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Song Tagging and Metadata Blog

Friday, 23 September 2016

Tagging Classical Music:Part 2 - A Sensible and Configurable Track Artist

We saw in Tagging Classical Music Part 1 how the Track Artist provided by MusicBrainz is great for Pop/Rock music but not for Classical music.

What is Classical Music ?

To be able to do something clever for Classical music first of all we need to identify what is Classical music. The definition is not clear cut but SongKong uses various heuristics to try identify if a song is Classical, these include considering the composer (if any), the level of works, acoustic analysis, the record label, identification of orchestras and choirs in the performers and text analysis of the release and song title. We build a probability based on all these factors and if the probability is high enough the track is marked as IsClassical

Note:However it should be said if you have no Classical music or do not want to treat your Classical Music differently you can disable this by disabling the Automatically Identify Songs that are part of Classical releases and apply those changes option on the Classical tab

A Configurable Track Artist

Once a track is defined as being Classical the Classical options within SongKong come into effect. The MusicBrainz Track Artist option allows you to configure from a number of different options, the default is Performers and Choir/Orchestra/Ensemble and Conductor - note the Composer is not included.

SongKong then builds this track artist by looking at the Track Artist Credits, Recording Artist Credits, Release Artist Advanced Relationships and Recording Artist Advanced relationships. 

It also does additional text based analysis, to take a very simplistic example if there is artist credit containing the word Orchestra in the title then that artist would be considered to be an orchestra even if there is no performing orchestra advanced relationship for this track.

Another example is that we have identified over 3000 Classical composers that died before 1900, we can be mostly sure that if one of these artists is credited on a track that their role was composer rather than performer even if there is no composer credit listed.

The data is not always complete but by using the above techniques we can usually create a track artist credit that matches the option chosen.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Tagging Classical Music:Part I - The Track Artist

In Pop/Rock music there is usually a single performer or band who is credited for the track. They are often the composer of the song as well but when they are not the details of the writer are not usually so important, the artist credits on the release itself make it clear who should be credited for each track.

For example 19 the first album by Adele contains mainly songs written by Adele, but track 9 Make You Feel My Love is a cover of a Bob Dylan song, and the main composer of track 3 Chasing Pavements is Ed White. However the Track Artist for all songs is Adele.

But in Classical music, various performers, an orchestra, a conductor and a composer are all usually
credited, this means there is potentially a long list of people credited for each track, and we don’t
have an accepted order they should be added in.

MusicBrainz approach is to store the Composer in the Track Artist field as can be seen in the release of Piano Concertos whereby all songs are credited to Mozart.

However the the actual performers of each track such as this one are stored in the Recording Artist field, and as relationships between the recording and various people involved.

Until now Taggers usually take the track artist field from the databases such as MusicBrainz  and use it for the Artist field, the result of this was that the Composer was added to both the Composer and Artist fields, and the performers were only stored in specialist fields like Performer and Conductor, if at all. But this rather simplistic approach is not really satisfactory for Classical music

In the Part 2:Tagging Classical Music we explain how SongKong uses a more sensible value for Track Artist in Classical music.

Friday, 9 September 2016

SongKong 4.0 now released with Classical support

We are pleased to announce that a major new version of SongKong is available today

The main focus of this release is support for Classical Music tagging. Classical Music has never been as well supported in taggers, players or indeed any aspect of recording music as Popular Music but with this version of SongKong we aim to address that.

We will discuss Classical in more detail in other post but there are some key improvements that we list here:
  • SongKong now identifies when a song is classical music 
  • When identified instead of just using the composer as the track artist by default it now adds the performers, orchestra and conductor, but you can configure to keep on using composer if you wish.
  • Works, movements, part, part numbers and part types are now added in their own fields
  • Orchestra and Opus now have their own fields
  • SingleDiscTrackNo now stores the trackno as if it is ona single disc release
  • Performers are added with their instruments, with additional fields to indicate if they are credited soloists or not.
We also make some general matching improvements.

