Sorting classical music for easy browsing in iTunes
March 1, 2011 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Classical music + itunes + video (classic) iPod. Help me figure out the essential (minimum) amount of metadata needed for happy music listening.

Similar questions have been asked, but my variation on the theme is that I don't care if I have all the metadata slots filled out and I refuse to give up iTunes. I would just like a consistent set of tags that will allow for easy browsing, and I'm fine if I have to hand edit some metadata to make that happen. I don't need artwork either.

I've looked at Taming iTunes for Classical Music, but I think it might be overkill for my needs. Could I get recommendations for a Lite version of this organization system? Recommendations on how to browse on a classic iPod and itunes (i.e. which tags to show and which to sort by) with said system would also be great.

posted by Homo economicus to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think that the reason you haven't gotten any answers is that the best way to organize your classical music will depend a lot on your personal listening habits. The "minimum" amount of tagging is the minimum amount of information you want to be able to sort your music by.

For example, if you don't care who is conducting/performing a piece, then you don't need to include that information anywhere in your tags.

What I do is:

The composer's name is put into the artist spot. (iTunes and iPod are set up to sort by artist over composer, and composer is more important to me.)

The performers' names go in the comments. (I never want to sort by performer, but I do want to know who the performer is.)

The album is just the album. (Unlike the guy you link to, I'm fine with listening to works in order by accessing the album through the album menu and then picking the song where the work begins.)

This works for me, but it might not work for you.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:32 PM on March 1, 2011

Here's what I do, for multi-movement works. Let's say I have this CD and I want to put the 1st Symphony into iTunes.

Song - this is the name of the movement. For instance, "IV. Stürmisch bewegt - Energisch".
Artist - performer, with conductor in parentheses. So, "New York Philharmonic (Bernstein)". Performer names are translated and standardized, so "Wiener Philharmonic" becomes "Vienna Philharmonic". If it's a concerto and you would rather keep the name of the soloist, I put the orchestra and conductor in the comments.
Album - instead of the name of the CD (you can put that info in comments if you want), I make this the name of the work, with the composer name. So, "Mahler - Symphony No. 1".
Composer - lastname, first name - "Mahler, Gustav"
Genre - you can either do "Classical" or you can get fancier (Romantic, Impressionist, etc). I have other non-Classical music on my iPod as well, so I like to just keep this as "Classical", even though that label is obviously problematic.

This ends up being pretty easy to scroll through on an iPod or iTunes. It's not perfect, but I'm pretty happy with it.
posted by rossination at 2:27 PM on March 1, 2011

I should note that I like this method over Kutsuwamaushi's because I usually think, "oh, I think I want to listen to Brahms 4" before I decide who I want to hear it performed by. This method works better if you have a large category with different recordings of the same piece.
posted by rossination at 2:27 PM on March 1, 2011

I typically group separate movements of a single piece together by giving them the same album title. For example "Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3" is the album for the three movements of the concerto, even though there was another concerto on the disc. Also, prefixing the composer's name to the album puts all the composer's works together when I browse by album.

I also fill in the composer field. The composer field is blank for all of my non-classical music, so searching by composer gives me just classical, and then searching by artist lets me browse through the rest of my non-classical pop/rock/prog/folk/whatever.

It's hardly a perfect solution thanks to the aggravating assumption that everything is a "song", but it mostly works for me.

Also, once you've got a system figured out, you might look into using bulk tag editor to make getting the metadata the way you want it without a lot of fuss.
posted by Wemmick at 2:30 PM on March 1, 2011

If you are on a Mac, then you'll find useful tag-hacking tools at
posted by omnidrew at 3:36 PM on March 1, 2011

Response by poster: Ended up using This tagging guide which seems like the most reasonable compromise. It will take me quite a while yet to standardize all the tags, but I've got a bit of an A type personality, so I kinda enjoy the retagging/organizing process.
posted by Homo economicus at 9:00 AM on March 15, 2011

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