Managing your Classical Music in iTunes

Photo by Carlos Lorenzo on Flickr

iTunes software is designed to manage collections of popular music. Your music is assumed to be by a particular artist with the  song being part of an  album . It certainly makes sense to organise pop and rock music this way. For example,  Abbey Road is an album by  The Beatles, released in 1969 with the songs Come Together, Something, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, and so on.

Unfortunately this system falls down when trying to tag classical music. A lot of classical music has muliple parts such as a symphony with four movements. The same piece of music can be recorded by more than one performer or orchestra. Classical music can be packaged in all sorts of ways, for example, ABC Classic FM surveyed listeners with the question “What is the one piece of piano music you can’t live without?   The top 100 pieces were compiled onto an 8 CD box set.

It was this boxed set that highlighted the problems with iTunes tags.  I was listening to one of the tracks and I wanted to know the name of the piece. My iPod showed the name of the work “Impromptu” and the performer’s name. Many classical pieces have generic names based on their style or form, but I wanted to know the composer.

In this article I am going to describe the system I have just discovered for tagging classical music.

Making iTunes manage your classical music

This system satisfies my requirements for useful music tagging. When using my 5th generation iPod Nano I would like to be able to:

  • Know the name of the music and composer when listening to the  music, for example: Schubert Impromptu No 2 in A flat
  • Find a particular work by a composer, for example, Beethoven’s 5th  Symphony
  • Find music in a particular genre, for example, Piano Concertos or  String Quartet.
  • Browse music by composer
  • Find music by a particular performer.

I decided to search the internet on this subject as I was sure other people have already solved the problem. My system is an implementation based on three articles listed at the end of this article.

Song Display

I will use the terms song, track, or piece interchangably in this article. These are the smallest units of audio stored in iTunes and capabable of being tagged.

When the iPod is playing a song it displays the Artist, Name (of the track) and the Album. What I want to see is Composer instead of Artist, and Name Of Work instead of Album.

Classical music requires a different approach to tagging than popular music.  Artist is now used for the name of the composer, and Album name is for the entire work. The individual track name is now the name of the piece or the movement of a larger work. For example, Beethoven’s 5th symphony has four movements – Allegro con brio, Andante con moto, Scherzo – Allegro, and Allegro.

The second article I researched (see end of this blog for links) summarises this advice:

For classical music you should put the composer in the ARTIST field and the actual artist(s), performing the work, in the COMPOSER field. Read it again: this is the most important tip in this article!

Where do tags come from?

When you import a CD into iTunes or rip it with a program like WinAmp, the tags are fetched from a database on the internet (usually Gracenote). This database is populated by users manually entering details of their CDs. Therefore information about a CD is dependent on the person who entered details. As you would expect there is no consistency across CDs so you will need to tidy up the tags in your iTunes library.

iTunes tags

The tags maintained in iTunes can be seen when you choose select a track, right click then choose Get Info. Alternatively use the shortcut which is Ctl-I on Windows (please tell me the Mac equivalent if different).

  • Name
  • Artist
  • Year
  • Album
  • Artist
  • Track number N of N
  • Album
  • Disc Number N of M
  • Grouping
  • BPM (Beats per minute)
  • Composer
  • Comments
  • Genre
  • Part of a compilation (toggle)

The system I derived from the first article (see the end of the article for the link) is to use the fields as follows.

The iPod display is quite narrow so abbreviate names as much as possible for easier reading. This requires using consistent abbreviations such as Sym (Symphony), Conc (Concerto), SQ (String Quartet).  Keep the most significant information a the beginning of fields.

I maintain a document with my abbreviations and some of these are shown at the end of the article. Maintain your own lists to use as your reference during tagging.


For non-classical music enter the name of the song or tune, for example, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.

For a one movement work, enter the name of the work in the original language with English translation (if relevant) in parentheses.

For a work of multiple movements such as Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, use the part number and a description. For example 1. Allegro con brio.  Add an abbreviation of the work name at the beginning of multi-part works to help identify the work to which it belongs. The name would now be Sym 5 – 1 Allegro con brio.

You may also want to add an abbreviation of the composer name to the end of the field. This is useful when browing playlists as you can only view the track name in a playlist. For example, Sym 5 – 1 Allegro con brio [Beet].

When tagging operas enter the Act and Scene Number followed by a brief desription (for example Overture) or the beginning of the song.  For example Act 3 Sc 2 – Nessun Dorma.

When playing this music the iPod will show Beethoven, Ludwig as the artist and the album name will have the full work name with indications of the performer.


