A friend of mine came over today and I showed him my Music Server. By this I don’t mean my headphones, amp and DAC. I showed him the way in which I have organized my collection of over 12,000 CDs. He was taken aback by the organization and attention to detail, and it made me think that maybe some people on head-fi would be interested in seeing what I’ve done.
Currently I have a collection of 6,500+ Classical CDs, 4,000+ popular music CDs (with an emphasis on Rock) and 2,000+ Jazz CDs. I store them in my bedroom in wonderful metal drawers, but these CDs hardly ever leave the cabinets. Instead, over the past 3 years I have designed a system using a Mac, iTunes and Front Row which I think is the most meticulous that I’ve ever seen.
All my CDs are ripped in EAC using an iTunes plugin which converts all WAV files into Apple Lossless. Then the id3 tag names are hand typed by me. I research all the composition, recording and release dates (as well as label information). Finally in order to access the way in which I feel most organized, I create thousands and thousands of play lists in iTunes which are activated using Front Row.
The music takes up roughly 3TB. I’ve calculated that my CD collection when it was purchased new over time has accumulated to roughly $300k…..I never kept track, but it really is amazing to me just how far this obsession has gone. At least 80% of the CD collection is hand scanned by myself, but I admit to using numerous internet posted scans if they are high quality. All scans are roughly 600 by 600 pixels.
Anyway, I wanted to post some screen captures showing you what it looks like.
Even though all my CDs have been ripped, only a small percentage of my play lists have been completed in iTunes and when the server is completed in roughly 6 months, the server will have a LOT more music to display.
Here's an example of how it works:
Using Front Row (and a simple remote) I start at the Playlist Screen titled COMPLETE COLLECTION
I select the Genre which I want to hear. This is what the screen looks like
In my first example I will choose CLASSICAL MUSIC to demonstrate just how awesome this system works for Classical. I much prefer browsing my Classical Collection by COMPOSER than by artist, especially when there are over 6,000 CDs being organized
When you select CLASSICAL MUSIC the next screen lists the composers (please note I haven't done too many playlists as of yet so it only shows a very small fraction of all the composers which will eventually end up in the system):
Let's say I choose MOZART, WOLFGANG AMADEUS, I will then be brought to this screen:
Above is all the different types of works which Mozart composed. This makes it very easy to navigate to the work which I want to hear. Let's say I choose [CONCERTOS]
I am brought to this next screen:
As you can see, the concertos are divided into 3 obvious sections. If a concerto contains both strings and winds it will appear under both listings. Let's say I Choose [for KEYBOARD]
I end up at this screen:
Now let's say I choose [PIANO CONCERTOS], I end up at the next screen, note that the Concerto for Violin & Piano is not in CAPS and is not bracketed. The reason for this is, clicking on it will lead to actual versions of the piece rather than what you will see below which is work-listings:
Above is the screen with all of Mozart's Piano Concertos listed. Let's say I choose the 20th which is one of my favorites! The next screen will have all 18 versions which I own of the piece listed alphabetically by Pianist; Conductor; Orchestra. It looks like this:
Let's say I select Rubinstein's wonderful version. The next screen looks like this:
Please note above that all my track titles for Classical music have a number before the track so that way I can remember the movement which I like. Also note the description which begins with the year of composition, the year of recording and the year of CD release date followed by the parent label company. This is all researched by me using numerous sites. Also I make sure that all versions of the same work have the exact same track titles to avoid confusion so for instance if this were Uchida's version of the 20th Piano Concerto, the track titles would read identically.
Once I click on the track I want, this is the final screen:
Now for Popular music this system works equally well. I choose from a list of artists, in this case I choose BEATLES:
Please note that [ALL SONGS] is a "smart playlist" which lists all Beatles songs alphabetically in case I don't know which album a particular song is on and I want to easily find it. I include this feature for every artist aside from the Classical section.
EDIT: If you are like me you appreciate Bonus tracks which labels add on to re-issues. However, bonus tracks can often destroy the continuity of an artist's original intent for an album. Who wants to hear any song after "Won't Get Fooled Again?" Not me! To alleviate this often, very annoying issue I choose to create playlists of albums with the original artist intent and create a separate playlist which I store under the [COMPILATIONS] tab called [bonus tracks]. This playlist lists all the bonus tracks alphabetically by a specific artist. In addition, the bonus track will show the cover art of the CD it is on and also list the CD title just as if I were listening to the album. I unfortunately have not included a picture of this but if there is any confusion I'd be happy to upgrade this OP and include a picture.
Now let's say I choose the very awesome Revolver album....I end up here:
If I click on [Stereo Version] it will take me to a tab of [Original Version 1987] or [Remastered Version 2009]
If I choose the Remastered I end up here:
Please take note that for organization purposes, I follow the rules of song title capitilzation this is why "to" and "into" are lower case.
Also note that a lot of behind the scenes work take place when cataloging in iTunes. For instance, iTunes has a sort feature which allows you to officially title an artist First name first, such as Neil Young, but then sorting it behind the scenes so that Neil Young ends up under the letter Y instead of N. This particular feature is not necessary for my system, but it is especially useful when not using Front Row, such as sending songs to an iPod or just browsing iTunes without Front Row. Therefore I prepare all my CDs with this in mind. This includes classical music artists who will be shown as "Isaac Stern; Itzhak Perlman" but in the sort feature will be typed as "Stern, Isaac; Perlman; Itzhak."
For Jazz Music this system works very uniquely, because I like to fully research who were the sidemen of a particular album and include the album under multiple Artist names. For instance, the Miles Davis album "Kind Of Blue" will appear under Miles Davis of course, but it will also appear under Bill Evans in the [as sideman] section. Let me show you what I mean.
Here is Keith Jarrett's screen (which by the way I own every recording he's ever made or been a sideman on....he's my favorite!!!):
If I click on [ALL SONGS] I can see all the songs which have included Jarrett both as a leading artist and as a sideman:
Some songs are listed more than once because he recorded them numerous times. The name of the album is listed when the song is selected. Please note the sidemen for that recording is listed in the Information tab below the song title.
If instead I want to choose an album which Jarrett was a sideman of but not a leading performer, I choose [as sideman] and end up here:
Let's say I choose an album which Jarrett was a leader of rather than sideman, I end up here. This example is using his album "Expectations":
And there you have it. This is the system which I have been working on for over 3 years. Most of the music has already been ripped, but the playlist creating and id3 tag formatting takes hours and hours, not to mention the scans. This system is an achievement which I am truly proud of. When it's done I may sell my entire CD collection of over 12,000 CDs because I truly enjoy navigating my music like this more than I ever enjoyed a CD system.
I hope you enjoyed looking! Feel free to ask me questions as how to emulate this system with your own collection, just keep in mind it takes a LOT of time:-)
I've been asked to show some behind the scenes photos of how this is organized behind-the-scenes.
I didn't take too many, and I stuck to just classical because I feel this is the most confusing to organize.
Once again, here is Mozart. This demonstrates his chamber music section and how it is broken down with folders. Note the one folder which is open demonstrates the playlists via ensemble name alphabetically.
Here is an example of a work I have many copies of, Mahler's 9th Symphony
Here is how some of it is typed using Mahler's 2nd Symphony
Here is the sort:
Edited by DavidMahler - 11/3/10 at 7:14pm