Get More from Your Music Library

Collection

By: Kyle Rayner

If my digital music collection were to suddenly manifest itself into some kind of physical media, I’m sure it would look something like this picture. A random mess of scattered songs, from different places and times, each being a small surprise every time they were played. Fortunately, these tracks will remain in digital form and everyone has the option of re-organizing them with relative ease. The most obvious forms of organization involve play lists and smart tagging which have been previously covered in depth here and here.

Take it a step further and there are still many things that you can do besides basic organization that will keep your digital music collection in top shape and wont cost you a penny. After the jump I will discuss three methods in which we can better our music collection and the freeware available to do the job.

Like every other digital DJ out there, I have music files that are from all over the place. Releases from different online music stores, promo releases from different labels, and even some essential vinyl rips have made it onto my hard drive. Because of this plethora of music sources, I noticed a few issues when using Traktor Pro with my mp3 files.

First off, even with the auto-gain feature turned on, some tracks still tend to be noticeably louder or softer than other tracks. Secondly, not all of my album covers are being recognized. Lastly, although some djs have sprung to pay for key recognition software, those of us who are strapped for cash are left with poor options for getting organized by key.  What you see below are some solutions for each of these issues and the freeware I have found to work best for each application.

Solution #1 – MP3Gain (http://mp3gain.sourceforge.net/)

MP3Gain is an easy to use piece of freeware that clears up the issue of different mp3’s from different sources having different volume levels. It automatically adjusts mp3s so that they all have the same volume. How will this affect the sound quality? Unlike other music analysis programs out there, MP3Gain does not decode and re-encode the mp3 to change its volume. This way the change is completely nondestructive to the file and all changes are completely reversible if you don’t like the outcome. Here’s a screen shot.

mp3gain

Using this software is very simple. Just add files or your entire folder, analyze the tracks, choose a target volume, and apply the “track gain” to the files. I chose 96db because in Traktor, this is where the auto-gain seems to think the mp3 is closest to the desired volume and will apply less than 1db of adjustment.

HINT: Be sure to use the “Track Gain” method of volume adjustment. This mode makes the software find how far each track is from the desired volume and applies a different amount of gain to each track. If done in “album gain” mode, then the software will assume each track has the same volume level and will apply the same amount of gain to the entire collection, not what we are looking for.

DOWNLOAD FOR WINDOWS: Download Page Link

DOWNLOAD FOR MAC OS: Download Page Link

WARNING FOR MAC USERS: The current version of mp3gain available for the MAC OS is unable to make a non-destructive change to the audio file. This means that, unlike the PC version, once you make a volume change, it is permanent. It is strongly recommended you make a backup of your music library before you run the software with your files.

Solution #2 – MediaMonkey (http://www.mediamonkey.com/)

The free version of this software will allow us to take any mp3 file and embed any image of our choice into the file as the album art. Here is a screen shot.

mediamonkey

Using this software is fairly easy as well. Just add the desired mp3 into the “now playing” area of the player. Right click the track and select “Properties”. Go to the “Album Art” tab and click “add”. Then pick the image of your choice, leave the settings at their default, and click “Ok”. Your image has now been added to the file as the ablum art. At this point you will be able to open the mp3 in iTunes, Windows Media Player, and most importantly in Traktor, and your new album art will be there.

Windows download Link: Media Monkey Download (Just select the freeware version.)

MAC USERS: Sorry guys, but Media Monkey is (for now) only available on the Windows OS. After a good deal of searching however, I was able to find an iTunes script that embeds the whatever previously located and stored album art to the file. This way the image isn’t being stored in a separate location and it becomes part of the music file so it will move when the music does and will be automatically visible to in programs like Traktor, and doesn’t rely on finding the artwork in the dedicated iTunes album art folder.

The iTunes script for this can be found here: Embed Artwork v1.1

Solution #3 – Rapid Evolution (http://www.mixshare.com)

Rapid Evolution is a freeware alternative to the other key detection software on the market. Although its look is customizable through the various skins available for download on the site, this is a screen shot of the software with the default skin loaded.

Rapid Evolution

Because this software run in JAVA, it is compatible on all operating systems. (PC/Mac OS/Linux) It allows you to detect the key and BPM of your tracks, and store it in the ID3 tag. It even allows you to analyze the key of a live audio input! This means that even if you don’t feel like like converting some of those old white labels over to a digital format, you can still determine the key and BPM without the piano and metronome. It is also very simple to use. Once you have your collection opened in the software, select the tracks you would like to analyze, right click the group of selected files, go to detect, then select “BPM” or “Key” depending on what you want to do.

