A Proposal for Tagging Classical Music Audio Files
A way to tag classical audio files for maximum usability and enjoyment.
Let’s face it, ID3 tags and the software that leverages them has largely been built to suit collections of popular music. For those of us with a fairly decent classical music collection, our media libraries and the tagging protocols they use have failed us. The meta data that helps us categorize classical music is much more… tricky than that of popular music such as rock, country, rap, and the like. These genres can easily be managed with only a few tags of note being correct. If you have the artist and the title you’re half way there. There’s certainly much to be said about having all of the tags populated but it’s certainly not a requirement.
With classical music, however, the ability to make use of one’s library in a way that lends itself to enjoying classical music is much more complex. In many ways the composer is much more important than the artist, the album from which the track originated is all but irrelevant and the conductor is just as important as the performers in many ways. Let’s not forget the order of the movements in a single work. How does one maintain the integrity of the work when the tagging system used doesn’t really take the difference between a movement and a work into consideration?
Well, I’ve come up with a system that addresses these issues and doesn’t violate the “spirit” of the meta data labels in the tags. So until someone comes up with a better methodology, this is what I’m using.
1. The Album Artist and Artist tag is almost always the musical ensemble or individual performing the work. If there’s a soloist involved I add them in the Artist tag with a semicolon between them and the ensemble.
2. The Year tag is the year the piece was completed.
3. If your music library has a conductor tag use it.
4. If your music library has a composer tag use it.
5. The Album is the name of the piece.
6. The disk number, if you use it, should usually be set to 1, unless we’re talking about epic pieces like The Ring Cycle by Wagner. The track number should be set to order the movements properly.
7. The track title should be the name of the movement. If there are no individual movements then the track title should be the same as the album.
8. I for some reason you want to maintain the album you ripped the piece from (I don’t) the “Original Album” field in MediaMonkey would serve that purpose.
Now, here’s the downside:
1. It’s largely manual. Since you can’t use auto tagging software to populate the tags you’re forced to perform this activity by hand. If your library is anything like mine, this is a time consuming activity.
2. Some library applications don’t have all the necessary fields to hold all of the above information. I use MediaMonkey 3.x to manage my library and I highly recommend switching to this amazing program to manage your music collection. They’ve added a number of the relevant fields (such as composer) to facilitate classical music management.
3. Social networking sites that let you share music (like 8Tracks.com) require an accurate album name. This system will totally break that.