The reports now let you play your songs from within the report to make it easier to check results. This works for all formats that html supports (mp3, wav, ogg, mp4)

We also provide a linux version that can be installed when you only have a command line and no gui (also known as a headless server). SongKong has always had the ability to be run from the command line but previously the installer itself needed a Gui.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

What would you like to see for Classical Track Artists

For Pop/Rock the track artist is clear, generally they are the artist credited for the track on the album cover, they are the performer of song and often the writer as well. If tracks are not credited seperately then they will be the artist credited for the release as a whole, and it is assumed all tracks are performed by the same artist. Usually the artist credited will be just one person or band, and rarely more than three people.

But for Classical it gets more complicated...

 Keeping things simple at release level a Classical release will give usually give credit in this order to
  • Composer
  • Soloist
  • Orchestra
  • Conductor
Of course they may be no soloists and if the release contains multiple works there many be multiple composers or in the case of compilations even multiple orchestras and conductors

At track level clarification can be provided on which tracks a soloist actually performed. When there are multiple works by multiple composers the track artist would only list the composer for that particular track and so on.

So there are more types of people credits on a Classical release, and more people in total.

What should we store as the Release Artist in SongKong and Jaikoz

We use what MusicBrainz provides, which usually corresponds to credits on the cover, and would usually comprise Composer, Soloist (if prominent), Orchestra and Conductor. By having the composer first this has the added advantage that if the AlbumArtist field is used for naming files then all releases by a particular composer would be alphabetically grouped near each other.

But what should we store as the Track Artist in SongKong and Jaikoz

In the past track artist would probably just store the composer field, and this is what MusicBrainz currently provides by default and is what SongKong and Jaikoz currently use.

But in all metadata formats there is a standard Composer field, and this is now well supported by most media players, so do we need to store it again here. There is also a standard Conductor field but this less well supported. What there is not is good support for Soloists and Orchestras

But MusicBrainz does in most cases also store the conductor, orchestra, soloists and also performers

When there is an orchestra performers would probably not be considered of enough signifcance to be part of the track artist, but when it is a classical piece performed without an orchestra then they could be.

I am working to add support to store Soloists, Performers  and Orchestras in their own fields as well to allow users to make use of the data as they wish but we still need a sensible value in the Track Artist field and I would love to hear what you think about this

Some Options

Use Composer as Track Artist
Use Orchestra as Track Artist
Use Soloist/Performer/Orchestra as Track Artist
Use Soloist, Orchestra, Conductor as Track Artist
Use Composer, Soloist, Orchestra, Conductor as Track Artist

But I would rather not add options that are not going to be used so which would be your choice ?

Friday, 1 July 2016

New version (3.25) of SongKong Music Tagger with new features

I am pleased to announce that SongKong 3.25 is now available

This contains some bug fixes and some improvements

1. The rename mask has been extended to allow you to use audio data such as sample rate and bit rate and also to use the original filename as it was when the file was first loaded into SongKong.

2. To help customers with Classical music or home made albums that may use certain fields in a particular way there are now more option to not overwrite these fields on the Artist Format and Album Format tabs

3. We no longer try to guess whether we have permission to edit a file at load time because this does not always work for some filesystem/network combinations. Instead we try to save first and if this fails because of a permissions problem we then display the permissions for that file in the report

4. When using Delete Duplicates you can decide when you find duplicates what criteria to use for deciding the duplicate file to keep and the duplicates to delete. We have now added a new option File Modified Date

Full details here

Friday, 25 March 2016

Tagging DSD Files with Artwork and metadata

What is DSD?

Direct-Stream Digital (DSD) was the name used by Sony and Philips for their system of digitally recreating audible signals for the Super Audio CD (SACD),  But more recently it  has gained traction as a way of storing computer-based audio, especially for playback on hi end audio systems.

Most digital audio use a form of  pulse-code modulation (PCM). But DSD is different in that its underlying audio storage is pulse-density modulation (PDM).