Although the software isn’t 100% accurate, even at its highest accuracy setting, neither is the competition. There is nothing on the market right now that guarantees 100% accuracy in the field of key detection and BPM analysis. Rapid Evolution is also continuously being updated and revised, so look for new or beta versions periodically.  As of its latest release (v2.12.7) it is also very stable. You can download it here for all platforms.

Download page for all platforms: Rapid Evolution v2.12.7

So there you go, three solutions to what I have found to be problems with my music collection. See if they work for you and hopefully you too will be able to get more out of your music files.

Kyle is a Dj TechTools regular, check him out at his home page

http://www.djkylerayner.com/

  • SebastianNZ

    Great article, especially the mp3gain tool, been looking for something like this for a while. I ripped all my vinyl to digital and the volume is different to all my mp3s. Not for much longer 🙂

  • Rosco

    I have used both RE and MM for wrangling my convoluted music directory. I still use MM for the great scripts but have found Trainspotter http://www.tspotter.net It does discogs queries, smart playlists, key detection and plenty more. Also the guy who wrote it is a good guy and deserves support

  • Minotronic

    ehm… translation issue… “intelligent folder” means Smart playlist. 😉

  • Minotronic

    I work on Mac, and use traktor and RE. Here is the process.

    I use musicexporter a small freeware app to transfer my playslists (I pers. like to have my musci primarily sorted out by month , date of inclusion does the trick) from iTunes to fantastic RapidEvolution, then in RE, I detect key and bpm, this is perfectly done in batch processing.

    As I am not very good with tags, I manually enter BPM and Key in the ALBUM column of iTUnes (I don’t really need the album info), like 128.5 8A.
    Pros of that is that in Traktor, bpm and key appear directly under the title track.

    Furthermore, in iTunes, I can create some intelligent folders with “Album containing… 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, etc… and have folders by key (for 1A and 2A, also include a condition that is “not containing 11A; 12A) otherwise you get 1A and 11A in the same folder).

    That’s a very simple and quick process that works great for me.

    (Ean, can’t write something in DJTT without saying thanks again, I probably wouldn’t be a -bedroom, but hey, that makes me happy- dj if not for djtt!)

  • Sam Londe

    You guys continue to be awesome and I really appreciate all the information you share. We know how secret DJ can be about their kit so thanks for breaking the mold…

    [quote comment=””][…] http://www.djtechtools.com/2009/06/10/get-more-out-of-your-music-files/#more-1410 […][/quote]

  • Alex Turlea

    [quote comment=””][…] http://www.djtechtools.com/2009/06/10/get-more-out-of-your-music-files/#more-1410 […][/quote]
    Not all of my cover art from media monkey is visible in Traktor. Is there something I am doing wrong? If anyone knows how to fix this can you email me at sandu8@gmail.com.

    Cheers,
    Alex

  • [quote comment=”20030″]1) gain: because of macmp3gain beeing destructive, i prefer to do this manually with a relative midi knob (if traktor pro’s autogain isn’t accurate enough).

    2) had never troubles with that. use itunes for importing, managing and tag editing(incl. artwork), and see all my artworks in traktor pro (have only 600 of my mp3’s in my track collection, maybe i have these worries soon…)

    3) tonal key detection…i like! but only for my track collection (not my complete iTunes library). my dj tracks are part of my iTunes library. so i prefer beaTunes http://www.beatunes.com/ for this task (supports itunes playslists). select all tracks of a playlist – analyse – key – start :)[/quote]

    Note that beaTunes does not generate the key in the camelot notation:
    http://www.beatunes.com/news/labels/Key.html

    I wonder if there is a way to convert this with some applescript?

  • 1) gain: because of macmp3gain beeing destructive, i prefer to do this manually with a relative midi knob (if traktor pro’s autogain isn’t accurate enough).

    2) had never troubles with that. use itunes for importing, managing and tag editing(incl. artwork), and see all my artworks in traktor pro (have only 600 of my mp3’s in my track collection, maybe i have these worries soon…)

    3) tonal key detection…i like! but only for my track collection (not my complete iTunes library). my dj tracks are part of my iTunes library. so i prefer beaTunes http://www.beatunes.com/ for this task (supports itunes playslists). select all tracks of a playlist – analyse – key – start 🙂

  • esse2k

    I have one question. When i use Itunes for the Smart Playlists in Traktor the Album art rarely shows up. (This is after adding album art to most of the files using MediaMonkey). However if I import the files and view them through the Traktor library I can see all the album art.

