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The Zen of Classical Music Tagging (Part 4): The case for a separate “Opus” or “Catalog Number” tag

Errare humanum est

A friend of mine and one of our power users, had for the longest time a separate tag for the catalog number or the opus of a composition, at first this choice appeared to me going overboard in the documentation of one’s music collection. I was even a tad sarcastic about it (see previous blog):
"This approach does not offer definitive advantages, unless one has photographic memory, it is very hard to select a piece this way: Now I want to hear Ludwig van’s Opus 3 sub-opus 2…”

But I was wrong (I did make amend with him too)…….and here is why:
Like Monsieur Jourdain in Moliere’s The Bourgeois Gentleman who had “been speaking prose all his life, and didn’t even know it!”, since you have been digitizing your music you have entered in the mysterious world of data modelling like any of the database management IT guys on the planet.

Indeed we are trying to model a complex world with recordings, composers, instruments, performers etc… (worse case, being the transcriptions where the author is not really the author, nor sometimes the instruments) and with fewer tools than the DB designer, our tags are only a one line text in most players. MusiCHI player being an exception.

Primary key

In data modelling, there is a sacred principle called “The primary key” it is piece (or a combination) of information that uniquely defines an object.
For example, you are defined by a social security number, a unique number that is given to each person. In an invoice, the combination of “order number with a part number” defines an item ordered.

You are by now, asking yourself, what is the connection with digital music? What defines a uniquely a composition in most case?  It is the catalog number or the opus for a lot of composers, at least.

Mozart, Piano Concerto No.15 K. 450 in B flat major
Brahms, Symphony No. 4 Opus 98 in E minor
Schubert is one of the special case, he has both
Schubert, Impromptus D. 899 Opus. 90, use either the catalog number or a combination  D. 899-Opus. 90, Opus alone does not cut it, because you have plenty of Op. Posth. which does not point uniquely to one piece, as it should.

Some modern composers do not have an opus sometimes, nor a catalog, a lot of Stravinsky’s for example: "Trois mouvements de Petrouchka". In this case, use the name, or if not descriptive enough, use a combination of the name, the tonality, and the year or a number.
Couperin Louis, Suite in C Major would be enough IF Monsieur Louis had composed only one of those. But as you guessed already, he came up with quite a few in C. So Couperin Louis, Suite in C Major (16??) or Couperin Louis, Suite in C Major No. 2 or you do not assign an “Opus/Cat no.” at all because it does not add anything and it looks too much like the complete composition text.

Why bother?

a) being able to select all the recording of one same composition

Indeed you are not expected to remember Opus 3 sub-opus 2, but with a two way click you can select all recordings of one work.

If I select Beethoven as a Composer, Concerto as a Genre and finally Piano as an instrument, the resulting list will be:


Now if you click Opus 19 in the metadata column “Opus/Cat.


Then we are left with what we want: Only the recordings of the Piano concertos No. 2.


b) The chamber music or transcription problem

IMHO it makes sense to write the instruments first in a chamber music work. Hence, the famous Schubert, Cello & Piano Sonata D821 “Arpeggione” in A minor should be formatted as such. I selected Schubert as a Composer and Chamber music>duet as a Genre but look at the picture below:


There is a viola version and even a flute & piano duet. To add insult to injury there is an orchestral version of that piece too. But by selecting D821 and the composer, you can catch them all.


Also, there are compositions which have been written first for 2 pianos and then orchestrated, and they carry the same reference. These type of works do fall in the same case.

c) You can be more careless on how you format/write you composition field.

If you had one entry written "Concerto for Piano…" mixed with some written "Piano Concerto…" You will find them distributed in a totally different region of the composition list, having the Opus tag allows you to select them no matter how it is written.


Any decent player (like MusiCHi’s) will allow you to create and populate custom fields. Besides now, we have new feature in MusiCHI Clean, any part of a composition (for example Opus or Catalog number) returned by the reference database can be written straight back to a custom field, so there is no extra work involved; Click here to see a nice example on how it works. My friend was right, any classical music library should have that tag present.

MusiCHI new version 3.6.00 is out!

Here is a short description of the new features:

Across the suite

The possibility to map any fields you want into the different tags available in MusiCHI suite. It allows you to preserve your metadata if you come from other software or to be compatible with different music stores (both for custom and standards fields). Click to read more…

Support for multiple values fields:
- in Flac (for standards and our custom fields) which allows a better compatibility with other players/rippers.
- in ID3v2  for artist, genre and composer (mp3, wav, aiff). Click to read more…

MusiCHI Player

- Possibility to randomize by tracks only for the non classical libraries.
- Increase the height of the track panel via menu, when you change screen resolution.

MusiCHI Tagger & Ripper

2 new functions in the “text processing “utility:
- Translates tonalities from one language to another (Italian, German, French, and English).  Sometimes the metadata is not in your favorite language, the other part of the text is much easier to deal with.
-  Sequentially number the movement field, in roman or decimal.

Improved: the function reversing First and last name in the “text processing “, works now for any fields which could have multiples performers (just pick the delimiter).

MusiCHI Ripper

A better functionality to (un)select the tracks to be ripped.

MusiCHI Tagger

One can modify the font size on the grid which can be handy, if you misplaced your glasses….

Standard Tags Flexible Mapping in MusiCHI

MusiCHI Suite with this new feature becomes the most flexible and powerful application when it comes to tagging, letting you assign any frame/key name to any standard metadata item.  It becomes very handy particularly, when there is no consensus on the definition of the key name of particular tags. It is best described by an example with these 3 common fields:
The total number of tracks in a CD, “Track count”
The number of the CD in a box set, “CD”
The total number of CDs in that box set, “CD Count”

Which are mapped in MusiCHI by default to TRACKCOUNT, CDNUMBER and CDCOUNT respectively.


As you can see there is no data for these items in this audio file when we edit it.


However, upon closer look the data is there, but the music vendor had it stored in different tag keys.



Now if we change the mapping accordingly:


We have to re-scan again the music folder to update the metadata, but now the tags are read and assigned properly.


Conclusion: If you music comes from another environment (using another ripper or player) or you want to use another digital player but use the MusiCHI tagging model or tagger, you can just re-map the tags without ever losing any work or data. Now you have the possibility to always maintain compatibility with any other software or pick the tag key you want.

