Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Classical Music on an iPod - 4


Now you are ready to rip a CD.

iTunes will grind away for a bit and then offer to import the CD to its library. (iTunes says "Import CD" rather than "Rip CD".) Click on "No" so that you can do a few things before you let iTunes import the CD. The image below shows the track list after iTunes has looke dup tag values. Note that the composer tag is blank.

Larger Image here.

Right click on the the column heading to the right of the word “Name”, and check “Composer” and “Genre”. This will allow you to view and set the Composer and Genre tag values.

If the CD contains a work that spans several tracks, you should select those tracks. (Click on the first of those tracks and Shift-click on the last of those tracks.) Then Click on "Advanced" menu and then "Join Tracks". If there are several works with multiple tracks, repeat the process of selecting and joining tracks for each work.

As discussed in the previous post, this step serves two purposes: it makes it easier on the iPod to select and play all of a work that spans multiple tracks; and it ensures that if you let the iPod select and play music at random, all of a work will be played and in the right order.

Here is an image with tracks joined for each of three four movement symphonies:

Larger image here.

Look at the values shown for the tags that matter to you. If they are not correct, you can correct them before the CD is imported.

Select one or more tracks for which you want to set a tag value. Click on the “File” menu and then on the “Get Info” command. A dialog window will appear. Any changes you make here will apply to all the files you selected. Click “OK” when you have entered the changes that apply to the selected files. Repeat this for each set of files for which you want to set a particular tag value. If you are making a change to a tag in one music file, you can simply click on that cell (row and column) until you get an insertion point cursor and a small text box. Edit the old value or type a new one in the text box and then press return.

Now you are ready to import the CD. On the left side of the window under devices, you should see a line for the CD with the album tag value for the CD. Right-click on that line and choose “Import CD”

The importing process will take several minutes. When it finishes, the CD will be ejected and you are ready to import another CD.

You can click on “Music” under Library to see the music files in the library. You can edit tags there to correct any mistakes using the techniques just described. This image shows a sample library listing:

Larger image here.

When you have finished imported your CDs, you can transfer them to your iPod. (Sync with your iPod.) Here is a link to an explanation of the process in Apple's documentation:

Good luck!

Classical Music on an iPod - 3

Setting Preferences

Click on the “Edit” menu and choose “Preferences”.

Click on the “General” icon near the top of the Preferences window. To the right of the text “When you insert a CD”, select “Show CD”. Then click on the “Import Settings” button and select the file format for the music files you import from a CD. (Wav, AIFF and Apple Lossless all retain the full audio quality of the CD. The MP3 and AAC formats require much less disk space at the expense of audio quality.) For the case where you are copying music files from many CDs to an iPod and do not expect to play music from iTunes itself, choose AAC and then the iTunes Plus setting. Checking the “Use error correction...” box may allow iTunes to identify and work around some errors at the expense of extra time for the importing process. Click on the “OK” button to finish with this dialog.

You should be back to the Preferences window (labeled “General”). Click on the “Advanced” icon and note the location of the media folder. This will help you find music files in Windows explorer. If you check “Keep iTunes Media Folder organized”, iTunes will store music files according to the rules described here. If this option is not checked, iTunes will still store music files from imported CDs, according to similar rules.

Now you need to insert a music CD and make a few more settings.

Insert a CD. Itunes may display a message asking if you want to import the CD. Check the “Do not ask again” box and then click on the “No” button. (You need to do a few things before importing the CD.)

You should see a list of tracks on the CD with values filled in for some tags. (If your computer isn't connected to the internet, iTunes can't look up these tag values and the list will be blank.)

Right-click in the column headings area and be sure that the following tags are checked: Composer, Album, Artist, Genre and Name. You can rearrange the columns as discussed above for the music library view.

The iTunes window should look like this image. (screen 3).

Larger image here.

The tag values are specific to the CD you inserted.

Classical Music on an iPod - 2

This post goes through some setup steps before we can start importing CDs.

Get the view of your library that you need for classical music.

Click on Music under Library at the left side of the window. Click on the “View” menu and then on “as list”. Click on the “View” menu again and then on “Column Browser” and then on “On Top”. Your iTunes window should look similar to this image

Larger image here.

The number of columns and some column headings may be different on your screen..

Hide the sidebar panel on the right side of the iTunes window. This will give you more room to display columns.

Slide the mouse pointer over the vertical line at the left of the file list. Hold the left mouse button down and drag the vertical line to the left to get more room for the file list area.

Right-click on the upper set of headings (Artist, albums, etc.) Be sure the following tags are checked: Genres, Composers, Artists, Albums.