This is how Paul McGowan of PS Audio describes it

1-bit audio is simple to understand in concept.  There are no samples, there are no words, there is no code.  Instead there is a continuous streaming “train” of single identical bits that are either on or off.  The more bits that are on, the higher the eventual output voltage becomes.  The more bits that are off, the lower the eventual output voltage.  We refer to this type of scheme as Pulse Density Modulation because when you have a greater number of on bits it appears as more densely populated.  
The speed of the bits is 64 times the sample rate of a CD and some DSD schemes run at 128 times faster than a CD.

Here’s the interesting part of this: if you take a DSD stream and run it through a simple analog lowpass filter to smooth out the on/off transitions, you get music!  This is amazing considering that if you do the same with PCM you get only noise.

DSD is a lot closer to analog than PCM ever thought to be.

this simplicity and direct relationship with analog provides for a potentially better listening experience. 

Converting Super Audio CD to Computer Files ?

When we convert a Super Audio CD to computer files to store on a computer there are two options, DSF and DFF

DSF supports ID3 metadata just like MP3s, but DFF does not and requires use of an separate database. 

So it is always best to convert to DSF not DFF, if you already have DFF files then it is simple to convert to DFF using an Audio converter application.


Adding artwork and metadata to DSF files

I said earlier that DSF support the ID3 format, this means that tagging software that support DSF files such as SongKong can add the rich depth of information from MusicBrainz and Discogs that it already does for other formats.

1. Select your DSD folder(s)

2. Start Fix Songs

3. SongKong will identify your songs and add lots of lovely metadata, when it has finished
 a summary dialog will appear

4. Then a Song Changes report is open which details exactly the metadata that has been added, even with two screenshots we cannot fit it all in

5. Now you can properly manage your DSD music with the Music player of your choice.

Monday, 14 March 2016

A Discogs Tagger

If you have digitized your Music collection, then there is a real boon in not just identifying your songs but maintaining the links to the Music database they have been matched to. For example you can list your collection on Discogs, you might want to just share your music preferences or you may be interested in trading some of your records.

This is why SongKong and Jaikoz do not only store basic metadata like Artist, Album and Title, but also fields that identify the correct MusicBrainz/Discogs data such as the artist(s) and release.

With previous versions of SongKong songs an attempt was always made to match to MusicBrainz before matching to Discogs. But now in the latest 3.24 release you can disable MusicBrainz matching and only match your songs to Discogs, just disable the Search for a MusicBrainz match.

Now you can even disable the Acoustic fingerprinting stage, but even if you are only matching to Discogs then SongKong can still make use of  acoustic fingerprints, so we do not usually recommend it.

And of course you can just match to MusicBrainz and not update or match to Discogs by disabling Update from Discogs and Search for a Discogs Match.

Monday, 15 February 2016

SongKong 3.23 now supports DSF audio fingerprinting and metadata tagging

This new release of SongKong has a a host of new features and improvements

Perhaps most exciting is support for the DSF format

DSF is the DSD format stored as a regular file with metadata support. DSD is a PDM encoding of audio, essentially the audio can be seen as a stream of bits that can be on or off, the more ones in a row the greater the amplitude they represent. This simple encoding can allow a better representation of the original analog sound, hence potentially better representation of the original analog recording.

SongKong supports audio fingerprinting, song identification and adding of metadata to the DSF format. DSF supports the ID3 metadata format, exactly the same as MP3 and AIFF files so this means we can store all the great same metadata including cover art as these other formats

New Options

There are a host of other new features, including the following new options suggested by some of our PS Audio customers

1. Ability to not modify Artist, Album Artist, Sort Artist, Album Artist, Composer and Sort Composer to help with Classical/Jazz collections
2. Option to use JRiver compatible field for Album Artist for Flac/Ogg files.
3. Easy option to set max file path length 

Better Matching

And now we have even better matching

1. Better matching for individual songs.
2. Better identification and matching of Multi Disc releases

3. Use of Acoustids to match individual songs to Discogs when no match in MusicBrainz. 

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