The best tips and tricks for YouTube Music

Everything you need to master YouTube Music.

person in sunglasses using headphones
YouTube Music: sunglasses not included.Luke Dahlgren via Unsplash

As far as Google-owned music streaming services go, Google Play Music is the past and YouTube Music is the future, even if the company hasn't completely merged the older service into the newer one yet. Whether you've already switched to the latter or are thinking about investing the $10 a month you need to gain unlimited access, these tips and tricks will help you get the most out of the service.

Before we get into it, here's a bonus tip: consider getting YouTube Premium for $12 a month, instead of YouTube Music. It costs a little more, but it includes the music streaming service and some useful extras for YouTube in general, including ad-free watching and the ability to download videos (music or otherwise) to your mobile devices.

1. Search by lyric

YouTube Music's lyric search tool
Find a song, even if you only know the chorus.David Nield

YouTube Music is smart enough to work out what you're after even if you only know a few snippets of the lyrics. Try typing a few lines into the search box at the top of the interface and see what comes up.

It doesn't work perfectly every time, especially if you're looking for common words that match up with a lot of song and album titles, but it definitely does enough to be helpful.

2. Queue up songs for offline listening

If you find yourself without an internet connection on the go, don't panic—the YouTube Music apps for Android and iOS come with a specially curated "Offline mixtape" playlist. It considers your listening history, picks a few old favorites, and automatically syncs them to your device. To find yours, tap your avatar icon in the top right of the main screen, then choose Downloads.

You can't add specific songs to the list, but it does refresh every 24 hours based on your recent listens, as long as your device is connected to Wi-Fi. You can, however, change the length of the offline mixtape: tap your avatar, pick Settings, then Library and downloads on Android or Downloads and storage on iOS.

3. Find your playlists in YouTube

YouTube Music playlists
As a bonus, we're giving you some songs to sit around by.David Nield

Google doesn't quite seem to have sorted out exactly where YouTube ends and YouTube Music begins, but maybe that's the point. If you load up YouTube in any browser or app, you'll be able to get at your YouTube Music playlists, as long as you're signed in with the same Google account.

This can be useful if you don't want to switch back and forth between interfaces, or if you want to mix music videos with other video clips in a new playlist. Any changes you make in YouTube, such as removing songs, appear in YouTube Music as well.

4. Play MP3s from your phone

The YouTube Music app for Android recently picked up a feature from Google Play Music, which is still limping along. The update allows you to play MP3 files stored on your Android device through the app. Google promises all the features will eventually transfer over, but it's taking its time.

Enable the feature by tapping your avatar, then choosing Settings, Library and downloads, and Show device files. To find tracks saved to your phone, open the Library tab, then pick Playlists, followed by Device files.

5. Improve your recommendations

Every music streaming service needs a solid recommendation engine and YouTube Music is no different. It actually does a decent job of suggesting new artists and songs you might want to listen to, based on what you've already had on heavy rotation.

To give the service a helping hand, tap or click your avatar in the web interface or mobile apps, then choose Settings, and Improve your recommendations. If you're using iOS or the web, there's an extra Recommendations submenu between the two. Pick any artists you like from those suggested.

6. Access stats for nerds

YouTube Music's stats for nerds
YouTube Music's "stats for nerds" gives you a lot to analyze.David Nield

YouTube Music has borrowed the "stats for nerds" feature from YouTube proper. This is basically an overlay that shows detailed information such as the video frame size, audio fidelity, bit rate, and more—stats for nerds, basically. You can view this data in the mobile apps, but not on the web.

To enable this feature on Android, tap your avatar, then Settings, Advanced, and Enable stats for nerds. On iOS, it's Settings, then Playback & restrictions, and Stats for nerds. On both platforms, once stats are enabled, you'll need to tap on a video while it's playing, then press the three dots in the top right and choose Stats for nerds.

7. Adjust audio and video quality

The YouTube Music apps for Android and iOS let you choose the quality of the audio and video you get, whether you’re downloading tracks to your devices or streaming them over the air. It's up to you where you draw the line between quality and your desire to save on local storage or data usage.

To make your selections, tap your avatar, then Settings to find the audio and video quality options. If you're on iOS, there's an extra Playback & restrictions menu you'll need to go through. The Settings menu is also where you'll find the option to disable streaming over cellular connections to save on data usage.

8. Pause your watching history

YouTube and YouTube Music share your viewing history, which can be really helpful or really unhelpful, depending on how you use both services. Just because you're checking out a lot of Taylor Swift videos doesn't necessarily mean you want to see a lot of her music in your suggested songs.

To have YouTube Music ignore your YouTube viewing history for a while, open up the web interface, then click your avatar, Settings, Privacy, and Pause watch history. You can also clear your entire watch history from the same dialog and start again from scratch.

9. Add to your library

As a YouTube Music subscriber, you've got access to tens of millions of tracks and videos, but that can sometimes be just too much to deal with. To start curating your own personal library, click Add to library on the pages of albums you like, and Subscribe on the pages of artists you want to follow.

These albums and artists will show up in the Library section of YouTube Music, whether you're on mobile or the web. It makes finding your way around your favorite music a little bit easier, and if you subscribe to a particular artist, you may start seeing notifications about new releases.