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Using Itunes

Lord Chaos

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I started out using Windows Media Player on a PC for my music library. When I needed to start using Shoutcast, I switched to Winamp although I never used that for ripping my CDs. When the PC seemed to have terminal problems I decided to move my library to a Mac Powerbook; the move was predicated on finding a Shoutcast client, and I did in Nicecast. So, I made the move.


First problem with Itunes is the documentation. It basically doesn't exist. I've had to learn by doing, so I might have missed quite a bit. Also, I don't have an Ipod so my observations exclude that.


Basically, I use Itunes for everything involved with my music library: ripping, metadata editing, playback, playlist development, Shoutcast source and Squeezebox source. I'll divide this into sections so it's easy to find what you might have questions about.


Ripping and Metadata:

Itunes uses the CDDB database, which I find works well most of the time. I still find it essential to check every CD's tags because I want to make sure things are consistent so I can find them. There are also errors, such as "Beethoven, Ludwig van" given as the Artist. So, after I've inserted the CD, I hit cmd-A to select all the tracks and look at the overall info. Make sure the "Compilation" tag is set correctly according to CDDB's definition, Artist correct and spelled correctly, Composer correct, disc number and so forth. If I notice errors in track names, such as inconsistencies in a two-disc set, I'll fix that too.


What you actually put into the tags is up to you. Anything that's artist-based I'll just leave the album title alone. For classical, which is usually composer-based, I'll put the composer's name in the album title: "Beethoven- Missa Solemnis (Disc 1)" for example. Compilations are a matter of taste. CDDB defines this as a disc of tracks from different artists.


The overall point is to choose a system that works for you within Itunes' principles. Let Itunes keep your library organized. It's better than fighting their system.



Once you learn how Itunes keeps the library it'll be easier to find things. Still, in a large library it takes a while to learn. I'm gradually getting to the point where I can find things if I remember I have them. Sometimes I'm surprised. "I bought that?"


When playing music, note that Itunes will stop playing an album at the end of the current track if you've been exploring and selected another album. This still surprises me when I forget. Winamp and WMP don't do this. Itunes will, however, keep playing a playlist no matter what you're doing.


Playlist development:

I was really frustrated at first by the size of the window. Then one day I accidentally double-clicked on a playlist and it came up in a new window! Wow. This made playlist development much easier.


There are still problems with playlists longer than the window; if you want to add a song to the bottom, you can't do it easily. I wish Itunes allowed me to scroll the list up to put some blank space there for additions. When reconstructing a playlist from the PC, I've taken to doing it backward to avoid this little problem.


Playlists are handy for more than favorite tracks. If you have a three-CD opera, drag all the tracks to a new playlist so it will play continuously. If you have a collection of Beethoven piano concerti that scatters movements across two albums, assemble them into one playlist.


Shoutcast source:

Itunes works well for this, especially once I figured out the playlist principles. I usually start with a leader playlist, and then seque to the main playlist at a stated time. I'll have both lists open, then close the leader when it's done.


Live announcements can be set to duck the Itunes audio, but I don't do this unless I have to. DJs should not talk over the music. So, I pause the playlist, hit the talk button in the Nicecast window, speak my piece. When done I turn off the mic and hit Play on the playlist.


Track info goes out to the listeners, which is handy. I usually broadcast at 128k. Shoutcast really sounds good, especially for someone who got his start with Teamspeak.


Squeezebox source:

You can set Slimserver to use your Itunes library as its source, and that's what I've done. Still, the libraries have differences; I haven't figured this all out yet, but sometimes it's a challenge to find things throuigh the Squeezebox. Fortunately they allow many ways to search, so I'm not stymied for very long.


The problem is that sometimes the artist just doesn't show up in the right place. It will also forget albums, in which case going to the server and telling it to scrap everything and re-scan does the trick.


When you add some new albums they don't show up in Slimserver immediately. I usually rip today for listening tomorrow, but the Debussy I ripped Tuesday was available a few hours later.


So, that's what I have for today. This isn't exhaustive. I'd like to see this thread develop into a good source of real-world Itunes information, so that the next confuzzled person doesn't have to fumble through the dark as I did.



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LC: "The overall point is to choose a system that works for you within Itunes' principles. Let Itunes keep your library organized. It's better than fighting their system."


I agree 100%. I used to customize & control everything my own way. Then one day a very non-technical friend said, "The more you mess with stuff the more stuff breaks." So I started to ease up on fighting the system and have never been more pleased.


I think it should be noted for audiophiles to use error correction when ripping CDs and don't use any equalizer settings or volume leveling. This may seem obvious to some but many people have sent me emails asking for iTunes audiophile settings and recommendations.


If people think iTunes is a little difficult to use at first they should try foobar2000 on a PC. not that Foobar2000 is incredibly difficult. But if you find iTunes difficult you'll faint at the sight of Foobar2000. You then realize iTunes is the best option available today.


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When I was making the switch from Windows to Mac for my music, I read that Itunes will read a Windows Lossless file on the PC and write it as Appple Lossless. "Great," I thought. "Problem solved."


So, I downloaded Itunes to the PC and set it up to convert. Ran a couple of albums through and then copied the files to the Mac. Started to play the first song and everything was great... for about ten seconds. Then there was a brief burst of static, and suddenly the music was playing about 10% slow. Every song was like that, and the second album also.


I didn't bother doing research. I just brute-forced it and re-ripped every CD. In part this was motivated by finding out just how bad a job Windows Media Player had done of tagging my music.


I'm now becoming curious about what actually happened with those files. Were they somehow encoded badly, or was it just the playback?


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I prefer to use the Artist field for the composer simply because iTunes (like everything else) makes it natural to use that field. I then put the artist(s) in the comment field which makes it very simply to use for search and also makes it trivial to have many artists (solists, conductor, orchestra, choir).


My preference for multi CD works is simply to edit the tracknumber, total tracks and disc number (do that last). That means that it shows as a single album which really feels more natural.


Both of these do require some editing, but you have to edit whatever you do since Classical music is so inconsistently tagged.


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a great recommendation, Wolfgang.


In the initial phase of my music library building, I've chosen not to load more than one rendition of any given classical piece to avoid having to deal with all of the problems associated with classical music in iTunes. I haven't yet decided to what extent I'll want to deal with solo artists in operas and such things as concerti where we have both a myriad of soloists, conductors and orchestras either. Just a brief look at the heirarchy of folders on the Music HD shows almost as many of them as there are in the 314 albums that have been loaded to date.


I am a great one for uniformity, though, so I will probably be doing some extensive modifications to the album and song title fields so that Solti's Beethoven 9th will be in the same folder as Haitink's 4th and Klieber's 5th.


Lord Chaos' suggestion for playlists is especially useful for anyone who's taken a shine to using FrontRow as a means of playing back his music too. In fact, because it enables one to collect music from different CDs into a playlist based on just about any criterion it will perform a similar task to the Browser view from within iTunes.


I am not certain how any of this will pertain to those of us who will be using the iPod touch in our headless music systems, but for unifying and making convenient search avenues available, both L.C. and you have offered some profoundly useful suggestions for all of us. Many thanks.


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