    Anyone know why? and a way to fix so I can see the art even when I am browsing through the Itunes node (which is the point of the smart playlists..?

    thanks

  • Jan

    I played around with RE and MP3Gain and now, for some reason, my entire Traktor colletion f’ed up (all files lost reference) and a huge bunch of files that were part of my collection got permanently deleted somewhere along the way…

    I probably did this somehow but now I’m terrified to use these programs again since I have to redo my entire collection including cue points, key and bpm…

  • Noel

    Hi Friends, Exellent article, talking about mp3s organization what about tag’s, i guess many of my collegues have the same problem i do about mp3s tag, many underscore, no song names, missing artwork and many other issue about that. any recomendation aboutit ?

  • Rudi-J

    makes sense
    thanks

  • @Rudi-J

    As for adjusting the gain and adding album art with media monkey, you should be fine to go ahead and make those adjustments. After doing that with my files, all my beatgrids were in tact and as far as I could tell, all of the major ID3 components were left unscathed. However, as each system is different, I would recommend doing a trial run with a few tracks before using RE to do a huge batch process on on your entire music collection. I would recommend doing this.
    1) Grab 10 tracks and back them up.
    2) Add your desired album art.
    3) Adjust the gain to these tracks.
    4) Then us RE to add key codes to your track. (Note GregSwindle’s instructions ^^^)

    If all goes well with this trial run and they appear to be fine in Traktor, all should be well for the rest of your files. Hope it all works!

  • Rudi-J

    @Kyle
    Thanks – so what is your recommended workflow then for those who have already done a lot with their TPro collection and just want to improve selectively on Volume, Keys, and Cover Art?
    I need to re-analyze them – ok but this shouldn’t harm my beatgrid (if it is locked? wiil it?).
    Ok I could try it out myself but actually i am not so sure with all of that as i remember when upgrading to TPro I also thought after a few tests what i intend to do is “safe”, but then I experienced unexpected serios trouble by loosing “year” information in Tags and things like that which took me some time and extra efforts to recover…

  • @Rudi-J

    You will need to re-analyze these tracks, as they will now be at a different volume from that which they were when you first had them analyzed.

  • Ack, my instructions got truncated!

    To recap BATCH PROCESSING WITH RE:

    1. add songs > browse
    2. Go to your track directory
    3. Shift-click the tracks you want to analyze
    4. Click “ok”
    5. Click “add all > ok”
    6. Select less than or equal to 100 tracks.
    7. Right-click and choose “detect > key.”

    TO AVOID OVERWRITING TAGS:

    1. Go “options > songs.”
    2. In the “tag reading/writing” section, only select the tags you’re actually importing, in my case, “key” and “use key codes instead of keys” (to write to Camelot notation). That prevents your precious tags from oblivion. Mp3Tag, which I use to rewrite file names, writes songs’ keys to the INITIALKEY and KEY_START tags.

  • MediaMonkey (MM) is great. I use it with iTunes; I might buy MM, though, to create smart playlists, which MM calls Autoplaylists.

    I’ve been using RapidEvolution 2 (RE) for about two months months now for key detection, and I’m happy with it. (Can’t beat the price!) It effectively allow batch processing, but it’s clunky. Moreover, I recommend you only analyze ~100 tracks at a time. Here’s how I “batch process” (in Windows):

    1. add songs > browse
    2. Go to your track directory
    3. Shift-click the tracks you want to analyze
    4. Click “ok”
    5. Click “add all > ok”
    6. Select song”
    2. In the “tag reading/writing” section, only select the tags you’re actually importing, in my case, “key” and “use key codes instead of keys” (to write to Camelot notation). That prevents your precious tags from oblivion. Mp3Tag, which I use to rewrite file names, writes songs’ keys to the INITIALKEY and KEY_START tags.

    Good luck!

  • Krilikz

    Media Monkey is awesome! This has to be the best media program for organize huge collections

  • Rudi-J

    lets assume most tracks in my TPro collection have intentional Names, Titles, album names, Comments,(custom) Genres, BPMs, Cue Points, the Beatgrid is adjusted and locked etc.
    Qustion: Is there any risk by using one of these tools to destroy or overwirte anything else than Key + Cover art?
    Must I re-analyze tracks after using these tools especially due to altered volume?

  • DJ Phaidon

    [quote comment=””]This process embeds the artwork into your music file.[/quote]
    Great info. It would make sense for iTunes to just embed it anytime it exists, but at least it has the option. Good lookin out.

  • misa

    To help set the story straight with iTunes’ artwork storage.

