How to organise music to enjoy on your iPod

iPod Nano

In November 2009 I bought a black Nano with 16GB memory. For the previous two years I had used a Sandisk MP3 player with 500 MB of memory. The deciding factor for the purchase of the iPod was the video camera, sound recorder, and FM radio and of course increased memory capacity.

I had seen a presentation by Steve Jobs of the lastest iTunes and iPod products and was most impressed with how the music playing is tracked and organised. That was my catalyst to buy an iPod and maximise the enjoyment of my music.

In this article I will show you how I organise my music so that I can access it by artist, album, song, and genre.  Maybe I will inspire you to buy an iPod or to help you better organise your music collection.

Choosing music to play on the iPod

The iPod nano uses a thumbwheel style menu. Choose the Music menu to access one of the many ways to select music:

  • Cover Flow – images of each album are displayed in a three dimensional style display. This option simulates flicking through your record or CD collection.
  • Genius Mixes – I dont use this option. It required accessing the iTunes store to group music together as if you had a DJ managing your music.
  • Playlists – these are lists of songs you create in the iTunes software.
  • Artists – list of artists in alphabetical sequence. The words “the” and “A” are ignored which makes finding names easier. These two words are also ignored on Album names and Song name lists. Another bonus for me is that Japanese text is correctly displayed on the iPod.
  • Albums – list of album names
  • Songs – list of song names
  • Genres – these are the classifications of music you set up on iTunes
  • Composers – listed by composers. This is more useful for classical music for example if you had Claudio Arrau playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, then Beethoven would be composer and Claudio Arrau would be the Artist
  • Audiobooks – I don’t use this. My audio books are regular MP3 files which I categorise using the Genre of Spoken Word
  • Search – I don’t use this but this option allows you to enter letters to refine your search.

Setting up the tags

The iPod Music menu builds its lists from “tags” stored in the music files. It is important to set these tags when you add a folder of MP3 files to the iTunes library.

I have been using the Winamp program for many years now to rip my CDs. It gives me full control of the bit rate, and where the files are written.

I have a folder called My_Music to store all my music. In this folder I have more folders to organise music into broad groupings. Each folder name has a numric prefix as this corresponds to a music cataloguing system I wrote.  The numbers help make the folder sequence more logical.

This is my top level structure:

  • 01 Pop and Rock
  • 20 Jazz and Blues
  • 30 Instrumental and New Age
  • 40 Soundtracks
  • 50 Broadway – Stage – Musicals
  • 60 Folk – World – Traditional
  • 85 Comedy
  • 90 Spoken Word and Educational
  • 100 Classical

After I rip an album I copy the folder into the appropriate directory. Once you add a folder to the iTunes program, you shouldnt rename any files or move them to another location otherwise iTunes wont be able to find the files.

My procedure for adding an album to iTunes is as follows.

Step 1. Choose the File > Add Folder option in iTunes

Step 2. Browse for the Folder to add. In this example I have added a Greatest Hits album by Jefferson Starship (one of the many CDs in my collection)

Step 3. You will need to find the files you added. I use the playlist Recently Added or you could use the main Music list then click on the Date Added column. Click on the Date Added column heading until you see an inverted triangle which indicates the sort sequence.

Step 4. Select all the tracks by clicking the first track then shift-clicking the last track.

There are three ways to add album artwork so take your pick:

Step 5a.  iTune Store. Right click then choose the menu Get Album Artwork. This assumes you have an iTunes store account and have logged in.

Step 5b.  Google.  Go to and enter the search term of the album name followed by “album cover”, for example, “Jefferson Starship Greatest Hits album cover”. Choose the image you want to use by hovering the mouse over the image and when the image size increases right click then choose Copy Image.

Step 5c.  Use your own image. Locate the album artwork JPG file.  Right click the file name then choose Copy. This is a good method if you have scanned the CD booklet.

Step 6. Make sure all the songs are selected (step 4) then right click and choose the menu Get Info. A dialog box is displayed asking are you sure you want to edit information for multiple items. Click Yes.
A dialog box is displayed with a lot of fields.
Step 7. Click in the Artwork box then right-click Paste. This step is not needed if you got the artwork from the iTunes store (step 5a).
Step 8. Check the Artist name is correct and consistent with other albums in your collection. For example be consistent and use The Beatles (not Beatles). This will ensure that all albums by this artist are grouped together.
Step 9. Check the Album name is correct. When I add a double album, for example, Greatest Hits of the 80’s I tagged the first disc as “Greatest Hits of the 80’s Disk 1” and the second disc “Greatest Hits of the 80’s Disk 1”. I could have used one name for both discs and if I do want to change this, it is easy to do.
Step 10. Check the Genre field is consistent with your classifications. I will write a separate article about Genres and how I classify my music. Keep in mind that you use the Genre tag to group music of a similar style.
Step 11. Check the Year field shows when the album was released.
Step 12. Click OK when you are finished.
Find more iTunes resources by looking at my iTunes delicious tags

Author: charuzu

I live in Sydney and interests include music, piano playing, technology, cooking, English language, public speaking, Toastmasters, Asian culture (especially Japan and Korea), cinema, personal development, productivity and making friends with people from around the world.

2 thoughts on “How to organise music to enjoy on your iPod”

  1. Charles:

    This looks really good both in format and content. I have almost 11,000 songs in my iTunes (I use Win7) library (1100 of which are purchases from the iTunes store since it opened (when I was in the US; I now have my account in OZ of course)).

    I must admit too that I much prefer using smart-lists more than by artist/composer. This is mostly due to the fact that the CDDB names iTunes finds can be all over the place (e.g., there are at least 8 different name versions in my collection just for J. S. Bach (yes, I know I can change that, but I’m lazy…)).

    Anyway, nice job; keep up the good work!

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