Support in MusiCHI for Multiple Values Tags

The most popular audio formats do offer the support for multiple values. Given that some stores sell their music downloads tagged this way, or some audio software (ripper, tagger or player) do expect the metadata to be formatted as such, MusiCHI Suite offers now, that option as well.

The rationale behind that is to try to mimic the behavior of a relational database (RDBMS), no pun intended, where you have the concept of a one-to-many relationship:
The One being the song or movement,  associated to potentially many artists that perform on this track. This supposedly gives more independence to the data item. Here is an example.

For this to work one has to choose a delimiter that separate the values. In the MusiCHI Tagger (or any application of the suite) click Main menu > Settings > Tag mapping > Standard tags. In this case we use as a delimiter a semicolon “;”


Then we edit a track and write 2 artists separated by a semicolon and save.


But what is actually written in the metadata, are 2 separate lines having the same key “ARTIST”.


Now if we were to read this audio file tags with another application for example mp3tag which uses “\\” as a delimiter, it will be read properly.


Conversely in mp3tags, if we can assign 2 different genres: Classical and Piano Solo.


When we read this track in the MusiCHI tagger, this is what we get:



As you can see two applications with different delimiters can deal with the multiple values tags correctly.

In Flac we give you the option to declare on top of the usual ARTIST, COMPOSER and GENRE to enable two others Album artists and Instruments for the standards fields and any of the custom fields. For the ID3V2 family (mp3, WAV and Aiff) we treat as multiple only the usual culprits: ARTIST, COMPOSER and GENRE.

Meta-data mysteries unveiled (part 1): The logical models

In the beginning was the music, and the music was with…no identification and then came meta-data. Which is simply a few lines of text located inside the audio file in addition to the actual music. It allows to label more accurately the song or movement than just the file path could. Without being overly technical, we are going to describe the logical models of meta-data implemented by the most popular audio formats. The “key-value” and the “frame” models are in nutshell the two main tagging methods.

Model names and audio formats

There is not a one to one correspondence between audio formats and meta-data models. As the labeling information is added at the beginning (or the end) of the file irrespectively on how the music is decoded, it is common to have the same tagging model used by more than one format. For example, created by the mp3 folks, the meta-data format ID2V3 has been adopted by WAV and AIFF. In a similar fashion the OGG/VORBIS meta-data format is in use with FLAC and APE, where as WMA uses ASF and the Apple mp4 or m4a owns the AAC (both for audio and video).

The key-value model

The way it works, is better explained by this little sample below: 

COMPOSER = Mozart, W.A
TITLE = 1. Allegro
ARTIST = Murray Perahia
The key being the text on the left, the value the text on the right.
A key (primary) is what defines uniquely “something”. For example with a social security number you identify precisely a person, let say Mr William Smith. However the first/last name combination would not achieve this uniqueness objective because chances are, there is more than one William Smith in the English speaking territories. 

Going back to the audio world, you would simply search for the key “COMPOSER” and read the value “Mozart, W.A.”
With this model, implemented by the flac, wma and ape format,  it is very easy to add custom fields; just create a new key for example AUDIO QUALITY set for value “High definition” or “Lossy”. The negative side effect of this wonderful freedom coupled with the lack of clear standards, is that even for basic tags, such as “Album artist” the key can vary. Depending on the software, the following keys “ALBUMARTIST”,”ALBUM ARTIST” and even “ALBUMARTISTS” are in use.

A not so smart advice

For simplicity sake we omitted so far the case of multiple values for one key: for example with performers in the Beethoven’s Triple Concerto Opus 56. 
ARTIST= Oistrakh, David [Violin]+Rostropovich, Mstislav [Cello]+Richter, Sviatoslav [Piano]+Karajan, Herbert von [Conductor]+Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

The flac documentation does state:
"Names are also permitted to be used more than once. It is encouraged to use this feature to support multiple values, for example two ARTIST=… fields to list both artists of a single composition." 

Microsoft, having inspired themselves from the flac model quite a bit, do implement the same concept for their WMA format.
So for the previous case they would recommend to store inside the tag header
ARTIST=Oistrakh, David [Violin]
ARTIST=Rostropovich, Mstislav [Cello]
ARTIST=Richter, Sviatoslav [Piano]
ARTIST=Karajan, Herbert von [Conductor]
ARTIST=Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Given that most players do offer only a single line to display the artist values, this is an advice as good as to convince your grandmother to run a marathon after a 5 days fast.
a) It violates the key uniqueness.
b) It makes the retrieving of data much slower, we would have to count each time how many ARTIST keys we have, loop through all of them, concatenate the values to display them in one line; upon saving, as cumbersome but in reverse.Brilliant! 

Therefore we recommend to find a consistent delimiter and stick to it (like the plus sign above).
Important note: The semi-column “;” is often used as a separator but depending on the tagging software you use, it may implement “the breaking the value into multiple keys with the same name” as described above.
MusiCHI gives you now the flexibility to pick your delimiter and has multi-lines display fields, but we store the tag with a unique key. The audio format APE got it right and does not allow multiple keys with the same name in their implementation of the OGG/VORBIS meta-data header.

The frame model

This is the model used by the mp3 and m4a files, for all practical purpose, it is very close from the key-value model except that the frames (do read keys) are quite well defined, and are usually written with 4 characters. These abbreviations may appear a bit cryptic, but the result is highly structured data.
For example in ID2V3 (mp3), the artist is stored in the “TPE1” frame, the composer in “TCOM” and so on.
For the m4a/mp4 format, the “atom” (do read frame) "©ART" welcomes the artist and “©wrt”, the composer. Relief, the key uniqueness is respected: frame names are not permitted to be used more than once.

With mp3 all custom fields are stored in the naughty TXXX frame and one needs basically to add a sub-key to read/write values properly.
For example for a custom composition field, 
TXXX+COMPOSITION=Beethoven, Triple Concerto Op56 for Piano, Violin and Cello in C-M
or for instruments TXXX+INSTRUMENT=Piano &Violin & Cello.