Use this field to store the composer name.  Use the format of surname, followed by first name. You can add the birth year and death year for more information. For example, Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1823). Pay particular attention to names with diacritical characters such as Béla Bartók, Saint-Saëns and Antonín Dvořák. Copy the correctly marked text from a web site like Wikipedia then paste it into the Get Info dialog box. This will ensure that the name is displayed characters and you won’t have some works by  Béla Bartók and others by Bela Bartok (can you see the difference?).

When you browse your music, the Music > Artist menu will show composer names as well as all your popular artists. Choose a composer name to browse a list of their works.


Use this field to store the year when the music was first performed or published. If you want to store the year of the recording, enter it at the end of the Album tag after the work name, for example Beethoven Sym #1 C (1963 von Karajan, Berlin).

Album Artist

Not needed.

Track number N of N

The iPod displays amd plays tracks in track number sequence so use these fields for works with multiple parts.  Renumber the parts of a multi-part work, starting at one.


Use this field to uniquely identify a work. Enter the name of the work and an abbreviation of the composer name at the beginning of the field. It is important that the abbreviation makes sense to you.  The full composer name is stored in the Artist field. For example, Beet Sym No. 1 in C Maj Op 21.

Classical music has additional information including the key and major or minor, a work (Opus) number and sometimes a nickname. For example, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor Op. 27 No. 2 has a nickname of the Moonlight Sonata. This long description includes the key of C sharp minor, and the sonata is the second work in a collection labelled Opus 27. Now you can see the need for abbreviations as well as consistencies.

You will sometimes need to use spaces before numbers for sorting purposes. For example Op. 1, Op. 3 and Op.10 will sort correctly. Note the spaces before 1 and 3 otherwise they will sort into the sequence of 1, 10 then 3.

Key signatures can be abbreviated using capital letters for major and small letters for minor using # for sharp and b for flat.  For example, Sonata in c means C minor and Sonata in F# means F sharp major

You can add an abbreviation of the performer and conductor to the end of the field. For example [Rattle, BPO] which means the work was layed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

Adding this information will help with searching and display.  Music > Albums lists all the albums in your iPod but you will be able to see the work name and a hint about the composer name and performer.

You will need to enter the name of a one movement work in both the album and track name, for consistency in sorting.

Disc Number N of M

Use this field for numbering the disks in long works such as operas.


This field is not used on the iPod but it could be used to identify the physical CD and record label. For example, “ABC Classics Piano Top 100”.


Use this field to store the performer name. List the soloist first then the orchestra and conductor. For example Kyung-Wha Chung (LSO, Tennstedt) would mean Klaus Tennstedt is conducting the London Symphony Orchestra with Kyung-Wha Chung being the soloist (one of my favourite violinists).

The Music > Composers iPod menu will now show the list of performers.  Choose a performer to see a list of works played by this performer.

Before you begin tagging your music, I suggest you select all music in your collection and blank out the composer name.


Use this field to store any further information about the music or the original CD. The comments field is not available on the iPod but accessible on iTunes. For example, ABC Classics Top 100 Piano Music.

Use this field for storing your own custom tags to be used in smart playlists.  I have a book titled The Classical Top 40, so if I added a tag to the comments field on this work like #classicalTop40 then I could create a smart playlist with the criteria of Comments contains #classicalTop40.


I have written about Genre in a another blog article. I tend to use only broad categories for this field such as Piano, Piano Concerto, Symphony, etc but this list may be further refined as I import my CD collection into iTunes.

Part of a compilation (toggle)

The second article I referenced suggested using this checkbox on all the tracks of an album if it contains music by two or more composers. . This will show your album with one cover in iTunes’ cover flow or album view, instead of one cover for every composer. I am not convinced that this field is required in my system.

Artwork (accessible when multiple tracks selected)

The cover art is the image used when the iPod is display a track. All tracks in an album would typically share the same art work.  Cover art is also used in the cover flow browsing method on the iPod and in iTunes. The art work will usually help you remember where the music came from. For example, all 8 CDs of the top 100 Piano music would have the same cover art.

Rating (accessible when multiple tracks selected)

This field is used to rank how much you “like” a work. This is useful for creating smart playlists, for example my favourite Beethoven piano sonata movements. I don’t normally use this field but I will explore it further and write a blog article.


Now that your music is well organised you can use the power of playlists to organise your music for specific purposes. Read my earlier article about smart playlists to create music for all occasions.

What is next?

