Last week, I posted about metadata. One of the comments mentioned the grouping field, which reminded me that it’s time I shared some tips on getting the most out of iTunes. It’s not the perfect jukebox application for a classical collection, but it’s pretty good, and with a bit of fiddling, you can make it better. Here’s what I suggest:
1) Use the grouping field
On the face of it, iTunes doesn’t include support for works. Dig a little deeper, and you discover that works are supported in the player, just not on portable devices.
The somewhat enigmatic “grouping” field will help you here. If you use this field for the work title, you’ll be able to browse all recordings of an individual work, though the “Classical” playlist that’s created automatically when you install iTunes.
2) Fix up your data
You can edit multiple fields at once, for example:
Use search to identify all the many versions of Mozart’s name. Select all the tracks you want to edit by holding down shift and clicking on the first and last in a list, or by holding down CTRL (on a PC) or Command (on a mac) and then clicking on all the tracks you want. Then use CTRL+I (Command+I on a Mac) to edit the data for all the tracks at once. Remember to only touch the fields you want to change, as this will overwrite the data on all the selected tracks.
3) Use smart playlists
You can set up rules to automatically create playlists of all the tracks from a certain composer and/or genre, or where the album or track title contains certain words.
Used cleverly, this allows you to create a browse interface tailored to your own personal style of listening.
More instructions here: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1801?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US
4) Use sort artists and compilations
iTunes doesn’t know if it’s looking at one album with tracks by lots of different artists, or tracks from lots of different albums that all happen to be called the same thing.
You can help it in two ways—by using a “sort artist” which is the artist it will use when it sorts all your albums by artist—and by checking the “compilation” box, which tells it that the album contains tracks by lots of different people.
This all works perfectly until until you actually DO have lots of albums with the same title. Then you’re really going to want to…
5) Upload cover art
iTunes will try to find the cover art for your albums online, but there are so many ways of formatting classical data that it rarely has much luck. Still, if you can bring yourself to track down the covers for your albums as you import them, you’ll never be stuck wondering what you’re listening to, and you’ll be able to browse your collection visually, instead of scrolling through lists.