Given that Apple owns the proprietary format m4a/mp4 and decided to completely close it, if you want true custom fields, you are out of luck.


We hope this blog helped to decipher all these cryptic abbreviations associated with computer audio, and give you some insight on how meta-data is actually stored.
In the second part of this article we will present a comparative table of all commonly used tags and their implementation across the most popular audio formats.

If you want to see list of all frames available for the following formats click   on the link.

The Zen of Classical Music Tagging (Part 3): How to write albums and compositions

At the end of the part 2 we had written that we would come up with part 3 very soon. We lied, it has been more than a year. Given we keep re-electing people in high offices who constantly do the same or worse, we will not lose sleep over it and we hope you will forgive us. However, this long period of reflection might have been for the better, it allowed us to distill the final truth on the topic. We are painfully aware that “Truth”, especially final ones, are very personal values, nevertheless, disagree with us at your own risk.

  • Albums

One of the criteria you are after is uniqueness for identifying that album, plus optionally some extra information. So, will “Symphonies 5 & 7” suffice? You bet, like Philippe Jaroussky singing the lead role in Boris Godunov, there are too many composers who wrote a 5th and 7th symphonies. How about, we add the composer then: Beethoven, Symphonies 5 & 7, again we fall short because a gazillion conductors and orchestras have recorded these works together. Beethoven: Symphonies 5 & 7; Carlos Kleiber, Vienna Philharmonic, should be the final cut unless Carlos had the audacity to record these pieces twice with the same orchestra, hence one might want to add one more qualifier, the recording year for example.

However uniqueness is not enough, let’s have a look at this amazing CD:
Style fantastique by le concert brisé, unique title indeed. But what does it tell about the musical content? absolutely nothing, it has a subtitle though: 6 Sonatas Op.3 by Pandolfi-Mealli. Let us keep in mind the purpose of the exercise: we are not publishing out the precise catalog of a record label but tagging our audio files to be able to later, select and listen to them, so be the judge: what is more informative?

Pandolfi-Mealli: Sonatas Op3; Le concert brisé [composer: a descriptive title; an ensemble]
Le concert brisé: Style fantastique
[a main performer: a non descriptive title]

if you prefer the 2nd option, you should stop reading immediately, search the definition of the word “logic” in a dictionary and copy it 500 times with a goose feather dipped in squid ink.

  • Guidelines for writing an album

A CD with a single (or two, maximum three composers and even that is pushing it), pattern: Composers: Album name; Performers
Schubert, Beethoven: Arpeggione Sonata (D821), Notturno (Op42); Imai, Vignoles

Other case too many composers or a recital
Henri Barda in japan Kioi Hall, Tokyo, 2008
Bassoon Concertos; Karen Geoghegan, Orchestra of Opera North

Now whether it formatted as above or Karen Geoghegan, Bassoon Concertos or even Geoghegan, Karen: Bassoon Concertos it is up to you, but be consistent. Basically the pattern now is: skip the composer(s) and it is Artist: album name or Album name: Artist.
We would vote for the first case because when the list of albums is displayed, the first item will always be a name (composers or artists) and not composers disrupted by instruments. But really it is for the sake of alphabetical listing esthetic, which beauty touches very few persons on this planet (which is kind of comforting).

  • A quick word about delimiters

Another good idea is to have unique punctuation to separate the logical units such as composer, album name compositions, performers etc. So you can be sure to break the line in all its components easily, in the case of a search and replace operation.
:” are good candidates for the composer and ;” for the performers for example
Hummel: Piano Concerto in A flat, Concertino in G major; Shelley, London Mozart Players
Below what
NOT to do
Hummel - Piano Concerto in Af-M , Concertino in G-M - Shelley, London Mozart Players

If you do not see why, again stop reading then grab a feather, a squid…

  • Compositions general format

In our humble opinion, Albums and compositions have a completely symmetrical role, although some refined minds that we know, refuse to acknowledge this simple truth. As a wise man once said, there is no worse blindness, than the man that refuses to look….

So we mainly agree, except the ones busy copying the dictionary, that Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor is not enough and we need a composer for example:
Sauer, Piano Concerto #1 in E-m or Melcer, Piano Concerto #1 in E-m

Where we do not all agree is whether we should add a performer after the composition itself. Now the chance that you have 5 interpretations of Melcer’s masterpiece is equivalent to the Dalai Lama opening a Burger King on Tienanmen square, in this case the description will suffice. But what about the good all’ Ludwig van’s Piano Concerto #3 Op37 in C minor (of which we have 22 versions)? We are now touching the symmetry theory mentioned previously:

We consider the composition field like a mini album or performance hence all our versions are labeled with the performers at the end

Beethoven: Piano Concerto #3 Op.37 in C-m; Uchida, Sanderling, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concerto #3 Op37 in C-m; Aimard, Harnoncourt, Chamber Orchestra of Europe

etc up to
Beethoven: Piano Concerto #3 Opus37 in C-m; Weissenberg, Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Other distinguished member of the community are shouting murder because a composition is not a recording (implied by the addition of the performers) and a composition is sufficiently defined with a composer and the name, Opus or catalog number; true in theory but let see the pro and cons in the context of listing music. The goal is to be able to select easily a PERFORMANCE, you cannot listen to a composition you need players (or you can read the score and start mumbling but it is slightly outside the scope of this paper).

Our method: In the MusiCHI Player if you select Composer: Beethoven, Genre: Concerto and Instrument: Piano, you end up up with the list of all the performances you have of the piano concertos and the 3rd in particular, so can pick your fancy: Today let’s choose the version with  Fleisher, Szell, & The Cleveland Orchestra, then click and play. If you were to scroll down the composition column, the album cover would be  corresponding to the work.

A side note: given the inconsistency of the classical meta-data an attempt to sort on the Title (or song) field for the same composition will give you very little extra information most of the time, unless you have painstakingly edited them manually. Following are some example of the third movement of this concerto included our collection; all came from the various internet data-sources available for tagging.

