How Much Does Shuffle Play Really Matter?

How Much Does Shuffle Play Really Matter?
walkmanBeing able to shuffle your music at random is one of the main benefits of the digital music era, but is it something you really use on a regular basis?

The BBC News Magazine recently wrote up the results of an interesting experiment: asking a 13-year old to forsake an iPod and instead try out an original, tape-playing Walkman. Apart from the predictable grumbling about the size and not realising you could turn the tape over, one of Scott Campbell’s biggest complaints was the lack of a shuffle feature:

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn’t is “shuffle”, where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down “rewind” and releasing it randomly – effective, if a little laboured.

In practice, shuffle tends to divide music lovers. Many enjoy the unexpected nature of surfing into forgotten corners of their collection, but others prefer the whole-of-album experience that comes from listening to a planned sequence of tracks.

So we want to know: which side of the fence are you on? Is shuffle play (whether on an iPod or elsewhere) a critical feature for you, a nice but not necessary extra, or a nuisance you never touch? Share your groove in the comments. Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

Giving up my iPod for a Walkman [BBC News Magazine]


  • Shuffle is Ultra-Critical for me, I LOVE shuffle, I am the type of user to have my list of 4 and 5 star songs, and then just let it rip on random, never really needing to change many of the settings, And Its AWESOME!

  • Shuffle play is a must for me; my listening habits are usually a quick browse through my most recent additions, before flicking into shuffling through my whole library. Couldn’t live without it.

  • I couldn’t live without shuffle! I use it 90% of the time. Occasionally I come across a track by an artist I really feel like listening to, then I turn shuffle off, but otherwise it’s shuffle all the way!

  • Definitely need to shuffle! I love being surprised to hear a song in my collection I haven’t heard in ages. I shuffle all my songs and just let it play… I hardly ever listen to entire albums in sequence like I used to do with CD’s… Shuffle is the definitely the best thing to come with an iPod.

  • Depends how I’m feeling – usually when I’m at home (with access to the super-gigantic music collection), I’ll pull up an album or two and play them straight through as the artist intended. I like being able to pick music to go with workouts too – nothing like getting into a good hard working groove then having a really slow track come on. Sometimes I’ll pull up a playlist and put that on shuffle though – most of my playlists are random selections of songs I enjoy listening to, with the mood/tempo/etc being how they’ve been selected to go into the list, but the actual order unimportant.

    When I’m at work, I sometimes listen to a particular album, when it comes to mind and I want to hear it (one office I worked in had an air con unit that would sometimes hum in the very background in a way that reminded me of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine album), but lately I’ve been just setting my 4,500 songs, most of which were put on there by my partner, onto shuffle, to listen to some new stuff. There’s always fast forward/skip if I hit something I particularly dislike, and I’ve discovered a few new favourites doing this.

  • Shuffle is my preference for the portable devices, and when I’m listening to the music. When I’m writing, working or using it for performance enhancement in gaming, it’s a preset list. Mind you, I was fond of the random button on the CD player when it first appeared – and that was within a finite 60 minutes of a CD from the same artist

  • Shuffle is a big nuisance – iPods annoyingly keep turning it on – I can see perhaps why for what iPod calls Songs but Music also includes Classical and parts of symphonies are not Songs and I do not want Shuffle I want to hear as per Album. Also chapters of books – not Podcasts.

    Apple seem to think Shuffle is a feature you want and insist on turning on again and again.
    iTunes is a Pop music concept

  • Shuffle is great. I listen to my iPod on shuffle all the time (for example today while picking lettuce for 10 hours)…it’s great to keep things fresh. But I also use…’non-shuffle’ a lot as well. Generally just when listening to whole albums and/or soundtracks I like to get the experience as it as made.
    Without shuffle it would start to get a bit boring.

  • Definitely shuffle, its why i love my Rio Karma, i could easily make a playlist on the fly, play a particular song, artist, an album or x hours long random playlist.

    I almost always picked a few hours of random music. when your top 20 favorite songs consists of nearly 2,000 songs random is pretty much the only way to listen to music.

  • shuffle, never thought to use it.
    One of those added extras, features I thnk they’re called, I’ve never understood, you pay for but never use, like the 10 buttons on the washing machine, doesn’t it just wash?

  • Hardly ever shuffle, occasionally pick random tracks.

    Noramally full albums… could handle shuffle by album 😉

    The tracks on *real* albums are in order for a reason.

  • I use shuffle almost all the time, except when listening to new albums. I have a playlist for new albums, and I like to listen to the complete album in one sitting as it gives me a better feel for the artist. Having said that, I normally just change shuffle to Album rather than Song, so it would seem I’m a shuffler through & through!

  • Shuffle-not. Apart from shuffle being anathema to classical music, albums to me are associated wih moods- so for example, I can get into a “Beatles” mood, or a “Dave Brubeck” mood, I just want to listen to Bach, because I am in a “Baroque” mood.

  • I am amazed at how many people use shuffle. I only listen to albums, I agree with Sydney2K, music has themes and tones, and having it on shuffle seems to me like you’re treating it like background noise.

    • Shuffle… with a twist. Set up a bunch of smartplaylists with limited populations, some ratings-based. Then set up a ‘master smartplaylist’ that uses the others as feeds, voila, shuffle with profiles. On a mac of course.

  • Generally not a fan of shuffle because i like to appreciate albums as a whole but i do find it good on long car trips by myself where i can’t change albums easily.

Log in to comment on this story!