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itunes lyricsPicture this. You’re wandering around with your iPod on and listening to something awesome, but you can’t work out what the lyrics are. Since looking up the lyrics using your phone and 3G internet would be more effort that it’s worth, you’re left wishing the lyrics were already on your iPod in that convenient “lyrics” ID3 tag. If only you’d bothered to get lyrics for all your tracks in iTunes before!

It’s not like getting lyrics into iTunes is a terribly difficult process. These days, there’s lots of sites with lyrics, plenty of programs that will enter them into iTunes for you and a bunch of handy scripts that can do it too. Just set one going and leave it to do its business. Easy! So, here’s some of the best methods you can use.

Back Up

Before you let any program or script work with iTunes, do a quick backup of your entire library folder (especially the .xml and .itl files). In new versions of iTunes you can go to File > Library > “Back up to Disc” to do this quickly.

Applications To Automatically Add Lyrics To iTunes

If you own a lot of popular music, this option might suit you just fine. Most of these applications cost a little upfront (so I won’t mention their names here) and will also change other ID3 tags for you, such as the titles, artist names, genre tags and cover art. If the thought of your other ID3 tags getting changed makes you cringe, make sure you backup before playing with these tools.

Scripts To Fetch Lyrics For iTunes

This method is free and focuses on just the lyrics ID3 tag. You’ll need to download a couple of scripts (from Dougscripts.com) and a dashboard widget to make it work perfectly.

Download these items:

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  • No Lyrics To Playlist Script – This works out which tracks in your library have no lyrics and turns them into a playlist you can use to add lyrics.
  • Needle Drop Script – This script will play each track in the playlist for a given number of seconds.
  • TunesText – This dashboard widget will fetch lyrics for any track playing in iTunes and save them to your file.

itunes lyrics

Open the DMGs and put your scripts in this folder: [Username]/Library/iTunes/Scripts. If the folder doesn’t exist then you’ll need to create it. Double-click on the TunesText dashboard widget to install it. Once everything is ready, start or re-start your iTunes.

add lyrics to itunes

To activate the scripts, look for the menu in iTunes which looks like a scroll. Click on the “No Lyrics Playlist” script first to create your playlist. This might take a while if you have a lot of tracks. If you prefer to search a subset of your tracks for tracks with no lyrics (maybe just your favourites), click on a playlist to use as a subset before running the script.

add lyrics to itunes

Start playing a track and check your dashboard to ensure TunesText is running.

add lyrics to itunes

When that’s done, run the “Needle Drop” script to choose how many seconds of each track to play. The length of time will depend on your Internet connection, but between 5-10 seconds should suffice. If you pause iTunes at any stage you’ll need to run Needle Drop again or iTunes will go back to playing complete tracks.

add lyrics to itunes library

Now, this will cruise through your playlist and do its best to get lyrics for your tracks. Don’t forget that if your tracks are too obscure, it’s probably not going to find anything. You might want to stick the computer on mute so you don’t go crazy, too. If you get bored or need to stop the process for some reason, it’s easy to do this again later. Just delete the “No Lyrics” playlist and recreate it with the previous steps. Simple!

Adding iTunes Lyrics Manually

If these options haven’t worked or if you’d prefer to use different lyrics for a few songs, you can always change the lyrics the manual way. Just right-click on the track in iTunes, click on “Get Info” followed by the “Lyrics” tab and edit the information.

itunes lyrics

Add Other Information To Lyrics

Another neat idea for the lyrics field is to add liner notes. This is especially good for classical music as you can add details of the performance, the history of the work and other relevant information. The iPod will cut off the text at about 24,800 characters, but the information will still be in iTunes.

More iTunes Tips

If you use iTunes as much as we do, these tips might also come in handy:

Which method do you use to get lyrics into iTunes? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Joe Gervasio
    June 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I tried this but, while I've ultimately been relatively successful, its not quite as simple as you make it sound.  

    The TunesText widget is basically good but it has a couple of behavioural characteristics that make it not play well with needle drop.  TunesText looks up the information very quickly when it has previously looked up a track from a particular artist (a second or two).  But when a new artist is sought, it can take over a minute sometimes.  NeedleDrop is blunt (ha ha) when it comes to its sampling rate.  If you set it to sample every say 5 seconds, every time it comes to a new artist it is likely to fail.  If you set it to say 90 seconds to be safe, you may as well do the job manually.  

    Secondly when TunesText fails few times, as it does if you push it too hard, it eventually fails so that it is not working with iTunes, nor responsive to the UI.  I cannot find a way to re-initialise the widget, without re-installing it, or rebooting.  

    So with these combined it does not work well for unattended operation.

    My library is reasonably well tagged - better than average, I suspect.  But TunesText does sometimes get the wrong lyric.  It loaded quite a lot of my Joe Cocker albums with lyrics from the same Frank Sinatra song (ironically, "My Way"). 

    One last tip, in the TunesText preferences, before you start, tick the SING365 database and untick the Utamap database, for English speakers.

    All in all, it works OK, but be prepared for some manual effort.   

    • Angela Alcorn
      June 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      Thanks for the extra tips. Sorry to hear it gave you so much trouble!

  2. Prajeshghimire
    June 8, 2011 at 2:57 am

    download songbird for mac and start playing the songs. make sure to tweak the lyrics addon from its preference. you are all done. its that simple.

  3. Ace
    June 7, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Any lyric importers for Windows? Use to be one a couple years ago but have not been able to find one recently.

  4. Jamie
    June 7, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Get Lyrical is a Mac free application I use. Works great! http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/25390/get-lyrical

    • Burke102
      June 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm

      I just downloaded Get Lyrical and it's awesome. It's not perfect, but it's close. Game over.

    • Angela Alcorn
      June 30, 2011 at 5:52 am

      Cool thanks - Will try it.

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