Klavierkonzert nr. 3 in c-moll, op. 37 - iii. rondo – allegro
03 Rondo. Allegro 3
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37: Rondo: Allegro

The “other way” (no performers in the end): In selecting in a same way, Ludwig van and Piano concerto, you end up with only 5 entries and you can pick the 3rd, but you have no idea who is playing the stuff, and the cover displayed will be the first coming up. To play something then you have to look in the track lists for performers and movements, hoping to have them in the right order, then select the 3 movements…Now if you are a music critic or a student conductor and your movements are identically formatted which with the global population distribution and internet data quality, would have a slightly higher probability than the Dalai Lama and the burger join, closer to His Holiness and a fresh veggie juice bar, then this strategy is fantastic for comparative listening of various movements, otherwise….

  • The Composition string

Let us abandon this bloody minded (we are from the MusiCHI world after all) academic debate and have a closer look on how to write the composition string itself. There are no perfect ways because we are limited to one line text tag. Hence a “Zen” riddle…
99.9 % of compositions can be modeled with 7 variables (please read The Zen of Classical Music Tagging (Part 1): The anatomy of a composition for more details). This model breaks down a bit for transcriptions (see special section below), but it is not that crucial: on moral grounds, should not we buy only original works and refuse to sponsor blatant plagiarism?

Only instruments, name, catalog number/opus are useful for sorting purpose and if you keep insisting that one could also sort by tonality, proceed to the fish market buy a squid, followed by a trip to the butcher for a goose and…..

  • Generic guidelines for compositions

Orchestral music

Beethoven: Symphony #1 Op21 in C-M
Pattern: Name, Rank, Opus

Beethoven: Overture Op. 062 “Coriolan” or Beethoven, Overture “Coriolan” Op. 62
Pattern 1: Name, Opus, Nickname, note the 0 because there is among other things an Overture Opus113 “Die Ruinen von Athen” and it would be nice to have them sorted properly by opus number (that is the whole point with this pattern).
Pattern 2: Name, Nickname, Opus. The list in this case would be organized alphabetical by name so you can number the opus as you please and skip the 0 or leading blank

Some composers were too lazy to number their publications or did not attract famous scholars to dig their catalog up so you are left with a name only, to add assault to injury the name could be filled with strange characters. Up to you to apply the locals’ way, but be consistent.

Ravel: Bolero or Boléro
Pattern: Name only


Here there is a clear winner: to have the instrument first, except for special cases (see later special cases), when the concerto genre is selected you can have the works grouped by instrument in an obvious manner, which is handy.

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 Op73 “Emperor” in Ef-M
Pattern: Instrument, Name, Rank, Opus, Nickname, Tonality
instead of
Beethoven: Concerto for Piano No. 5 Op73 “Emperor” in Ef-M

Chamber music

Up to a quintet the pattern: Instrument, Name, Rank, Opus, Nickname, Tonality also works very well

Beethoven: Flute, Violin & Viola Serenade Op25 in D-M or Beethoven: Cello & Piano Sonata #04 Op102/1 in C-M

After that, it would be a bit silly to list all instruments in case of a larger ensemble Onslow: Nonet Op77 in A-m, unless they belong to one group Beethoven: Winds Octet Op103 in Ef-M or one instrument is the star of the show Beethoven: Piano Quintet Op16 in Ef-M.

Now if you favor for sheer sake of completeness Beethoven: Violins(2), Viola & Cello Quartet No. 15 Op. 132 in A-m over Beethoven: String Quartet No. 15 Op. 132 in A-m, We are afraid that light psychiatry has a nice name for you.

Solo music

Instrument first is also a good idea Bach CPE: Oboe Sonata Wq132 (H562) in A-m except when it is not. In a case of composer that mainly wrote for piano solo Chopin: Piano Ballade #1 Op23 in G-m to add piano in front could be a bit of an overkill Chopin: Ballade No. 1 Op. 23 in G-m would suffice.
A not so clear cut case is
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 03 Op. 2/3 in C-M versus removing the word piano Beethoven: Sonata No. 03 Op. 2/3 in C-M; a matter of taste then.

  • Transcriptions

Again with only one field (i.e. one line) to deal with the original author and the plagiarist. The most reasonable may be is to put both. Then in which order? you consider that the finished product has more of the copyist contribution, put him first else the original author. For example:

Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)/Liszt, Franz (1811-1886) for the symphonies on piano
Beethoven/Liszt: Symphony No. 5 Op. 67 in C-m (trans. Piano S463a)

S463a being the Liszt catalog number for this piece

In the case of the fabulous Busoni’s Chaconne, it is not so cleat cut, from a violin that can play one note or two at a time compared to ten with a keyboard, Ferruccio must have added quite a few thing of his own. So Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750)/Busoni, Ferruccio (1866-1924) or Busoni, Ferruccio (1866-1924)/Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750)? Your call and for the composition we have the same dilemma:

Busoni/Bach JS: BV B24 Chaconne in D-m from Bach JS BWV1004 Violin Partita No. 2
Bach JS/Busoni: Violin Partita No. 2/5 Chaconne BWV1004 in D-m (trans. for Piano BV B24).
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is famous for this quote “Ta Panda ri” (everything flows) he could have done an international double whammy by changing it just a bit “Ta Panda gri” (everything is gray). Indeed no black and white in the world of classical meta-data.

  • How about?

Why not use the opus of the catalog number first for all works? Given that not all pieces have an opus or catalog number, or that the catalog number is either thematic or chronological, this approach does not offer definitive advantages, except in special cases (see later). Besides unless one has photographic memory, it is very hard to select a piece this way. “Now I want to hear Ludwig’s Opus 3 sub-opus 2” is not for everyone, but kudos to you if you can manage this method.

  • Special cases

In the baroque area, opus had a slightly different meaning that thereafter, only the pieces that the cupid composers thought would bring “mucho dinero” were sent to publication. In proportion to the total output, it is generally a small part but they are often recorded together. Although we mentioned previously that having the instrument(s) in front for a concerto offered definitive advantages, if you have a few complete set of Vivaldi opus recordings, it is quite convenient to have the opus listed first
Vivaldi: Opus 08/01 Violin & Strings Concerto RV269 “La primavera” in E-M
Vivaldi: Violin & Strings Concerto RV269 Opus 8/1 “La primavera” in E-M
This applies strategy does apply to all baroque composers not just Antonio.