Now that I have described my system, I am going to empty my iTunes library of classical music and start again with this new system. I will choose a variety of CD contents to verify and fine tune my tagging system.  This project will require setting up a new directory structure on my computer (and external backup). This will be the subject of a later blog article.

Further Reading

Article 1 (the most useful article), Article 2 this author refutes some of the advice in Article 1.  Article 3 has some useful ideas but I didn’t follow the recommendations.

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.

23 thoughts on “Managing your Classical Music in iTunes”

  1. Came upon your post quite by accident while doing something else, but… I’d like to thank you for your thorough explanation and suggestions as it clears up some things for me for quirky behavior that I’d just thought I’d have to live with… cheers.

  2. Very nice write up. My following comments are mostly a matter of style: I do wonder why you chose to use Artist for Composer and Composer for Artist instead of their named usage.
    My style is to use the fields as named for that purpose, e.g.: Composer: Beethoven, Artist: Yo-yo Ma. Anyway, I guess I find your suggested use for these two fields as somewhat confusing.

  3. The reason for swapping Artist and Composer is that the ipod displays the Song Title, Album and Artist when playing a song, so you can’t see the composer. Swapping the usage of these fields was the recommending of the author of the first article I cited in my article. It is a hack to get around a deficiency in the ipod.

    It is still possible to find music by a particular performer because there is a Display by Composer option on the ipod.

    As I retag my classical music collection I will be evaluating the effectiveness of this tagging system and making further refinements. Watch out for version 2.0 of my article.

  4. Charles, this looks like a pretty good system even if the idea of re-tagging all my classical music is a bit daunting. If only Apple would do the obvious thing and update the iPod software to display ‘Composer’ then we’d have the 80% solution right there!

  5. I’ve seen this suggestion before, but I absolutely refuse to switch composer for artist because it so deeply offends my sense of order than I simply cannot do it. If I really feel the need to see the name of the composer of a work playing on my iPod displayed (I recognize most by listening), I’ll put the composer’s last name at the beginning of the track name. (e.g. Beethoven: Symphony #5, I. Allegro con brio). Works great for me.

    1. I absolutely agree. Switching the artist and composer is not necessary. Artists are musicians who play the music which composers have written. That’s all. – JG

      1. Steve and Jos – I agree that swapping Artist and Composer is crazy but the issue I have is with the iPod software. The problem I had was when I was playing a collection of piano music and the iPod would say Stephen Hough playing Prelude. Whose prelude???

        I suppose I could add the Composer (or abbreviation) to the Title – but another issue is long titles are hard to read on the iPod and take a while to scroll on the display. Maybe this is not such an issue on an iPhone

  6. Steve – I haven’t made much progress retagging my collection as the amount of work is so overwhelming. I agree that my article (which was based on someone else’s idea) goes against the tags available in iTunes. I am going to experiment with retagging a 5 CD set of “Top 100 Piano Music” to see if the Artist Composer swap is effective.

    If only Apple could extend the iPod Nano display and iTunes to properly tag classical music!

  7. I’ve retagged a lot of my classical music in a similar manner to what you describe. My frustration is at having bought a couple of “100 Most Essential…” collections through iTunes and they don’t provide the Composer information at all, very disappointing.

  8. Thank you for your article. As a complete newcomer to Ipods, I have been really frustrated trying to import a whole classical CD collection. Can you tell me how to keep whole CD’s together? When I import some disks, Itunes seems to remove certain movements (eg track 2, the second movement of a Haydn quartet) and either put it separately into a completely different ‘album’ or ignore it altogether. I just want a disk to run from end to end, without having to find different movements scattered all over my library! Thank you

  9. Greetings from the UK. Thank you for the guidance and advice. I have been struggling with ITunes and my music collection for some time now. I think my approach, as with many other aspects of life, has been GTND (Get Things Nearly Done); you put me to shame. I think I will start with the box set of Haydn String Quartets….

  10. Thank you for your article. I’ve been searching google trying to find a system to organize my classical music but the suggestions for pop music didn’t seem to apply to my problems where the whole album had one composer and the music played by one or several performers. I was trying to find the difference between artist and album artist. I don’t use iTunes,but use Mufin on my computer and Google Music on my android phone because that allows me to store all my music on the cloud and play anywhere. I use mp3tag to tag my music and I was having trouble tagging my classical music, for example Chamber Music for Flute by Bach performed by Wentz and Borgstede. I do want to know the album name and that all the music is composed by Bach and played by Wentz and Borgstede. Mufin has Artist and Album Artist but it doesn’t have a composer category. Putting the composer in the Artist category and the performer in the Album Artist category (and also in the album info) allows me search by artist and performer. Thank you for sharing your system of categorization, it helped my determine what I needed to display.

