ID3 Tag conventions and Classical Music.

CDDB and gracenote and other automatic internet track listing databases serve their purpose well, but they fall flat on their faces when it comes to classical music - there's too much necessary information for the ID3 tags to comfortably cope with. Add to this the fact that most people can't tell the difference between one recording of, say, Beethoven's 5th symphony and another (or don't care about differences in performances) and you end up with albums that pull up with the composer in the artist field or worse.

To that end, here is a generally accepted form for Classical ID3 tags that reduces clutter and (mostly) follows citation conventions. Examples follow. Use as you will.

Track name:

Piece name (with tonality), Catalogue Number ("Nickname"): Movement number in
lowercase Roman numerals. movement name/tempo; secondary movement name


"Featured Artist" with "Conductor" & "Orchestra Name"


Full Name (year of birth-year of death)

(the years are optional - it becomes a bit sticky when dealing with classical composers who are still alive. And the first name is essential - there's a whole family of Bachs, for instance)


Year of recording


Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D 759 ("Unfinished"): ii. Andante con moto
Eugen Jochum & The Boston Symphony Orchestra
Franz Schubert

Symphonie No. 3 in D minor: i. Kräftig. Entschieden
Anne Sofie von Otter with Pierre Boulez & the Wiener Philharmoniker
Gustav Mahler


The whole point of tagging your files is so you can find them without any hassle. To that end, marking the first movement of a work in its entirety and then skimping on the rest (ie, having the second track's title listed as "ii. Allegro" or some such) defeats the purpose.

The other advantage to globally searched ID3 tags is that there's no need to double up on your information - there's no reason to include "Beethoven" in the album title field if the name already appears in the composer field UNLESS the album features works by two different composers - then putting both composer's names in the Album field serves to avoid confusion as to who's third symphony you're looking at.

The "Compilations" check box is horribly misused most of the time - its function is to group the tracks imported from an album with many different performers in folders based on the album's name so that the tracks live together on your hard drive. It is NOT for albums with different composers and the same artist, as your jukebox program doesn't organize files by composer anyway. (this particular point is a bit iTunes-centric; I'm not sure how other apps deal with this.)

There's a difference between '&' and 'and'. '&' links two artists who are intrinsically related like a conductor and their orchestra; 'and' links two unrelated performers, like a featured soloist and a group. Therefore, two artists who play together with a backing orchestra would be listed as "artist one" AND "artist two" WITH "conductor" & "Orchestra".

Most databases ignore capitalization conventions, preferring to capitalize every word in a track name. This is wrong and annoying - traditionally the capitalization conventions of the piece's chosen musical language (generally Italian or German) are followed, that is, only the first word of a movement name gets capped; it would therefore be "Allegro con moto" not "Allegro Con Moto". Different tempi within a movement are separated by a semicolon and both capitalized, as in "Allegro; Andante". This also means that movement numbers sometimes show up as Iii. or the like.