    Yes, by default all the album artwork is stored in a folder and is not actually embedded into your music file.

    A simple fix is to play a track on iTunes. When the album art is displayed in the now playing box, right click the image and select copy. Highlight all of the songs from that album, right click, select Get Info, and in the album art area you can paste.

    This process embeds the artwork into your music file. It is usable in both PC and Mac. It does not require you to search for artwork on the internet or use a separate program to search and embed it for you.

  • Sorry, ^^^^ was me.

  • Anonymous

    @NZ

    Yes, while iTunes allows you to add artwork, it stores it in a separate folder that is dedicated to iTunes that it can access when needed. Media Monkey, though just for PC allows you to embed the image directly into the mp3 file, so it is always with the file and is almost always recognized by other media players. The apple script I posted thakes the images added into that iTunes artwork folder and embeds it into the file automatically. This is why so many others have complained that about half of their added artwork not coming up in other programs after using iTunes to do it.

  • Corsico

    I just had an orgasm looking at that photo. Is there anything greater than music?! (Don’t answer that!) 🙂

    Great article!

  • Rapid Evolution 2 is a great piece of software. Nothing is 100% accurate at discerning key but RE2 has a built-in piano that lets you sort things out for yourself (and it assigns a “key accuracy” value to its findings so you know where to begin). It is the smartest solution around… not sure why anyone would want to bother with MIK or any of the other options.

    Hint: if you want to speed up the BPM analysis part of your work flow just drag and drop files into the freeware MixMeister BPM Analyzer before running them through RE2. It easily cuts down about half of the time you would spend to analyze BPM and key at the same time using RE2.

  • Ok lets try that again with my name filled in.

    [quote comment=””]Iw wonder if someday we’ll have a perfect BPM tool.[/quote]

    NZ, the best BPM tool I’ve ever used is Serato Scratch Live. Its almost always dead on accurate even with my dubstep and D&B. The software is free, even if you don’t own the hardware.

    Kyle, good job brother.[/quote]

  • f0tif0

    gratest post ever

  • Anonymous

    [quote comment=””][quote comment=””]Iw wonder if someday we’ll have a perfect BPM tool.[/quote]

    NZ, the best BPM tool I’ve ever used is Serato Scratch Live. Its almost always dead on accurate even with my dubstep and D&B. The software is free, even if you don’t own the hardware.

    Kyle, good job brother.

  • PDM

    Great post. Thanks!

  • DJ Elvis

    [quote comment=””]I’m deaf so anyting MIK said I agree ![/quote]

    I mean about Key determination ! justo to make clear

  • DJ Elvis

    Just to be a voice in the side of Mixed in Keys, I have the v4.0 and is fast, relyable, never freeze, and I dont think is expensive, by the way I’m deaf so anyting MIK said I agree !

    And since Ean put me a light in harmonic mixing, I’m can not do it anymore without harmonics, feels so wrong when the danceflor ask for someting out of the scale that I always have a internal fight.

    But when we are talking about bpm detection feature of MIK just forget about it, Traktor still the best for me.

  • NZ

    KyleRayner, u should realy use Mac!
    We, mac users, add artworks for ages, simply draggin to the “Drag Album Artwork Here” field) in iTunes)

    And i dont see a reason to change the gain – Traktor does it perfectly on the fly, making the decks equal, it even has a Master limiter.

    BPM detection is the problem. Its easy to calculate house, trance, etc. But when it comes to dancehall, dubstep, something with breakbeat, most programs stuck in panic. I tryed all the programs, but none of them satisfied me.
    I got used to this procedure: i add track to Traktor deck, it analizes the track with about 70% accuracy, then i add a Grid cue point for a first beat and adjust it.
    Then iam sure that track WILL sync perfectly.

    Iw wonder if someday we’ll have a perfect BPM tool.

  • There was a thread about PN recently:
    http://www.djtechtools.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5098

    Supposedly there will be an update to PN soon.

  • Miyuru Fernando

    Do you or does anyone have any experience with software such as Platinum Notes? Would you recommend it?

  • mpetersen3

    Thanks, the gain solution is a major plus for me as dealing with gain on a vci, where the gain knobs are shifting instantly (I believe this is absolute mode, please correct me if not). It is every now and then that my levels jump up massively because I forgot that autogain is changing the software position of the gain knob and then reconciling the position when I move the actual knob on the vci, resulting in the oh shit moment, when the track volume jumps up or down. Hopefully this can fix a lot of that. Didn’t realize RE was free and also I am looking forward to it because mixed in key won’t tag many fields with the key, which makes having it show up in traktor difficult.