  11. I have a variant of this issue. My top wish for iTunes would be to have the option of physically organizing the files so that the top folder is Album title rather than Artist. I have over 300G of music (mostly classical) and my experience is that tracks do somehow get lost from time to time, and I don’t notice it till it’s too late to do any kind of simple restore from backup.

    It would please me very much to have control over the physical placement of the tracks, without having to do an elaborate hand-ripping of my CDs. This organization would help me locate tracks that go missing, and provide what I think would be better backups.

    My second top wish would be for a way to group the tracks of a piece (e.g., Beethoven Symphony #7) without actually “joining” the tracks in the iTunes fashion.

    There are any number of iTunes add-ons and utilities, but none seems to address these issues. Does anyone know of anything, perhaps in development, along these lines?

  12. Sadly, iPods are NOT organized to play classical music. iPods are organized to play “songs” – one track each – because Apple’s market is young people. The focus on “songs” doesn’t work for classical music where most of the “songs” are multiple tracks – 4 tracks for a symphony, 3 for a concerto, and 30-40 for an opera.

    So we have had to improvise in organizing the music in this iPod.

    All of the music, every album, and every track, is organized in playlists. Not albums. Not tracks (or as iPod calls them “songs”).

    Because albums typically have more than one piece of classical music – e.g. two symphonies – we’ve had to divide most albums into multiple playlists.

    In most cases, one playlist = one piece of classical music, e.g. four tracks = 1 symphony.

    Playlists are convenient also because there is no limit on how many tracks you can put on a playlist. So we have organize a playlist that includes a whole day of Beethoven, a whole day of Baroque music, etc. Just keep combining pieces/tracks and you can get a very long playlist, with one piece of classical playing right after another. For example, we’ve organized all sixteen of Shostakovich’s quintets into one playlist. You can listen to these quintets individually or you can listen to them all.

    With each piece of classical music, you can include it on multiple playlists. A concerto can be stored as a single piece of music in one playlist (under the name of the composer), as one of many pieces by the same composer into a second playlist (a whole day of music by that composer), and into a playlist of that genre of music (one of many piano concertos all playing back to back (another whole day of music).

    We haven’t organized all of the symphonies into playlists, but we’ve organized all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies into one playlist. Those symphonies are presented as single pieces and also in a comprehensive “Beethoven” playlist (combing everything we have by Beethoven, all genres of his music).

    Here’s an example:
    Beethoven: PC #1 (just that one Beethoven PC)
    Beethoven: PC #1 – #5 compilation (all five Beethoven PCs)
    PC: Beethoven #1 (just the one PC in a string of all of the PCs in the iPod)
    Beethoven: Compilation (everything I have by Beethoven)
    PC: Combination (all of the PCs by many different composers)

    So this one piano concerto appears in five different playlists.

    The reason for this is that you might just want to listen to that one piece of music, you might want to listen to it right after another piano concerto, you might want to listen to it in the context of all of Beethoven’s piano concertos, you might want to listen to it in the context of Beethoven’s music, etc.

    With these music loaded into iTunes in your computer, you can change our organization in any way you want. You can establish new playlists – combining your favorite works in a new playlist. You can set up a playlist of two or three operas, your favorite works of Bach or Beethoven, or any other playlist you want. Once you get the hang of it, working in iTunes is not too difficult to us. It’s easy to set up a new playlist – you name it and then you go to the music and move pieces into it. The + symbol at the bottom of the playlists = set up a new playlist. Then you name the playlist. You can use prefixes to determine where it’ll land in the long list of playlists. Then you open the iTunes music inventory – you can search by composer, name of the music, or album. When you find the music you want to add to the playlist, you highlight the tracks you want to move – as many as you want – and drag them over to the playlist. Then you can add more tracks at will. They will be automatically added – with the appropriate numbers – at the end of the music already in the playlist. You could make a playlist with any number of tracks – thousands if you want. If you download new music from the Apple iTunes store, you will want to open it and place it in a playlist. The entire structure of the music in this iPod is focused on playlists. So, everything you ever want to play should be moved into a playlist. As we have done, you can divide up an album into more than one playlist.

    When you play this iPod, you can open a playlist and using the click wheel go to any part of that playlist. You don’t have to start at the beginning.

