Apple Is Finally Making iTunes Better for Classical Music

Itunes classicalClassical music fans have long complained about iTunes, and the way it organizes music that just doesn’t work well with classical music. It holds “songs,” not tracks, and doesn’t have the concept of a “work,” a multi-movement piece of music. While it does have a Grouping tag, which the iTunes Store uses for that purpose, iTunes itself doesn’t allow you to display music efficiently with that tag.

This seems to be changing. In the latest beta of iTunes 12.5, which is part of the beta of macOS Sierra, Apple has added some new tags: Work and Movement. As you can see at the left, the Other section of the View Options window lets you choose to display these tags.

To edit these tags, select a track, and then click the Song Name text; the two little arrows are a hint that this is actually a popup menu. Choose Work Name, and the tags change.

Itunes classical tags

You can enter the work name, and the movement number (n of n), as well as the movement name. Here’s an example of how this can look in Songs view:

Songs view classical

This is a huge improvement, though it’s not perfect. In Playlist view, since the artists’ names are long, you don’t see any of this information. And there’s no way (yet) to link these movements together. Ideally, I’d see a way to click a disclosure triangle next to the first movement of a work to show a single line for that work and all its tracks, so you can manipulate it better, adding it to a playlist or Up Next, for example, or double-clicking it to play a work.

But this is real progress from Apple, which has long suggested that it wasn’t interested in classical music in iTunes. Note that this information should be available in the iTunes Store and on Apple Music in the future, so music you match, stream, or download should have better tags for classical music.

15 thoughts on “Apple Is Finally Making iTunes Better for Classical Music

  1. Well, God knows iTunes couldn’t get much worse! But the problem here is getting the metadata aligned. I’m not really interested in re-cataloging my 2200 CDs :-(

    But more importantly, given the problems associated with Apple Music, I’m -very reluctant- to connect to Apple Music just to take advantage of the better metadata for items that are in the Apple Music store.

    • Yes, the data thing will be a big problem. However, stay tuned for some possible solutions. (Not in the next couple of days, but in the future.)

  2. It’s good to see Apple finally do something to improve the treatment of classical music. I’m not sure I’ll use the new fields, though, since I’ve been adopting my own approach up to now and don’t fancy having to go back though everything to change to the new way. (I include the movement information as part of the ‘song name’. )

  3. I’d like them to add a user changeable date to “Recently Added” Right now it shows artists I have ripped years ago ….I would like to have it change to my whim of when I last ripped what to my MAC mini…

  4. Hello Kirk. Glad to hear that they are making much needed changes for classical music fans such as yourself. I also hope they continue to iron out the sync and artwork issues. So far I’ve spent a number of my vacation hours this week trying to replace some artwork that iTunes has now decided it does not want to sync to my iPhone. Sigh…

  5. Hello Kirk. I think those are excellent news. Now it would be a great moment for Apple to start working on another much needed field when cataloging classical music: ensemble (or orchestra, or band…). When I started using iTunes, ages ago, I used “grouping” for this (it made sense in Spanish). Now, 130,000 tracks after, I’m still waiting for Apple to create a more appropriate field.

  6. This is interesting news however note that for ID3 at least iTunes have broken the standard by just declaring two new frames MVIN and MVNM for Movement No/Name when they should have added a new name value pair to a TXXX frame. TXXX:Part No, and TXXX:Part Name are already used by a number of applications to store the movement and movementno, this includes SongKong which auto fills in this information for classical releases.

