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06/09/2010 - SIBELIUS 6.2 - WIKI software updated - Announcements

iTunes For Musicians

This sections aims to show you a few tricks how to use iTunes as a musician to manage large libraries and to aid you in your composing/arranging work.
All information here represents personal experience and has proven itself working in real life ™.

How iTunes Works

iTunes is probably the most underestimated and misunderstood application on the planet. First and foremost, iTunes is a database designed for managing huge amounts of music you really care for. The last is very important, since keeping a big library organised is some serious work and you should only do this with tracks you really want to listen to over and over again. iTunes is not suitable for listening to the occasional track you got from wherever! It is most definitively not meant to serve as a quick “audio preview app”. It is a jukebox, designed to manage tracks, play them back and know as much about them as it possibly can.
Furthermore, it is an Apple application: This means either you get on with it or you don't. Lots of people don't, which is fine. Contrary to popular marketing phrases, then there is nothing you can do about it.

The premise of iTunes is that you do not have to care about file structure. iTunes will manage the physical location of files on your hard disk. You can switch it off, but the whole concept of the application is designed around letting iTunes do its job. If you know iPhoto on the Mac, you know how this works.
The way music is organised is based on Tags, the information stored inside music files. iTunes does not care for file names. So when you throw untagged files at it, your library will be a mess. The more tags (song name, artist, composer, year…) you provide for the application, the better its database will handle things. It is therefore advisable to enter tags before importing into iTunes, or doing it immediately after importing!

Because iTunes is essentially a database with extensive search features, a well ordered library takes some time to create. For consistency, you will, for example want to always use the same naming scheme, i.e. when you have “Big Music Collection - Baroque Opera” as an album name, another volume in this series should follow the same naming convention, not “big music collection: opera, romantic”. Even track data from Gracenote (the external database of track information iTunes uses for finding out things) sometimes is not perfectly ordered (you may have “Handel, George Frideric” on one album and “Georg Friedrich Händel” on the other). iTunes of course regards those two as seperate composers, so it is your task to make it consistent. The same applies to spelling mistakes. There are dozens of spelling variations on some composers.
This list goes on and on with album artwork, possibly song lyrics and many more things. Because of this work to really have a consistent, well-ordered library, you should only use iTunes for albums you want to hear on a regular basis and which are (for you) worth the work.
When you care for your library iTunes will prove to be an incredibly easy and fast way to listen to music. The tight integration of things like Apples Airport Express or the iPod touch/iPhone make it a perfect companion.

iTunes As Inspirational Resource

The biggest feature of iTunes by far is its database. With all files correctly tagged, iTunes knows a lot about your music. As such, you can just search for artists, composers, track titles, years or even BPM to find what you are looking for. This makes iTunes a great tool for getting inspiration. If you, for example, have to write a piece for string quartet for a short film, you can search for similar music and get a feel what your client may want. With smart playlists, you can create dynamic listings of tracks, which are automatically updated. The search alone justifies the work involved when importing your CD collection into iTunes!

The Importance Of Being Tagged

This section is going to be really short: iTunes ONLY uses tags to organise its files. No tags = total chaos. This is a design decision, and a very good one. So unless you do not want to care for your tags, do not use iTunes. Amen.

ACCTS - Advanced Custom Comment Tagging System

There are few things about iTunes that are really bad, but the worst thing is its creator: Apple is incredibly reclusive about future versions, there never is a changelog and you have no means to interact with the developers.
Though very powerful, the tagging system of iTunes in conjunction with Smart Playlists sometimes leaves things to desire, for example custom tagging fields. But there is a solution: the comment tag. There you can enter tons of information either by hand or using AppleScripts (if you are on a Mac, go to Doug Scripts for iTunes). You can of course use every system imaginable, but here is how it can be done:

First, you should use a consistent system for custom tags, for example


You can then just append one tag to the other:

 <studio:pixar <genre:animation,kids,adventure <filmnr:2   and so on...

But why is there no closing bracket ”<”? Easy answer: character count. You cannot store infinite data in the comment tag, so disperse with everything you do not need. Be sure to always use the shortest words possible. There is no use for “Pixar Animation Studios” when “Pixar” is just as sufficient!
This way you can add every kind of information to your tracks - remember, as the tags are stored inside the file, you even have all this available when not using iTunes (i.e. when you use tracks in projects).
In iTunes, you can use smart playlists to search for those tags.

Nifty Little Tricks

  • You can embed high-resolution artwork into the first track of every album. This will be used for CoverFlow. All other tracks can then be equipped with lower resolution artwork to reduce space.
  • There is no need to open the file inspector to embed artwork - just drag it on the artwork space in the lower left.