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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Building the Digital Beast III: Feeding the iPod

(Ed. Note: This is Part III of our series on how to live digitally and still have a satisfying portable classical music experience. Part I is on how to meta-tag mp3 files. Part II was about building playlists. iPod, Touch, Mini, Shuffle, iTunes, and iPhone are of course, trademarks of Apple.)

When 150 gigs of pocket storage is no longer enough.

Coconut headphones, designed by Iwan Roberts.
Image © 2011 Experience-It-All.com
One of the nice things about city living: when your CD collection gets too big for its shelves, you can always add another bookcase. Or get a bigger apartment. Or a storage unit. Or move into your storage...I've said too much.

Unfortunately, that's not the case with the iPod. The largest current model of this device that Apple has available (the iPod Classic) is marketed at 160 gigabytes. With is onboard operating system, it actually holds about 147 gigs. My "classical" Pod holds (an average) of 23,000 songs. That's about 82 days worth of music, which is more than is needed but it's nice to have it all in one place. 

Here's the catch. My MacBookPro holds a lot more. And in addition to Beethoven, Brahms and Berlioz, it has plenty of Blue Öyster Cult--which I don't want to mix in with my classical music library. 

This post shows you use iTunes in a slightly different way to make sure that your digital device holds the content that you want. 

Build your playlists.
We talked about playlists in the last article. You can set one up that will auto-fill the iPod using only music from your classical section. The easy way to do this is to meta-tag all the classical music in the Composer field in this format: 
Composer Name (Birth Year-Death Year). For example: Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

Set up a Smart Playlist like so:
Composer [field contains] [(1]. 
The computer will then search out every file meta-tagged with those symbols: the paranthesis and the number 1 from the date of birth. i.e. all of your classical music, opera, chamber music etc.)
Since "(1" is a poor name for a playlist, rename it. How's "New Classical and Opera Playlist." Sounds snappy.
The smart playlist field, set to grab everything meta-tagged with "(1"

You can also set your playlist to a particular size, say limiting it to 20 gigabytes or 30 gigs, depending on how big a library you want to import. But this doesn't give you any control over what goes into the playlist. 

You can make and add as many playlists as you like--and they don't have to be "smart." I usually keep a cycle of Beethoven and Mahler symphonies, a complete Ring cycle, and a few other playlists I like living in my iPod. Others, I rotate in and out and keep updating. More playlists means an easier to use iPod. 

Tip: Remember to find out what the capacity of your iPod is and leave at least 1 gigabyte empty for the operating system, the library filing, and the RAM needed for it to operate efficiently.

Connect your iPod. It will appear (in the left hand column) under "Devices." It is factory-set to start trying to update automatically. Click on the little "(x)" in the top bar to make it stop.
The iTunes status bar. The (x) is on the right.

Then under the 'music' tab, set it to 'Add select songs and playlists. Four windows will pop up. They look like this:
The Set Playlists window.

Find your playlist with the "(1" in it. Click the box next to it. A check mark appears.

Hit "Apply Changes." Your iPod will update. Your brand new classical playlist will load itself into your iPod.
Tick off the boxes of the items you want uploaded

This same procedure can be used to update other Apple devices: iPod Touch, Shuffle, iPod Mini, and the iPhone. For smaller devices, you can build a decent library using just albums. Scroll down the list of playlists. Albums and artists will come up as fields. Scroll through your albums. Select the ones you want to update. And for iPhones, be sure to leave a gig free for the phone to function properly.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.