    When you play this iPod, if you stop it – at the end of the day – it’ll automatically open where it left off, so if you’re listening to a very long playlist, you can take up right where you last stopped.

    The order in which these many playlists are listed in our iPod is governed by prefixes (basically codes). We use a combination of numbers and letters as prefixes. If we didn’t use prefixes, everything in the iPod would just be listed alphabetically.

    Because we use playlists, we can control the name of the playlist. This gives us tremendous flexibility in organizing the iPod. If we didn’t use playlists, there would be NO organization at all – the iPod would select names for tracks and names for albums on a semi-random basic. Nothing would be grouped or organized. That’s why using playlists is so helpful.

    Following is an annotated index to the playlists in this iPod.


    Note: Whenever you see “compilations” or “survey” = many different pieces by the same composer or artist.

    Compilations with the prefix “01”

    01 = Compilations of all of the music by one composer in this iPod.

    For example, the first playlist is “01 Bach: Compilation” and it has 97 tracks (5.9 hours).

    The second playlist is “01 Barber: Compilation” and it has 7 tracks (60 minutes).

    The third playlist is “01 Bartok: Compilation” and it has 39 tracks (4.3 hours).

    Etc. Etc.

    Compilations with the prefix “02”

    02 = Compilations of all of the piano concertos, violin concertos, etc. in this iPod.

    For example, the first playlist is “02 Cello: Compilation” has 151 tracks (11.6 hours).

    02 Flute: Compilation has 97 tracks (6.2 hours).

    02 Guitar: Compilation has 136 tracks (8.6 hours).

    02 Opera: Compilation has 343 tracks (1.2 days).

    02 Piano Concerto: Compilation has 72 tracks (10.8 hours).

    02 String Serenade: Compilation has 29 tracks (2.8 hours).

    02 Trumpet: Compilation has 37 tracks (2 hours).

    02 Violin Concerto: Compilation has 182 tracks (1 day).

    Compilations with prefix “03”

    02 = Compilations of all of our African, Jazz, Irish, holiday, and other music. This includes compilations of the music of individual artists.

    For example, “03 Africa: Soweto Compilation” includes all the albums of the Soweto String Quartet (63 tracks: 4.2 hours).

    “03 Africa: Kidjo Compilation” includes all the albums of Angelique Kidjo (a famous African singer) (112 tracks: 7.4 hours).

    “03 Holiday: Mannheim” includes all the Christmas albums by Mannheim Steamroller (47 tracks: 2.7 hours).

    “03 Holiday: Revels” includes all our Christmas Revels albums (127 tracks: 4.8 hours).

    “03 Irish: Altan Compilation” includes all our albums by the Irish group Altan (53 tracks: 3 hours).

    “03 Jazz: Big Band” includes all our big bank jazz albums (130 tracks: 7.5 hours).

    Music with prefix “04”

    04 = These playlists come with the album. These playlists/albums includes best dances, best waltzes, English music, best overtures, etc.

    Compilations with prefix “05”

    05 = These playlists come with the album. These playlists/albums focus on cello music.

    Compilations with prefix “06”

    06 = These playlists come with the album. These playlists/albums focus on choral music.

    Compilations with prefix “07”

    07 = These playlists come with the album. These playlists/albums focus on piano music.

    Compilations with prefix “08”

    08 = These playlists come with the album. These playlists/albums focus on baroque music.

    Compilations with prefix “09”

    09 = These playlists come with the album. These playlists/albums focus on meditation/relaxation music.

    Compilations with prefix “10”

    10 = These playlists come with the album. These playlists/albums focus on surveys of classical music.

    Compilations with prefix “11”
    11 = These playlists come with the album. These playlists/albums include Telarc collections of music.

    After 01-11, we list the composers in alphabetical order (e.g. Albinoni, Antheil, Arensky, Bach, etc., etc. In almost all cases, the iPod lists more than one work by that composer, always prefixed by the composer’s name.

    In the middle of this list of composers, we’ve included “CC:” which lists each individual cello concerto. (The cello concertos are also listed by composer. These are also listed in the 02 compilations.)

    I’ve also included “PC:” which lists each individual piano concerto. (The piano concertos are also listed by composer. They are listed in the 02 compilations.)

    “PC:” also includes compilation of the five Beethoven PCs.

    We’d also included “SS:” which includes each individual serenade for strings. (The string serenades are also listed by composer. They are listed in the 02 compilations.)

    We’ve included “VC:” which lists each individual violin concerto. (The violin concertos are also listed by composer. They are listed in the 02 compilations.)

