Friday, January 05, 2007

music libraries, keeping it clean

well, most of you are prob like me in that you have a pretty extensive mp3 collection (i had previously converted my whole 200+ cd collection to mp3s back early in the day)... so.. how does one keep so many files/folders organized?

sadly, i am not a big fan of iTunes; its limited plugin/external plugin and limited media library functionality doesn't do it for me. i've been using Winamp since v1.0a back in 1997 and still consider it to be among THE best music/video players. however, recently i had helped a friend recover all of her files from a macbook whose hd crapped out and in exchange for me helping her get all of her files back and making a full backup of the drive, she gave me her music library. after moving her music into my library i realized that unlike me, she didn't keep a clean library at all. most songs didn't have tags, tons were in the AAC format (itunes), and others were not tagged properly. normally, i'd just go in and rename tracks and create the artist - album folder structure but man, when you have over 2,400 songs its not very efficient and too time consuming. so my quest was on.

what could i use to organize and identify the new music? also, how could i convert the itunes format songs to mp3s? (again, i like to keep all of my music in a solid mp3 format, that way i can rip to any of my other devices at will and i have the hd space). this would not be an easy task.

after finding several free programs to rip the aac to mp3, i broke down and got imtoo audio encoder (commercial) and converted the aac to mp3 w/o any tag info (i didn't really look too hard to find a quality ripper since the files all had the proper tag info in the file names). after converting them, i then used Winamp to load all of the music into my Media Library. I also setup the preferences so that smart tag reading was on. I then went into winamp, sorted by artist first and then selected all the songs for a particular artist and updated the artist tag info (being sure to create idtags if they didn't have any). after tagging most songs by artist, i opened up Windows Media Player and then again imported the new music into my library in there. i also selected the option to add missing media information. let the import go for an hour. then finally went back and made sure most of the tags and music were identified, for the unknown music i removed those from my media player library and then went into the options and checked the "Rename music according to rip settings" (i also setup my rip file naming to be what most files and itunes seemed to use, artist-album-track#-title. then let media player work away, after an hour or so, i went into my music folder and verified the structure.

finally, i still had to deal with the ever dreaded untagged/un-named music. i have yet to find a good and fast program to identify this type of music, so if you know of one, PLEASE put a link to it in my comments! i'd love you forever! hehe. however for the time being i use my cellphone's Track ID feature. Some of the newer Sony Ericsson Phones (mainly the walkman line, W series) have a feature called TrackID. This litle application will sample and record a clip of music via the microphone and then send that to a server which in turns identifies the artist, title, and album which you can then send the info via SMS or just view. Very handy i must say for those songs you have no idea what the name is. The only downfall is that you need to get a pretty clear sample of it (be in a quieter area or the music has to be super loud, bg noise will affect your results).

so i did that for the remaining songs and now have a clean library again. so the moral of the story is.

Keep your music libraries clean from the start!! I'm a big believer in keeping a very organized file structure. Doing so is the first step to becoming adept in the computer world, well at least imo it is, and taking control of your files/music. Trust me, i'd be screwed if i didn't (i admit, i have 3 hds in my pc and over 700GB of data (docs, files, music, pics) and all of it is in a very structured manner).

whenever i rebuild my system or just want to redo my setup, i always plan out the partitioning of the hds before starting. i use a very simple scheme, i have 3 hds; 200gb, 250gb, 300gb. Which in turn i have broken up into 7 partitions for what they are going to be used for (ie, i have a main C: for my os and programs that will be installed (usually 80 to 100gbs), a music drive, personal drive (for mydocuments folders), etc.) . This makes finding apps/files very intuitive, however the main thing is to keep a consistent file naming structure, so for example in my apps drive i have folders named for the type of application they are and then under the main category a subfolder, so Audio and Video > Media Players > WindowsMediaPlayer10setup.exe, etc.

also, if anyone knows of any good apps for importing/tagging music, drop a link or name of it in my comments.

happy 2007!