Managing classical music


Q: I currently use my iPod primarily for popular music, but I am now trying to add classical music to my library as well. As I do, I find that iTunes’ organizing principles do not work very well for classical. Have you devised some clever work-arounds?

More specifically, when looking for classical music to play, I would like to be able to select “Classical” from the Genre menu, and then see a list of composers. As it is now, what I am offered is a list of artists. Have any ideas?

– Mary

A: Indeed – we agree that classical music should be easier to catalog and browse in iTunes. However, there are several capabilities in iTunes that you can take advantage of to help standardize your nomenclature. The first of these is the clearly the “Composer” field, but less obvious is the “Grouping” field, where we have chosen to put the name of the piece itself (i.e. “Cello Suite No. 1”), leaving the “Song” field free for the movement number and sub-title (i.e. “III – Alemande”).

Similarly, the “Comments” field is fair game for whatever you want; for classical pieces, we use it to hold the name of the conductor (thereby reserving the “Artist” field exclusively for the name of the performing group). Even the “Genre” field itself can be customized – we tag our classical pieces’ Genre fields as “Classical\{Period},” where {Period} denotes the era of classical music (Romantic, Baroque, etc.).

Why answer a question focused on browsing with a response so focused on tagging? Simple – as it stands today, the best way to filter and browse the complex set of information for classical music is to simply create Smart Playlists, which are most effective with a cohesive, well-organized set of tags. See our Smart Playlist tutorial for more information on how they can make finding precisely what you want easier.

To directly answer your final question, try simply swapping information by placing “Artist/Performing Group” information in the “Composer” column, and “Composer” information in the “Artist” column. This way, you’ll see composer names in the “Browse” function. Sure, the column headings will be incorrect, but who will really care? Good luck!

Jerrod H. is an iLounge Contributing Editor, with frequent contributions to our iPod 101 and 201 tutorials, plus occasional hardware and software product reviews.
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Jerrod H.

Jerrod was a contributing editor at iLounge. He mostly wrote articles about iTunes and iPod accessories. He was known for his in-depth knowledge of both topics and was often able to provide readers with unique insights into the world of Apple products.