next and drag the entry to change the order.
This is a particularly good feature to use if you are streaming a playlist from Apple Music and don’t fancy waiting to hear a track play.
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