Another anomaly Bach’s cantatas for example: “Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden” BWV6. Unless you are born in a Germanic culture or studied 5 years in Heidelberg, “Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden” does not tell you much and mnemonically speaking, it is a nightmare. Do not take our word for it, ask any classical aficionado in Bangkok, he will confirm. So for the rest of us, having little connection to the “Vaterland” to have the cantatas sorted by catalog number instead of alphabetically is a plus.
Bach JS, BWV0001 “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern”
Bach JS, BWV0002 “Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein”

  • Conclusion

As you saw, given the complexity of the data itself and personal tastes, we can give only some guidelines, in most case there is no right nor wrong, except for the cases worth of a copying assignment.
What could be wrong, may be, is to forget what is the purpose of tagging (a quick reminder: to select music) and err in the over-documenting side of the fence: for example defining a custom field for the year of the composition (easy) and populating it (very time consuming); although it is a very interesting piece of information in its own right, would really ask yourself this? “What can I listen for my breakfast ambiance composed in1805”, but then again why not? It was a very good year for music…..

A new version! MusiCHI Suite (3.5) features list

Across the suite
•    We added 2 more custom fields (which now totals to 6) which can be either ours, or mapped from other products (like DBpowerAmp or JRiver).


•    On closing any applications of the suite, the splitter positions are saved, so your screen will appear as you left it, next time you load that module.
•    New composers’ composition catalog in MusiCHI Clean: Mendelssohn & Scriabin

•    Box set wizard: helps you to create one folder per CD and move files accordingly and automatically upgrade the track count, CD number and CD count for each CD of the set, as well as the album name. To find out more, look in our blog:
•    We display in data the grid the album covers specifications for each track (height & width in pixels and whether it is embedded) so you can identify  the low resolution pictures easily, hoping to find better ones (ideal size 500 to 700 pixels) on the net.
•    If one moves the mouse cursor over the current album cover, one can see its graphic specifications (size and whether it is embedded or not).
•    Auto selects the composers for which we have a composition catalog for the tracks loaded in the data grid.

Tagger and Ripper
•    A completely redone text processing utility to help you to format metadata, which is much easier to use than before and offers many more new powerful features. Most formatting actions can be saved, so they can be executed sequentially at a later point in time.  In effect you have now, a scripting language for batch mode processing of your metadata at your disposal. To find out more, look in our blog:
•    You can query the reference database to find out the list of composers for which we have the catalog.



A new “carrousel” covers view is available (for Albums or Compositions): Showing as many pictures as you want without having to page, just scrolling. Moreover, you can sort the album covers in any order you desire, for example: Period, Composer, Genre, Instruments or Date created, Audio specification or Genre, Artist or… One can select many albums/compositions at a time (using the usual way of selecting used by Windows) to send their respective tracks to be played.
•    The copy/move /convert to mp3 feature, now understands the notion of “relative path” while computing output file names.
•    Tagging from file name is more flexible


The box set wizard

Phase 1

Very often when one purchases a box set via a download store, the files are bundled in one folder (see picture below). Given that the only way that internet services (FreeDB, Gracenote, GD3) identify a CD is by its TOC (Table Of Content, meaning having all the tracks belonging to that CD and sorted by track number order), it is a very good idea to keep one CD per folder. By the way, Amazon does always list a box set grouped by CD as well. We can automate in this case the creation of sub-folders and moving the files where they belong.


Go to the MusiCHI Tagger main menu, Click “Edit” , “Box set wizard”, “Group files per CD”, this form will pop up.

1) Fill up the “Folder name of the recording (Top level)” either by dragging the folder from Windows explorer or clicking image.

2) Select the audio file formats, we are not going to move the pdf booklets or the CD graphic cover(s).


3) Now comes the tricky part the “CD number starts at character” and “Length in characters of the number”. In this example the files are named in the following fashion:
The CD numbering starts a the first letter in the file name and is 2 characters long, hence the value 1 and 2 in the picture above.
If the file pattern was 2-01 Concerto, Wq 43, 6 in C maggior.flac, the values would be 1 and 1; If it was CD [02]-01 Concerto, Wq 43, 6 in C maggior.flac, the values would be 4 and 2.

4) Sub folder initial name is the word for writing the sub folders “CD” is the most common, you can write “Disc” or whatever you like provided it does not brake windows file name conventions, an advice, keep it short.

We started with:


We click “Proceed” and we get after processing:




and viewed grouped by directories


We are done.

Phase 2

Now that the files are where they shoud be, or you started from that state having ripped with the MusiCHI Ripper this box set with the proper file pattern (with the CD number in it in) for example: image

Now, we are going to fill up automatically the following fields:

  • Track count
  • Disc number
  • Disc count
  • The album name with an optional numbering

Please go to the MusiCHI Tagger main menu, Click “Edit” , “Box set wizard”, “Number CDs and albums”, this form will pop up.


It is very similar that the previous one:

1) Fill up the “Folder name of the recording (Top level)” either by dragging the folder from Windows explorer or clicking image.

2) Select the audio file formats so we can tag only audio files.

3) Fill up the album/box set name according to your conventions.

4) Add a number also in the “Album” tag, if you do not want that extra bit of information there, leave the text blank in the “Numbering prefix…” field.

Then click “Proceed”

We stated like this:


The metadata has been adjusted:


As well as the Album name:


If you have to tag the famous “Gustav Leonhardt Edition” which has no less than 14 CDs, you will realise how nice this box set wizard is!

How to use the new “Cleaning Tags” aka Text processing


The new text processing has a tremendous power and flexibility, here are the 3 main modes of operation:

  1. concerning one tag only
  2. where two tags are involved
  3. batch jobs that can act either on one or two tags sequentially

One tag only

  1. Search and replace from text (normal, wildcards or Regex, with some predefined expression like find tonality, opus or a composer catalog number).
  2. Search and replace from delimiters allows you to find text based on a cut off character such as : or a space for words (left or right part) or text which is between 2 characters for example ( and ) or, : and ;
  3. Search and replace from position, for example:  Get a text starting at the 3rd letter of the line having a length of 10 letters.

