Manage Your Music Library

The headphones are alive with the sound of digital music

Talking about Digital Music can be a confusing experience for the uninitiated. If you've never heard terms like MP3 or music library you might have some idea but aren't sure exactly what is meant.

An MP3 is usually an individual song. Since Mpeg3 is really just a method of compressing data (a compression format) you can create one continuous MP3 from a whole CD, but it's usually not done this way. So talking about an Mp3 as a song as in the oft repeated sentence: "Oh, I have that MP3."

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They're really saying they have that song compressed in the lossy format known as MPeg3. It's a confusing interchange of nouns. It's like saying that since you drive a Honda, your last trip to Denver was a Honda, because it was performed from behind the wheel of a Honda. But nobody really cares what you drove, the relevant information was Denver. Someone else might use a different method to get to Denver (such as the VW method) just as there are different compression formats, for instance .WMA is another file type that is often used. It's far less likely anyone would say they have WMA, only because MP3 is the noun that reached that critical mass of users to become accepted into the language as meaning "a song."

Since an MP3 (or .mp3 which is the file extension) is a file type used on computer operating systems it also has metadata associated to it just like any file on a computer. Metadata is just data about the file it's attached to - it's like a trailer to a movie. Usually this is where you'll see information like name of the track, name of the artist, length of the song, year it was first recorded, date the file was made, album the song comes from, genre of music and much more. Some of this info, like artist, album, song names will be read by an mp3 player and display somewhere on the playback device while the song is playing.

Playlists are like a compilation CD you create. Want an album just called "Party"? Then you create a playlist that consists of all your "Party" songs, regardless of artist, album or genre. You can give playlists catchy titles like . "Depressing Goth Tunes" or "Birthday Party Mix". Playlists are an excellent way to manage your music and play the tunes you're in the mood for.

The library is your entire digital music collection. The trick with a library is that it's huge, or it should be. Often, people have music in different places that don't have access to each other. Let's say you have a computer at work and a shared drive with a bunch of work tunes on it; that's a library too. But you have your main collection of MP3s at home which is a different library.

It's a common predicament that doesn't easily fit into features that like to synchronize all your music, so it's a good idea to turn off automatic synchronization on music management software like iTunes which comes with your Apple iPod. Digital music libraries can be a bit unwieldy in their enormous size, so it's best to plan how you'll manage them and lay them out. If you just fill one big directory full of MP3s, at the root that directory will be so big it will lag any device that tries to access it. So breaking up your music collection into folders is the default method most CD ripping software performs. More about ripping CDs in 'How to Rip MP3s'.