  • I have been quite dissapointed with MIK. For one its unable to update AAC files (though it does detect the key, you just need to manually write it into the id3 tags). I also had constant crashes, which sort of diminishes the fun of batch processing. One should also note that it requires a connection to the internet.

    http://ifnotwhynot.me/mik-what-a-disappointment

  • gfocus

    Hey, thanks for the article. I already wanted to dash out the money for platinum notes but now I’m gonna try mp3gain first to see if it fixes my gain issues.

    I am using RE quite some time now and love it – the only gripe I have with it, is that for some files it just refuses to detect the key. I don’t know why, can’t see a pattern. But 98% of the time it works like a charm.

  • Hey,

    Great Column Man. I have been looking for a way to do everything you had stated:

    -I want more accurate key and BPM detection
    -I want album artwork on all my files
    -I want constant reliable sound quality.

    I have been looking at the Platinum Notes and Mixed In Key software to solve these problems, but am I always ready to find free solutions.

    Free.99 is the best price…

  • NickBarnett

    This is quite possibly the best website ever.
    Every article is so useful, and this one definitely tops it off.
    Thanks again.

  • @jppoirot

    I chose 96db because that seems to be where Traktor doesn’t want to increase or decrease the gain adjustment when the track is loaded. Also, at this setting I was able to look at a few random sample files in a wave editor (Audacity) and it showed no signs of actual clipping in the waveform, despite what mp3gain is saying. I think this is happening because mp3gain has its default setting at 89db, so it will see most files going too far beyond that point as clipping. Mp3gain was developed in mind for at home users for use with with mp3 players and basic computer speakers, so a quieter track wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In our case however, we want the file to be loud enough in Traktor without making it clip. Feel free to do an A/B comparison yourself at this setting and post your results.

    For Audacity, the freeware wave editor to check your file’s waveform… http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/

  • jppoirot

    I found the anwser that i was looking, but i still don’t know which gain will perform better 96.0 or less.

    *The file is currently clipping (indicated by a “Y” in the “clipping” column).

    *The file will have clipping if you apply Track Gain (indicated by a “Y” in the “clip(Track)” column)

  • @Matt

    “Rapid Evolution is the only program which can detect advanced key modes, such as aeolian, ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian and mixolydian.”

    I think people consider MIK to be the next step up from RE because it does batch processing were you only have to import the files and click “Process Files”. It is brainlessly simplistic, streamlined, and you have to pay for it, so many people assume its better. I say give both a try and see what works best for your particular setup.

  • jppoirot

    Why the target gain in the mp3gain is 96.0, i just scan my colection and 50% says (Y) in clip, that means if i apply the changes half of my colection will clip. Maybe is better to try a little less gain or not?

    That’s what i found in the manual of the software

    Sorry for my bad english, Dj rtry from Chile!!.

    ———-
    The default is 89.0 dB because most mp3s will not have clipping at this volume level.
    (“Clipping” means that when the mp3 file is decoded by your player, some of the sound samples will be too loud. The player will “clip” these samples so that they do not exceed the maximum allowable value. This clipping creates a sort of rough, “scratchy” sound during loud parts of the song.)
    If most of your mp3s are from very modern CDs, then you might be able to push the Target Volume up higher without introducing clipping into your files.

  • Matt

    Aside from RE being free, it wouldn’t hurt to spring a few bucks for Mixed In Key as the next best software.

    Mixmeister is probably faster/easier, though it costs a lot more since it’s used to make mixes.

    But as said, none of them are 100%; in fact Mixmeister tends to only do minor keys, whereas Mixed In Key stretches it to also include majors. Yet, MM will show keys and MIK does keycodes.

    Either way, mixing in key takes things to a more complete and controlled level.

  • DJ Phaidon

    Using RapidEvolution, make sure you are EXTREMELY careful when allowing the program to read/write styles and genres. Using the import function, it sometimes adds a style based on any playlist that it’s a part of. Unfortunately, when you write the tag, it also writes the genre as the first style on the list, completely F’ing your tags. It’s a great free program, but you have to treat it with care.

  • [quote comment=””]Just a little typo I noticed.

    “Although the software isn’t 100% accurate, even at its highest accuracy setting, neither in the competition.’

    Do you mean neither is?

    But great article![/quote]

    Haha, yes that would be it. I’m sure Ean will give it a fix in a bit.

  • Misha

    Just a little typo I noticed.

    “Although the software isn’t 100% accurate, even at its highest accuracy setting, neither in the competition.’

    Do you mean neither is?

    But great article!