For all of these cases the found text can be either replaced by another text or moved at the end or beginning of the line

Other features:

  1. You can also insert some text entered manually or coming from the clipboard.
  2. Add or remove blank spaces around punctuation or any characters.
  3. Custom functions: converting roman to numeric or reversing last and first name (vice-versa in both cases).

Two tags

  1. Copy/Cut/Swap a tag to another.
  2. The same search capabilities as for the one tag case 

The  text can be copied or cut from the source to any position in the target tag

In all cases you have a preview of the result your actions by looking at the current and modified tab before you decide to save your work in the audio files metadata.

Batch processing
You can save any (almost) action in the “scratch pad” by clicking image and if you go to the “Action tab” you can see the list of saved rules there.


Given that often we end up doing the same operations all over again, we offer the possibility to save the action listed in the scratch pad by clicking image .The resulting form will pop up


If you click 1) you can see the existing chapter names you have saved already. By clicking 2), it will show you the entire collection. If you are using an existing chapter name, you can see that you can override the content or add to it.

To use previously saved actions click image, you can always look at the list of your saved actions image.

A quick example

We start with a CD where the composition field is empty, but can be get it by splitting “name, title..” with “:"

(see blow the picture) We load the text processing utility and start; it is a 2 tag operation, source is “Name, title or movement”, target is “Composition”, the search is from delimiters, it is separated by “:" and the first occurrence of it, we are interested in the left part after it has been split, finally we copy it (as opposed to cut & paste) and replace the target field by this text. We can inspect with the Current and Modified values that we are getting the expected result, if satisfied we save the rule image


Now we are only going to treat the “Composition” field, for example:
Deleting all commas, the metadata is then “Compositions”, search & replace from text, find “," and replace by blank which is in effect a delete, and we save image. For example sake, I cheated and filled up the composition field else I could not demonstrate anything.


Then we go on and add more actions in the same fashion (see in order below):

  • Replace “No. ” by /0; it is a sub-opus and they are more than 10
  • Replace ” minor” by “-m”
  • Replace ” sharp” by “#”
  • Replace ” flat” by “b”
  • Replace “Op. ” by “Op” (I know I skipped one)
  • Which is using Regular Expressions (RegEx) to find the tonality and move it to the end (See below)

RegEx are very powerful, but can be a bit daunting so we provided a few already, note instead of “Replace by” we decided to “Move to” the text at the “End”, with no offset.


Here is an example of final list of actions in the “Action list” tab. you can inspect the effect of your work on any tag by selecting it in the combo box (the red arrow below).


Because we are going to use these actions over and over again, lets image them and call the “chapter” EXAMPLE.


When we want to use them later click image and select the actions you want. Checking a chapter will select all the actions underneath or you can pick and choose any one of them randomly. In this screen too you can delete entries you do not want anymore.


Now time to save the cleaned compositions back to the audio files clicking image

Et voila!



These new features should save an enormous amount of time for those who want to groom their music collection. It is a great step for making the MusiCHI tagger, the killer app. We hope you will agree.

MusiCHI New Release Version 3.4!

Very soon (we are talking days) a new version of MusiCHI is going to be out, here is a list of the new features.

  • Entire suite

- Custom fields
We now offer 4 fields CUST1-4 which can be labeled as you please. This customization is stored in each library, for example on a Rock library CUST1 could be the record producer, where as in a Classical library it could be a performance indication (historical vs. modern instruments) or the country of the composer, you decide. Moreover, these fields can be mapped to use tags coming from other applications, for example if you are using DBPowerAmp as a ripper, you can use within MusiCHI fields such as “Soloists” or “Performer”, or any custom tag. Here below “OPUS”.

- Audio spec.

A Flac file can be of CD quality or a Studio master, a wma or mp4 can be lossy or lossless, so we added an Audio spec. field, so you can filter the library according to these criteria.

- Unlimited size of Track number/ Track count / Cd Number / CD count
Internally the Track number/ Track count / Cd Number / CD count fields are now numbers instead of being previously text. What does it mean in practice? No need for the ugly leading zeros to achieve a correct sorting, and the maximum number is not limited to 99 any longer. So the Rolling Stone’s 500 best Rock songs of all time can fit without any problems, with track number ranging from 1 to 500.

- Possibility to view all tags written inside the audio file
Now you can inspect all meta-data that has been written inside the audio file not just the MusiCHI fields.

  • Player

A lot of improvements have been introduced in this application.

- The library will update itself automatically after editing the tracks:
Previously if you were correcting for example a performer’s name that was misspelled, you had to re-index the library to see the changes reflected in the Album Artist column. Not any more! The column will update itself automatically (of course this feature works for all selectable fields).

- Your selection is remembered when you re-arrange the order of the columns around.

- You can alternate between the “Composition” or “Album” view instantly.

- The filtering has been improved, you can filter and use the columns selection to further refine your search.

- A selectable random program: if you are into listening romantic chamber music, but do not want to bother to select a particular album or composition, the player will do it for you. Select Genre>Chamber music and Period>Romantic then right-click and pick Random program, that easy! If you are in Album view, it will send 5 CD to the playing queue, if you are in Composition view it will send 20 compositions.

- You have the option to show empty tags as “unassigned” and have the possibility to select and inspect them. This is useful to detect tracks where you forgot to write some data. This feature can be turned off if you choose so, as some fields naturally do not need information for every tracks (for example instruments).

  • Library Manager

-A new utility to scan and report all missing data for a selected list of tags in your library. Who wants a CD with no entry in the “Album” field? It will be detected instantly.

-A vastly improved recovery feature to be able to write back your library meta-data to the audio files in case of a disc crash. It allows you to select the folders/files where you want to copy the meta-data.

  • Ripper

The Flac endoder (the “thing” that converts WAV files to that Flac format) natively does not support Unicode file names and paths (which is a big problem for files written for example with an Asian alphabet), but there is a work around which we have now implemented. So from now on, you can rip using any diacritical characters in the meta-data which will result in folder/file names with diacritical characters for your Flac files.

  • Tagger

We made it automatic to write a CD meta-data to the MusiCHI data source tab. Why is it useful? If you have let’s say, a CD in mp3 and you get a version in Flac, you can send all mp3 tags data to the MusiCHI data source, and then write them back to the Flac album. In a nutshell, you can copy/paste meta-data from one album to another, provided they have the same numbers of tracks.

