Updated Guide: How To Tidy Up MP3 ID3 Tags

My post ‘Tidy Up iTunes MP3 Collection’ is now nearly two years old, yet it is still one of the most popular posts each month. Given the mess that iTunes made of my iTunes library when I installed Vista I’ve had a lot of time to update my tagging methods.

My method below may seem a bit long-winded, but it is foolproof and creates nice and tidy mp3 tracks that will work perfectly with all mp3 applications, including iTunes.

Step 1 Tagging

Even if your tracks have been imported directly from CD, the ID3 tags can still contain errors; especially if you are importing old CDs or non-mainstream CDs. In the past I used to use MusicBrainz Tagger to identify albums, but now I use MusicBrainz’s new tool, Picard. The updated Picard tool uses the same mechanism as the old Tagger app to identify albums, but it is much faster and easier to use.

Picard3

What Musicbrainz Picard does is scan your music files and uses any existing tags to identify tracks. For files that Picard doesn’t recognize, it submits ‘acoustic fingerprints’ (TRM ids) of the files back to the server and asks the user to manually edit the track information or to add that particular album manually to the database, so that the next time someone uses the tool these tracks will be identified.Before using Picard I’d recommend changing the following settings in the Options:

  1. go to ‘Audio Fingerprinting’ and check Automatically analyze all new files’
  2. go to ‘Tags’ and uncheck ‘Write ID3v1 tags to MP3 files (ID3v2 tags will always be written)’, and Check ‘clear existing tags before writing new tags’ and ‘Write ID3v2 version 2.3 tags’. This is important as I’ve found it’s not good to have multiple tags included within files e.g. APE, ID3v1 etc and also because I’ve found iTunes has problems sometimes with ID3 v2.4 tags
  3. If you are tagging files you haven’t added to your music library yet then it can be helpful in ‘directories’ to check ‘move tagged files to this directory’ and create a create a directory called ‘Tagged Music’ so you know which files you’ve tagged and are now ready for importing

Now that Picard is setup, drag your files of complete folders onto the New files’ folder. Once Picard has finished anlaysing files click on the ‘Cluster’ icon in the toolbar to group mp3 files into albums, and Picard will then walk you through tagging files based on the matches it finds. To learn more about using Picard click here.

Once I’ve finished identifying and tagging my files in Picard, I tend to have a quick check to see that all is well using mp3tag. With mp3tag I can check that musicBrainz has only written ID3v2.3 tags which offer the maximum compatibility, and removed all other tags. I can also quickly browse all the various tag info that has been written and correct any typos, capitalisation problems and other errors.

 

mp3tag

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18 Responses to Updated Guide: How To Tidy Up MP3 ID3 Tags

  1. green June 26, 2007 at 2:08 pm #

    Thanks for the article.

  2. green June 26, 2007 at 3:08 pm #

    Thanks for the article.

  3. Rob O. June 28, 2007 at 12:21 pm #

    I swear by Florian Heidenreich’s Mp3tag as an absolutely essential part of my MP3 arsenal.

  4. Rob O. June 28, 2007 at 1:21 pm #

    I swear by Florian Heidenreich’s Mp3tag as an absolutely essential part of my MP3 arsenal.

  5. Everton June 28, 2007 at 3:47 pm #

    mp3tag is good for tidying up tags if they are already there, but it doesn’t find missing tag information

  6. Avatar of Everton
    Everton June 28, 2007 at 4:47 pm #

    mp3tag is good for tidying up tags if they are already there, but it doesn’t find missing tag information

  7. Kline September 26, 2007 at 3:39 am #

    iTunes does a pretty good job of setting up id3 tags on its own, but I do love me some musicbrainz.

  8. Avatar of Kline
    Kline September 26, 2007 at 4:39 am #

    iTunes does a pretty good job of setting up id3 tags on its own, but I do love me some musicbrainz.

  9. Everton September 26, 2007 at 5:54 am #

    iTunes doesn’t unfortunately delete the other tags you don’t need like APE, only tends to read the tags that are already there and doesn’t add artwork to the actual tag automatically – only to the iTunes database

  10. Avatar of Everton
    Everton September 26, 2007 at 6:54 am #

    iTunes doesn’t unfortunately delete the other tags you don’t need like APE, only tends to read the tags that are already there and doesn’t add artwork to the actual tag automatically – only to the iTunes database

  11. Tsais November 8, 2007 at 11:55 pm #

    your article was certainly most useful. I did miss any mention of how to keep the ratings during the re-import… my ratings are by far the most precious thing to me about my music library. I could live much more easily with incorrect names and missing artwork, as that is really unrelated to how much I like one song or another.

    When I load music on my different sized iPods, I do it purely by my star rating.

    And I find iTunes’ way of not storing the rating in the ID3 tag atrocious, and 5 stars not quite enough. why? cause if I give 5 stars to my very favorite music up to where that still fits on a shuffle, 4 stars up to where it fits on my nano, and 3 stars up to where it fits on my regular iPod, I only have 2 stars left to rate the rest. (no stars means for me I haven’t rated them yet)

  12. Tsais November 8, 2007 at 11:55 pm #

    your article was certainly most useful. I did miss any mention of how to keep the ratings during the re-import… my ratings are by far the most precious thing to me about my music library. I could live much more easily with incorrect names and missing artwork, as that is really unrelated to how much I like one song or another.

    When I load music on my different sized iPods, I do it purely by my star rating.

    And I find iTunes’ way of not storing the rating in the ID3 tag atrocious, and 5 stars not quite enough. why? cause if I give 5 stars to my very favorite music up to where that still fits on a shuffle, 4 stars up to where it fits on my nano, and 3 stars up to where it fits on my regular iPod, I only have 2 stars left to rate the rest. (no stars means for me I haven’t rated them yet)

  13. GP August 5, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    I’ve been looking all morning for a way to “lock” all the tag info once you get it right – including Copyright, comments, lyrics – everything. How do you do this and is there an app that will do it or do you have to edit the MP3 code and type something in?

    • Everton August 6, 2009 at 9:50 pm #

      you could put your files in a read-only directory

  14. GP August 5, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    I’ve been looking all morning for a way to “lock” all the tag info once you get it right – including Copyright, comments, lyrics – everything. How do you do this and is there an app that will do it or do you have to edit the MP3 code and type something in?

    • Avatar of Everton
      Everton August 6, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

      you could put your files in a read-only directory

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