Aren’s Music Tech Tips – Organize to Galvanize!

| Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

My objective with this series is to help you become a more avid, efficient, savvy, knowledgeable, and generally better-than-before music listener. If ever the content gets too technical and you’re uncertain of what I mean with something, go ahead and leave questions in the comments area and I’ll try to reply ASAP. If you’d like me to make an entire episode about a certain topic you’ve been wondering about, either email me via aren [at] vitalevents [dot] net, or send the request via twitter @arendej, or @vitalradio with the #Amusictips tag.

So this week we will delve into music library organizing, which as I’ve seen from how some of my friends sort their digital libraries of music, is a tough thing to do in the middle  of owning a mass library of songs. The first thing to do is answer a few questions for yourself and avoid problem-starting scenarios…

Ask yourself: Do I have the hard-drive space for all my music?
Perhaps an external hard-drive is a good idea for you? I’ll get into backup plans in a another episode. If your computer is slow, and after reading this you look at your library that consists of 118GB of music and your computer has only a 120GB hard-drive, there’s a problem there, as windows-based computers need typically 2GB or more of hard-drive space for stuff more complicated than worth explaining here, but you get my point.. if you can do the math.. and I trust you can.

Ask yourself: Are all my songs sorted into library folders?
This can be a big issue. Having one massive folder called “Music Library” is good, but only if you use it properly. Most people are likely to rely on their iTunes Library. I will bet on it, that your iTunes-managed library has many duplicate files and many unknown items, according to Apple’s failure of a music organizer (IMHO).

Wanna check for and eliminate duplicates? “Duplicate Cleaner” is a lifesaver and megabyte save, free program that finds duplicate files and lets you decide what to do with the duplicates found. Running this within your music library folder(s) will help alot of headache in some of the later steps of cleaning and organizing your digital music library.

Download it here:

You wouldn’t keep your expensive suits or shirts in the same drawer as your underwear, would you?
It’s really best practice to sort music into folder and subfolders. Sure they’re all clean, but they just don’t belong all mashed together. One of the more common structures for sorting music would look like this:

[ Music Library (folder) > Artist (folder) > Album (folder) > Artist – Track name .mp3 (files) ]

This way, you can have almost any outside program such as iTunes or MediaMonkey (which is great, by the way) and deal with adding and sorting out music files amongst that folder structure. Things will even be easier to find within a Finder or Explorer window.

Tag Information
Nearly all media players and media programs and nearly any other application in and around your music relies on “tag” information. This “tag” is an embedded amount of text and sometimes images that indicate the details of one particular music file. Tags span across mp3s and FLAC files alike. There’s a program I use ever so always to keep my library of songs properly, consistently, and thoroughly tagged. Grab a copy of “Tagscanner”.. found here:

There may come a time when you will need to set aside a few days to scan through your music and properly tag things and this app helps immensely by allowing you to tag by file name, external sources (freedb, cddb, etc) or my surrounding folder structure. See how everything comes full circle?

The course of action to take involves a few time-consuming tasks. It’s well worth doing if you:

a) enjoy keeping your music tidy, or
b) have OCD, or
c) have time to spend loving you computer music library.

1) Clean up duplicate/stray mp3 files. Do this from explorer/finder. iTunes will lie to you, trust me. Doing this from explorer/finder will physically change/move/delete the actual music files. Clean up the crap before sorting, or you’ll be left with nothing but improperly marked, un-sorted, digital defecation.. so to speak. Move files to one central location and sort them however you like.

2) Tag your music. Do this with or without a program. Doing it with the help of a program will help you finish this before the era when music is implanted into our brains. (iBrain anyone?)

3) Convert. While it’s more of an option, and less curtailed for the audiophiles out there, it is a good idea and easily acceptable to down-convert your higher-quality music files to a more common “bitrate” or “kbps.” For consistency sake, it is also beneficial to convert to a common format, such as everything into “something.mp3” rather than “something.ogg”. Whichever format you decide on, is up to you. For reference and example sake, I’ll go into this under “mp3” due to the commonality of the codec. I keep most of my music at 160kbps, stereo, 44.1khz. I find it’s the best trade-off of quality for size. It avoids the tinny sound of 128kbps, without the heavier size of 192kbps. Most media players can handle any codec and any bitrate therein, but standardizing to one within your library is equivocal to having matching dishware, or matching socks. Now I say DOWN-convert because you should only convert music DOWN to a bitrate lesser than before. Doing the opposite would be as technically un-savvy as trying to pull your bottom lip over your head. You may want to, but it’s not meant to, and the result is wrong in many ways.

At this point you, the reader, knows just enough to start attacking that digital-noise-mess of a library you have. Go now and turn it into something concise and searchable, refined and clean, lean and mean.

That’s all for episode 2! There’s no telling when the next one will be, but I’ve already got a number of topics to cover, so check back often, or follow @arendej and/or @vitalradio on twitter to know when these episodes go up!

Author Background: Aren writes voluntarily as part of the Vital Radio team. He is CleverSound Studio’s lead engineer and founder. Under his name, he produces and spins electronic music.

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  • Dj Endgame

    Tagscanner is a good tool for ID3 tag naming.

    My preference for simple, batch file naming is Flash Renamer

    This has saved me hours and hours of renaming. Especially when you do a batch Beatport buy, and all the spaces are underscores etc.