Right-click on the lower set of headings above the file list. Be sure that the following tags are checked: Composer, Album, Artist, Name, Time and Genre. After you have all the tags checked, you can rearrange the columns by holding down the left mouse button over a tag name in the column name and dragging it to the left or right. You can adjust the width of columns by dragging the vertical dividers between column headings to the left or right.

Your iTunes window should look similar to this image.

Larger image here.

Classical Music on an iPod - 1

A person unfamiliar with computer based audio asked about setting up a simple HiFi system for a family member with a 200 CD collection of classical music. He wanted something that would play music from computer files and be easy to use. I suggested a combination of Audioengine A5 speakers, an Audioengine W2 iPod to speakers wireless transmitter and an iPod to hold the music. The person doing the project liked the idea and I volunteered to provide some tips.

I long since ripped my CD collection to computer files and more recently copied a subset of my music files to an 80 GB iPod. I had used the J. River Media Center software (JRMC) for all but one step and the Foobar2000 software for that step. However, I wanted to recommend a simpler way for a beginner to accomplish the same thing. I looked at using several different pieces of software before deciding that iTunes would be the simplest tool for this job. The job would be complicated enough that I needed to provide some detailed instructions for using iTunes. That is the subject of this post and the following one. Some questions and answers first.

How much space will be required?

A CD can contain over 70 minutes of music. That requires over 700 Mbytes of space. When the CD is ripped to profuce music files, the amount of storage required depends on the format used:

Wav or AIFF format – requires the same 700 Mbytes.

Lossless format like Apple Lossless format (ALAC) – compresses the data in a way that allows it to be exactly reconstructed. The amount of space varies but is usually half to 2/3 the space of the data on the CD. My rule of thumb is 3 CDs to a Gigabyte since some CDs are are shorter than 70+ minutes of audio.

Lossy formats such as MP3 or AAC – These sacrifice exact reconstruction to allow for smaller storage requirements. A good choice for this project might be AAC with 320 Kilobits per second. Our 70+ minute CD would take 175 Mbytes. My rule of thumb might be 5.5-6 CDs per gigabyte.

What format do we pick?

200 CDs might require ~ 50 Gbytes in ALAC format and 25-30 Gigabytes in AAC format.

Your choice. Storing audio in lossless files means that you won't have to repeat the ripping process again (unless you fail to back up your data.) Storing data in lossy files mallows you get get more on an iPod of a specific size.

How to we label the music files so that we can browse and select what we want to play?

We will choose folder and file names that describe the contents of the music files. However, the iPod will rely on tags stored in the files for browsing the collection on the iPod.

The process of transferring music from audio Cds to music files is called ripping CDs by many people and importing CDs in iTunes. The CD doesn't contain a description of what's on the CD so iTunes looks up the descriptive tags in an online tag database. You can edit the tags values before the CD is imported. The tag values will be used to create folder and file names for the music files and will be stored in the music files.

For classical music, we need a tag to describe who composed the music and a different tag to describe the performer(s). Online tag database aren't very good at providing tag information that is consistent in format or spelling. In addition, the form of names is often wrong for use in browsing music files. You have to be prepared to edit the values returned from the online tag database.

Before I specify the content of individual tags, I'll describe how we browse for music on the iPod.

Many classical music lovers have their CDs arranged by Composer and by work for that composer. If we have several performances of a work, we file them by performer for each composer and work. On the iPod, we would select a Composer, then an work (album) and then an individual track (which might identify an particular artist's performance or identify an individual work in a set.)

We might also have some compilations of short works performed by a star soloist. Those CDs would be filed by Performer then by CD album name and then by individual work.. On the iPod, we would select a performer (Artist), type of work or CD album name (Album) and then by individual work (Track name.)

What tags do we want to use and what do we put in those tags?

Tag name - what we want in it

Genre - classical, rock, jazz, etc. This will be useful for random play within a genre.

Composer - last name of the composer (unless we need a first name appended to make it unambiguous)

Album - the name of the work performed in the music file. If the work is a single track and is part of a set of similar works by a composer (such as waltzes by Chopin), we would use waltzes as the Album tag value.

Artist - the performer(s). For an orchestral work, this would be the conductor's name followed by an underscore character and then the orchestra name. When possible, use a last name for the conductor and a shortened orchestra name. For a concerto work with a soloist, we would specify soloist's last name_conductor's last name_orchestra name.

Track name - for small works contained in a single track, we would put the name of the work here followed by an underscore and the Performer's last name. For works that span several tracks on the CD, we will do a trick to compensate for the deficiencies in the iPods features. We would put the composer name_work name_perofmrer last name in the track name tag for such a multi-movement performance.

For works that span more than one track, we are going to combine the tracks so that the while performance is in a single music file. This lets us select a single track name asd an additional browsing and selecting step. It also ensures that when we let the iPod play music at random, it will play entire works rather than single movements of works.

That's what we want to do. The next post describes how we do it.