Refine and Combine Searches in Spotify - dummies

Refine and Combine Searches in Spotify

By Kim Gilmour

You can further refine your search results in Spotify by including different types of queries in one single search. Spotify recognizes common advanced search syntaxes, including AND, OR, and NOT. These terms must be entered in capital letters for Spotify to understand them.

The plus symbol (+) in front of a word can be substituted for the word AND, and a minus symbol (–) can be substituted for the word NOT. Don’t include spaces before the keyword or search parameter when you use either of these symbols.

Use AND to combine search terms in Spotify

Including AND to join up two sets of terms means the search must include both of the words (or quotes) on either side of the AND. Spotify most likely gives you results that include both words or quotes anyway, but if you want to be extra sure, always include the AND. To search for tracks by the Foo Fighters that only include Live in the song or album title, you can search for artist:“Foo Fighters” AND live.

Or to search for tracks released by the band only during 2001 through 2011, search for artist:“Foo Fighters” AND year:2001-2011.

Use NOT to refine search terms in Spotify

The search results for artist:“Foo Fighters” AND year:2001-2011 shows that the Foo Fighters also brought out a Greatest Hits album during the 2000s that includes songs released in the 1990s. To ditch that album from the results, refine the search by searching for artist:“Foo Fighters” AND year:2001-2011 NOT album:“Greatest Hits”. You can then easily select all the results and drag them into a new playlist, if you want.

Use OR to refine search terms in Spotify

Use OR when you want to find a match for any term you list — don’t get it confused with AND, which is a more limiting search term and requires both search terms to be present. For example, to search for songs by either Michael Jackson or Jackson 5, type “Michael Jackson” OR “Jackson 5”. (If you’re a stickler for detail, you can search for artist:“Michael Jackson” OR artist:“Jackson 5”, but the results are good enough without using the artist: parameter.)

Multiple search strings in Spotify

You can add more ANDs, NOTs or ORs to your searches — you aren’t restricted to using each term just once. Keep adding ORs if you want to feature multiple results. For example, Supergrass OR Blur OR Elastica OR Verve OR Pulp brings up results for all of these five Britpop artists.

Here’s another example. Say you want to discover some old American jazz and Broadway standards. When you do a search for great American songbook, the top results you get are a whole load of recent Rod Stewart covers because he’s released several volumes of music under the name The Great American Songbook. You also see many results from Aretha Franklin’s similar tribute.

But — although you’re sure that Rod and Aretha do the songs justice — you’re really after some earlier or more original versions. You can find plenty of other albums called Great American Songbook.

All you have to do is search for album:“great American songbook” NOT stewart NOT aretha (making sure that the word NOT is in capital letters) or, if you’re using the minus symbol, “great American songbook” -stewart -aretha. (You don’t always have to use the album: parameter — the keywords “great American songbook” should be enough in this case.)


You still get the occasional modern tribute, but the results are far more manageable than the dozens of Rod songs that appear in a search for simply great American songbook.

The NOT term is very versatile. Anyone who had a heart broken in 1973 and wants to avoid listening to all songs released that year can type year:1970-1979 NOT year:1973. That means Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road remains firmly out of the picture.