    “VC:” also includes compilation of VCs of composers with more than one, like Hubay.

    Then “Z1 A:” lists African music, album by album – indexed by the name of the artist.

    In the middle of this list of African music “Z1 A:” includes compilations of African music by artists where we have more than one of their albums.

    Then Z2 J: Jazz, album by album – indexed by the name of the artist.

    Z2 J: includes compilations of Jazz music by artists where we have more than one of their albums. (These compilations are also listed in the 02 compilations.)

    Then Z3 G: guitar music, album by album – indexed by the name of the artist.

    Z3 G: includes compilations with all of the guitar music by artists where we have more than one of their albums.

    Z4 B: Broadway shows, like Lion King.

    “Z5 O:” is the opera section.

    First it presents opera surveys – “Z5 O: 01…”

    Then it lists individual operas – indexed by the composer.

    Note. With operas and many other playlists, we’ve combined two or more albums in the same playlist.

    “Z6 P:”presents popular music, album by album – indexed by the name of the artist.

    “Z7 H:” presents holiday music, album by album – indexed by the name of the artist.

    Z7 H: includes compilations of holiday music by artists where we have more than one of their albums, e.g. Manheimm Steamroller.

    “Z8 I:” presents Irish music, album by album – indexed by the name of the artist.

    Z8 I: includes compilations with all of the Irish music by artists where we have more than one of their albums. (These compilations are also listed in the 02 compilations.)

    “Z9 W:” presents world music.

    “Z9 SB:” presents steel drum music.

    “Z9 W:” presents gypsy music.

    “Z9 W:” also presents Inca music.

    Finally, “Z91:” Jeremy Siepmann’s superb music biographies of individual composers.

    1. Agreed, playlists can create a lot of order. However, I would also advocate placing mp3 files in a hierarchical folder structure, by composer or work. NOT the whole kit and kaboodle in one folder as a flat list. That would be impossible to navigate with an explorer app. The folder structure, with file names in order, at least provides a way forward when or until a better app comes along. The tendency of new gadgets and apps is to hide the folder structure and let the app sort it out. That, in my opinion, is a recipe for disaster, with no control or understanding by the user. Yes, my family calls me a control freak…

  13. I agree with some postings that I absolutely refuse to put the wrong value in specific tags for, for example putting the composer in the artist field. Over my dead body. My approach is as follows: keep all the music in folders, one folder per ripped CD, or at least, keep movements of a work together in a folder. Set up a hierarchy of classical folders, with subfolders: Composers, Compilations, Choral, and Misc. and CD subfolders underneath, as deep as you want to go. There will be many performances that fit both, so you need to pick one. Pick Composers for a CD that has only one composer, or the majority of works by one composer. This way you can navigate folders and find music directly. Use an application such as ID3Tag or Mp3Tag to enter all the fields. This is a lot of work, but spread it out over a year or so, do one CD on a day. I include choral roles, lyrics, organ dispostions, recording locations, etc. Sometimes I also add a high quality picture. Order the pieces as they appear on the CD. Prefix the filename with the track number to get the right order. This method will lay the groundwork with all the files correctly ordered. Set files to READ ONLY when done, so no crappy commercial application will mess with it. Now, I can change players, computers, operating systems, whatever, I have the info LOCKED UP in EACH file. If you are computer savvy, you can write a little script to extract all this information, create a small database program with all this info. Then you can search by any combination of fields and link it to a player of choice. It is very quick by script to extract ALL data from ALL files, no more than a few minutes. Also, you can also add a script to create playlists (m3u) in each folder, with relative entries (not absolute entries which will break when you move to another drive). Sorry this sounds very complicated, but the industry seems to ignore classical listeners completely, or worse, infuriatingly, mess up and corrupt painstakingly entered tags.

    1. Forgot to mention: There are different versions of ID3 tags: Version 1 puts the info at the end of the file and is used mostly by commercial applications for popular music. This version is completely inadequate for classical music, it does not even have a composer field! Duh…Version 2 puts the info at the beginning of the file, so the computer does not have to read the whole file to get at the info. Version 2 comes in two subversions, 2.3 and 2.4. Only use 2.3. Many players cannot handle version 2.4. A decent tagging application will give you all the above choices for tagging. Version 2.3 has so many fields, you will not need most of them, but at least you can get the basic classical information entered.

      1. Other points:
        1. The above only applies to MP3 files.
        2. If you rip classical CDs, rip them at the highest bit rate, 320 bits per second, for quality indistinguishable (for 99.9% of us) from the CD.

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