    • Thans for the info. Ordinarily, I’d not approve this comment, since you’re touting a product, but you are providing useful information. I would have replied to you by email, but you used a fake email address…

  7. Kirk, for these new classical fields iTunes seems to be handling mp4/id3 differently. For .mp4 files a new @wrk atom is supported so if you import a file with this set it will show in the Work Name and anything set for @grp will continue to show as Grouping . However for ID3 (as used by mp3 and aif) they are using the TIT1 field for the Work Name now instead of for Grouping, now this is what TIT1 was originally meant for but it means if you import files with the TIT1 field set it will show up as the Work Name which might be not what you expect, it also seems to mean there is no way to get the Grouping field set outside of iTunes on the initial import; and this is an issue especially since adding songs with the same work name doesn’t not seem to group them usefully. I also tried modifying the details of an mp3 inside iTunes and this confirmed my suspicions since changing the Work Name updated the TIT1 field within the mp3 file but modifying the Grouping had no effect.

  8. I have just tried iTunes 12.5.4.42 and things have changed a little

    Now for ID3 formats Grouping is stored in a new field GRP1. So the good news is you can set the Grouping for files outside of iTunes using this field. The bad news is that of course no other player uses GRP1 for grouping they continue to use TIT1 so if you want to play your files on iTunes and another player and the Grouping field is important to you you have a problem

  9. I use mp3tag to tag my thousands of classical music files. When I rip a new CD or get a download, I used mp3tag (which can use formulas) to add a GROUPING by writing to the ID3 tag CONTENTGROUP. I do this to add a unique GROUPING to each actual disc. The reason for this is that the ONLY options for Shuffle/Random are Songs, Albums, or Groupings. Shuffling Songs is NOT what I want, and shuffling Albums can be too large – some of my albums are “Complete Works” and are 80 discs or more!! So I shuffle by Grouping – in this case it shuffles by disc! Now, iTunes has screwed this up. MANUALLY adding the Grouping field is IMPOSSIBLE for thousands of tracks.

    You said that I can use a GRP1 field – meaning I should be able to use MP3Tag to populate this tag in ID3, which I can to for hundreds or more files at a time in seconds, and then when I import the files to iTunes I should see the entries in the GROUPING field in iTunes. However, I have tried this and it doesn’t show up.

    Additionally, when I manually populate the GROUPING field, I see no GRP1 tag in MP3Tag – I don’t see the GROUPING information at all. I can “create” a new tag in MP3Tag called GRP1 and populate it, but when I import the file to iTunes there is nothing in the GROUPING tag, and when I look at the tags in the mp3 file after importing, the GRP1 tag I added manually is gone!

    MP3Tag can read and write ID3v1, ID3v2, and ID3v2. Additionally, for ID3v2, it can use ID3v2.4 UTF-8, and ID3v2.3 UTF-16, ID3v2.3 ISO-8859-1. None of these seem to work.

    It seems that every time Apple makes and “update” to iTunes I lose far more functionality than I gain. Every time. There will be no way to shuffle by “disc” without being able to populate the GROUPING field, and doing it manually for so many files is ABSURD.

    Does anyone have any ideas how I can access this GRP1 tag? With anything, but I’m especially interested in continuing to use MP3tag because of it’s extreme flexibility to use variables, scripts, etc., ability to read and write to any number of files a time, and to read and write through an entire folder/subfolder tree.

    Any help would be appreciated, thank you very much!!
    Jon W.

  10. I have much of my classical music in Playlists, i.e., Bach: Brandenburg Concertos.

    Now, on my Mac it says, “work name: BWV 1046: Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major; movement 1 of 3; name Adagio”

    But on my iPhone it says, “1. Adagio; Academy of Ancient Music”

    There is no “work name” shown.

    That’s a problem. What am I doing wrong?

  11. I was -appalled- to see my new iPhone did not support Album Shuffle.

    It makes me wonder what kind of music Tim Cook, et.al. listen to, that they see no imperative for anything other than a focus on individual songs.

  12. its too late for me. I have ripped about 700 classical music albums and because song information fautomatically filled by iTunes was so bad, I manually copied and pasted each album’s composer, artist, album name, grouping etc from classical music labels’ websites. Was it tedious? of course, but I was satisfied until Apple introduced this work/ movement thing. I honestly dont want to spend another month editing my itunes library. I just hope they had introduced this feature at least 10 years before.

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