Note: the library structure has changed a lot, previous libraries are not compatible with this new version. So you will have to delete the previous libraries, re-create new ones and scan you music again, a small price to pay for all these improvements.  We are sorry to put you through that, but this is the best way to achieve a bug free and stable application.

How to organize your digital music on the file system the MusiCHI way

Listening music with your computer is merely sending an audio file to the computer sound system, and because it is a file, well it has to follow all the file conventions, in particular, its name and its path; in non geeky talk that is its location on the disc, which (back to geek talk) is the tree of directories (called a tree: because they are linked in a parent to child relationship)
for example

Here are some non politically correct guidelines on where to place the files and how to name them based on our experience, after tagging/ripping thousands of CDs; you are free of course to agree to disagree. Ordering one’s music collection properly is usually a 2 step affair, rip and organize your collection, re-rip and re-organize your collection because you understood how to do it correctly. But if you read and apply some of the advices provided here, you just might skip step 2.
To start with, the holy trinity of blunders is a follows:

  1. The files are all over the place
  2. Trying to catalog one’s music using the file system
  3. Describing the piece using a long folder path/file names

We will address these issues below.

Daring to paraphrase this unsung hero of the 21st century philosophy, Donald Rumsfeld

  • They are things we know you should do (self explanatory, but resist the “I know better” reflex)
  • They are things we know you should not do (see above, but turn off the “It does not matter” or “I like it this way” reflex)
  • They are things we do not know you should do (this is the compromise area where right and wrong are intertwined, as in a sub-committee of the US congress)
  • They are things we do not know you should not do (choices that would lead to some undesirable effects, but we had no idea in the first place, hence it is inappropriate to expect any advice from us)

The things we know you should do

The music root directory
Find an anchor position for all you audio files the obvious example, pushed by Microsoft, being C:\Users<Me>\Music or C:\Users\Public\Music. Now logically, it fits the bill, but it is far from ideal, like James Bond and Timothy Dalton. The C: is where Windows is installed. If you have to re-install Windows, goodbye to all that. A better compromise is to partition your disk, making a logical D: drive (even if part of the same physical device) and use D:\MyMusic as a root. If the previous sentence did make as much sense to you, as would 16th century Uzbek poetry, speak to your nephew; if you are an Uzbek literature scholar, you may still want to speak to him.
Improving on the same lines but much easier to grasp, buy a new disc (USB or else), it is cheap!

a) space: because audio files are big, you do not want to bloat your C: drive and you will run out of space sooner or later.
b) it is easier to backup. Yes, you need a backup, many smart guys have maintained the Kleenex stock at a very decent price level overtime, ignoring once (twice or more for the real geniuses) this advice.
c) for performance issues: let the operating system use the C:  for its thing, while you spin the D: (true only if D: is a separate physical drive).

And under that music root, you start branching out D:\Mymusic\Pop, D:\Mymusic\Jazz etc.
Comforting feeling! you start to have a handle on where your precious music is. And it is very precious, mind you, at 10-20 $ a CD, it adds up very quickly; and if you value your time, and you should, estimate how long it took you to rip and tag your CDs, or your downloads (by the way, we are 100% in favor of the legal ones only). Cost that at even the cheap rate of 5$ an hour, and you will floored by the final value. Protect your investment! 

The one can be many
For simplicity sake, we said one place, but if you have a huge collection (in this case you are probably an experienced computer audio  practitioner and you do not need any advices but…), it could be spread onto many discs D:\MyMusic and F:\MyMusic, but at least in each disc (logical or not), there is a starting point of storage for your audio files.

Keep an unique folder per CD
Most internet data source that help you to tag are CD based, for example FreeDB/Gracenote compute the unique identifier of the CD or its converted files by: the total playing time, the number of tracks, the playing time of each tracks ordered by track number. You do not need to be Sherlock Holmes to see, that if the files are separated, you will never be able to re-compute its CDID and might have to re-tag manually, if need be. Amazon does present its results by CDs as well. By the way, in case you love to tag your CDs manually, we strongly suggest to seek medical help, as fast as possible, and not in the dermatology department.
Hence be extra careful about your ripper’s file pattern, look at the resulting computed file names and path, they ought to be together (for path and file names see the “What not to do” chapter).
For example a CD with distinct composers do not use composer in the pattern for many artists the same applies. As the 11th Commandment prescribe “Thou shall tame your ripper”.

Our recommendation for folder path: It just has to be unique and descriptive enough in the minimum amount of text

For a box set, pretty much the same but use one level more down

Multi-libraries: add a sub root folder
The more important for last, MusiCHI being a multi-libraries system it is a very good practice (translate “just do it”) to create a sub directory for each library, corresponding roughly, to major musical styles, but they can be mixed, as the third entry illustrates.
  |             |- CD 1
  |             |- CD 2
  |-Heavy Metal and Um-papa
  |- Pop
Like this you can re-scan and reconstitute each library easily. Even if you use another software, it is still a valuable strategy.

The things we know you should not do

Using the file system as (a bad) proxy for metadata
The file system tree revisited: a Parent->Child relationship is a great to model for mechanical objects like your favorite electric deep-fryer, so you can zoom down to sub-parts all the way to a bolt. It is fine, to deal with the simplistic word of Rock music:
a Band > an Album > then songs
however as soon as you have multiple performers or a compilation, it collapses, and for classical music it is utterly inappropriate. The project of training your wood-pecker pet-bird to drill the hole for hanging grandma’s portrait on a concrete beam has a far greater chance of success. I have personally met someone at a MusiCHI demo, who had 6 terabytes of music and had spent the last 2 years attempting to perfect the folder names and hierarchy with composers, performers even using shortcuts to reference other locations; and was still not happy with the results…for a very good reason, the famous square peg in a round hole.
So at the end of the day : organizing your files this way is a loosing proposition and waste of time, spend it instead to groom your metadata and purchase a decent player like ours.

