How to Improve Your iTunes Experience (Part 1) [Mac Only]

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I love my music and everything else that goes along with it. I love the fact that in my iTunes, every song is properly labelled, is nicely arranged alphabetically by artist and have their particular album artwork attached in high resolution. It is so much easier to search for the songs you want when almost all the fields (i.e. genre, artist, album, year) are completed. Every little bit of information helps Genius to find the songs which match the ones you are listening to, creating a playlist which suits your current musical mood.

I grimace when I browse though some of my friends’ playlists and most of the songs are labelled “Track 1, Track 2…. Untitled Artist”. They must have some kind of ESP or monumental memorizing ability to remember what track is by which artist.

Listening to music on iTunes can be more than simply “listening”. It can turn into a pretty interactive hobby which for me, has become an obsession. A fairly rewarding one, at least. Here’s how you can convert from mere music-listening to actively interacting and expanding your music experience. In this part 1, I’ll show you how to enjoy your current music collection.

How To Organize Your iTunes Library

This is the very first step to improving your iTunes experience. How can you truly enjoy your music if you’re not sure who you’re listening to? Label your music properly, fill in their genre (if you’re not sure of what genre your artist/album fall under, check the iTunes store by clicking the arrow link next to the album title. It might not always be 100% accurate as some might argue but it’s a start), rate the songs you like, enter the year it was released – you get the drift.

I spend quite a lot of time doing this, especially after I get my hands on a couple of new albums. My friends think that I’m crazy for wasting so much time but in the end, it’s very rewarding.

Why?

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  • It is easier to search for the song you want to listen to
  • Rated songs automatically gets added into “My Top Rated” playlist for quick access
  • Smart playlists get updated instantly when new song from a particular artist/genre is added to library
  • Instantly create playlists by year (eg. 90’s or Oldies) if you fill in the year it was released
  • Properly labelled songs make it easier to check for duplicates
  • It helps Genius find out which songs you’re listening to and find the songs which are similar by retrieving information from iTunes according to the artist, genre etc.
  • As your music collection gets larger, you’ll find more reasons to organize your music. If you have somehow labelled your songs but haven’t capitalized the first letter of each word and you couldn’t be bothered to redo them again, TuneInstructor can do it for you. It has a lot of other functions but I mainly use it to recapitalize some of the letters which escaped me.

    Add Album Cover Artwork To Your iTunes Songs

    itunes covert artThis is just eye-candy but it subconsciously improves your music experience. In addition to only using your sense of hearing, you’re now adding a visual sense. Wine connoisseurs use this theory – that when more senses are involved, the better the experience. That’s why they look at the wine (vision), swirl it (hearing), smell it (smell) and finally drink it (taste).

    The most reliable way to add cover art to your music is to do it individually by album. It takes a little bit of time and effort if you’re starting from scratch but it prevents mistakes from occurring. To do this, I use Amazon Album Art Widget. I find it very usable and almost always finds the cover art I’m looking for. Other applications you may try are Corripio and GimmeSomeTune (which I covered in a previous article).

    If most of your music have their artwork attached and you’re trying to find those little buggers which eluded you, there’s a very useful script from Doug’s Applescripts called Tracks Without Artwork To Playlist which will find the songs without any artwork and automatically add them into a separate playlist.

    Don’t Settle For Low Quality

    organize your itnues libraryStatic, buzzes and noise in my music really ticks me off. That’s why I always go for a lossless file format if possible. Right now, I’m settled on Apple Lossless but FLAC is still the most popular lossless format. Music, especially classical or jazz are better appreciated in higher quality because of their sophistication. In the long run, keeping your music in a higher quality, either lossless, 320kbps MP3 or 256 AAC will spare you from re-ripping your songs in the future once your taste for music quality has been acquired. For starters, don’t settle for anything lower than 192kbps MP3.

    If you need an explanation about audio files formats, a good introduction would be to check out the article I wrote about audio convertors for Mac.

    As I said earlier, FLAC is the most popular lossless audio format but unfortunately, iTunes doesn’t support FLAC. Previously, I had to convert FLAC files into another format which iTunes recognizes. Every time a music file is converted from one format to another, it loses quality. That’s something that makes me cringe. Granted, that loss in quality might not be audible but it’s a loss nonetheless. Then I found Fluke. Fluke is an utility that allows me to play FLAC files directly in iTunes without any conversion and hence, without any loss in quality.

    Sing Your Songs (Add Lyrics to iTunes )

    How many times have you listened to a song you’d really like to sing along then had to open your browser, search for the song’s lyrics and add them into iTunes? TunesTEXT is a very reliable widget which retrieves the lyrics of the song which you are currently listening to and adds them into iTunes – you don’t even have to lift a finger! Use this together with DesktopLyrics and you will always have your lyrics right on your desktop. No rogue lyric windows to deal with. Whenever you want to view the lyrics, use the Show Desktop Exposé hotkey and boom – sing-along time!

    That’s all for Part 1. In Part 2, I will focus on helping you to expand your music library and few other tips to really enhance your iTunes experience.

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