Using the file name to describe a musical movement
As far as file name goes, one can for sure improve upon the default
but the following, at the other hand of the spectrum, is psychotic (I swear I have seen it)
(06) Beethoven,Piano Trio No7 Opus97 in B-flat major “Archduke”-III Andante cantabile ma però con moto.Poco piu adagio.flac
You have in the windows world, a limit of 255 characters and it applies to the entire file-path and not just the file-name. Which means if you copy this beauty in a directory with a long  path (meaning , exhibiting more of a behavior that could  be probably fixed by talking 15 years on a couch,  D:\Mymusic\Classical\Dabedibou\blabla...\blabla\Dabediba\) well (un)expectedly some problems might arise.
In my humble opinion a compromise of this sort is much preferable and safer and do not forget the 11th commandment above.
           |-(06) Op97 3-Andante cantabile.flac
Besides, very long file names makes the search a lot slower.

Using a too deep nested folders hierarchy
If you use XP and the infamous “My Music” directory, you already start with
C:\Documents and Settings<Your user name>\My Documents\My Music\ and that is English, in German it is even more impressive, to boot if your user name happens to be Jean-Christophe Rechambeau de la Bouilladisse-Ardisson you see the potential issue. To add assault to injury, if you cannot resist the urge to organize the files by composer,  artists and albums you end up with C:\Documents and Settings\Jean-Christophe Rechambeau \My Documents\My Music\Classical Music\Vivaldi Antonio\Academy of St Martin in the fields\Concerto Opus 8\ plus the file name proper; but you are already close to the limits.
The 11th commandment is still applicable here too.
All this nonsense because one wants to use the folder names, the file names to document a CD, instead of using the tags, which where created solely for that purpose.

The things we do not know you should do

Microsoft says: “The file system is Unicode compliant” in human dialect this means that you can use in file path/names non simple Latin characters like é, ç, ñ ,å, æ, ä, ü  ø , you can include too these guys ^ &@{}[] , even some letters of the Thai alphabet or as many blank as you want. And they are right! until in some extraordinary cases it does not work. It is not a sudden paranoia attack; we have witnessed  (very rarely but who want to be 97.3% pregnant) directories forgotten, files skipped from various audio software, because of “weird” path names; double blank usage for example is calling for trouble . So do yourself a favor, instead of writing Don Giovanni - Karl Böhm, to be on the safe side, better this way DonGiovanni-KarlBohm or for you the savvy intellectuals out there  DonGiovanni-KarlBoehm.

The things we do not know you should not do

We still maintain that it is inappropriate to expect any advice from us, but the 11th commandment  is still not to be forgotten.

Executive summary

  • Have a music root directory (if possible not “My Music”)
  • Have sub-roots for each library (corresponding to major musical styles)
  • Keep file names short as well as the file path, free of “weird” characters
  • Keep a CD in its own sub-folder

A last pearl of wisdom for the road, quoting the author of
“Computer audio is like everything in ICT (Information Computer Technology), easy, logical and you only need a weekend to find out why it is not working.”
But when it does, and it eventually does, it is a lot of fun and very rewarding, so get those files organized!

MusiCHI Suite nouvelle version 2.8 aussi en Français

MusiCHI Suite® : la nouvelle Suite Musicale conçue exclusivement pour la musique classique, le jazz ainsi que tout autre style exigeant de musique, maintenant disponible en Français

A la demande des mélomanes MusiCHI Suite, l’unique application de musique digitale où l’utilisateur peut enfin organiser intelligemment sa musicothèque et l’écouter avec une flexibilité sans précédant en haute fidélité,  a été traduit en français.
Le programme de librairies multiples MusiCHI Suite contient 4 programmes (player, ripper, tagger, library manager), qui se complètent et se renforcent les unes les autres, en mettant en perspective les divers domaines musicaux. Vaux la penne de noter que la Suite possède une base de données de référence intégrale (MusiCHI Clean®) de musique classique, où plus de 5000 entrées (compositeurs, artistes, orchestres etc.) ont été corrigées conformément à leur orthographe d’origine.  
Etant donné que le programme MusiCHI Suite supporte les Drivers ASIO, il peut efficacement contourner le mixer de MS Windows, garantissant ainsi un son Hi-Fi, avec ASIO4ALL, le joueur digital est «Bit perfect ».

MusiCHI Suite new release 2.8

MusiCHI Suite©®: A New Version of the Ultimate Hi-Fi Music Organizer & Player Now Available 
A new release, Version 2.8, of MusiCHI Suite, the first multi-library application completely dedicated to classical, jazz or other more demanding genre of music, is now available. In the new  version  there is more space for performers, introduced especially for opera fans, new features have been added to the ripper, the help files have been improved and some minor enhancements have been applied to the 4 applications of the program (Player, Ripper, Tagger, Library Manager). Each application is, thus, even more optimized for its task, where uniquely introduced ”tools”, relevant to music classification can be utilized.
Worth mentioning that the Suite is equipped with a complete reference database (MusiCHI Clean©®) for classical music, where more than 5000 entries (composers, performers, orchestras, etc.) have been properly corrected and normalized with full respect of their local spelling (umlaut, accents etc.),i.e. the program is fully Unicode compliant.
MusiCHI Suite is ASIO Drivers compatible, including ASIO4ALL, allowing to by-pass the video sound mixer of Windows and achieving bit perfect digital output (we have passed bit transparency tests with a Weiss DAC202).

MusiCHI Suite new release 2.1 and new batch of videos

We are going to release version 2.1 of MusiCHI Suite, the most advanced and powerful music organizer, on 16th Sept 2011, with lots of new features, so we updated all the tutorial videos, and created new ones:

Computer audio 101:

MusiCHI Suite, What to do first?:

MusiCHI Player:
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:

MusiCHI Ripper:
Ripping demystified aka Ripping 101:
MusiCHI Ripper, How to start:
MusiCHI Ripper advanced:
MusiCHI Ripper, the data sources:
MusiCHI Ripper Classical, tagging the CD:

MusiCHI Tagger:
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:


MusiCHI Portable:

Data sharing:
Data sharing across the suite:
Communication between applications of the suite:

Check it out!

The MusiCHI Support

A very good review of MusiCHI Suite

A very good review of MusiCHI Suite has been recently released. It describes the full potential of the music organizer and its applications (Ripper, Tagger, Library Manager and Player), a software program that best manage classical and jazz music.Read more:

 Player view

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