This is a list of tools, tips and suggestions to make the life of a classical editor easier and the edits better. It’s intended for everyone interested in cleanup tasks, but most of it should be useful for everyone who edits classical releases at all.
It’s by necessity a long post - don’t feel like you need to check it all in one go! (but you really, really want to be using scripts). If anything useful seems missing, reply with the info and I’ll probably add it here
This might sound obvious, but it’s worth keeping in mind: this is a community project, and if you have a doubt that you can’t find an answer to, you can just ask! This forum is the perfect place for that. There are no stupid questions, the only thing that can be stupid is having to change everything later because you made the wrong guess
More than anything else in here, it’s important to remember one thing: relationships are where all the really useful information for classical music is stored. If you don’t go into the relationship editor (“Edit relationships”, on the sidebar) after adding a new release, you’re only adding the most basic data, so if you can spare the time, please add relationships.
Annoying as it might feel sometimes, knowing the style guidelines is important for proper classical editing! While everyone should check the whole set of guidelines when in doubt, the main points:
The titles shouldn’t include the composers or performers. Yes, there are exceptions (the title of Glenn Gould Plays Bach is clearly just that), but unless the names are clearly part of the title, don’t add them there. That includes things like a cover that says “Beethoven” in one line and “Piano Sonatas” in the second - that’s “Piano Sonatas”, not “Beethoven: Piano Sonatas”.
The release artists should be on the cover. Even if all of an album is performed by the same performer, if they don’t get credited on the front cover, that’s relationship-only info! Also, don’t forget you can change how an artist is credited. If the release is in English, don’t leave the original Russian or Japanese name, use the version of the name the release uses.
Remember to separate composers from performers with a semicolon (
;) and each composer and performer from each other with a comma (
,). No ampersands!
The track titles for work movements and the like should generally include the main work title, if the release itself mentions it (for example, above the group of tracks for that work). If it’s not printed anywhere, then don’t add it!
The track artist should be the composer from each track. As with the release artist, remember you can use credits here! Many people also add any arrangers for the track here - that’s not specifically in the guidelines, but it seems widely accepted as better than keeping that information on the title.
The recording artists should (ideally) be the performers. You should rarely need to do this by hand! For more info on that, see the scripts section below.
In any case, if you add the performer relationships, this part is very minor and easily done by anyone else later. Just make sure you don’t unset already corrected recording artists while editing a release! Hint: you will almost never want to use the “Copy all track artist credits to associated recordings” option when editing classical music.
When adding works, remember only the main work is a Sonata or a Symphony, not every movement of it. It’s fine to not set a work type for everything! If it doesn’t fit any option, leave it empty.
The work guidelines are long and somewhat complicated, but one thing to keep in mind is that you should only add arrangements as works if the arrangement has been recorded multiple times. Adding something that is published and available (so it could at least be recorded multiple times) is generally acceptable, but don’t add a new arrangement work for everything.
For English titles, both for releases and works, remember our language guidelines. We lowercase “op.” and “no.”, “major” and “minor”, and “-sharp” and “-flat” are both lowercase and preceded by a hyphen. This is fairly minor all things considered, but try to keep it in mind!
Pretty much every other language (even German!) seems to prefer lowercase “op.” as well, but “no.” is very much a language-depending abbreviation. Follow the appropriate guideline and, if there’s none, do whatever makes sense in the language.
I can honestly say I couldn’t imagine editing classical music in MusicBrainz without scripts anymore. I think that’s true of many of the more dedicated editors, but everyone could probably use most if not all of the following scripts. To use them you’ll generally need Greasemonkey or Tampermonkey on Firefox, and Tampermonkey on Chrome / Chromium.
NB: some scripts are broken with Greasemonkey on the latest versions of Firefox but work with Tampermonkey.
For linking works:
Batch-set guessed works tries to guess the right work for each track of a release rather than having you search for each one by hand. That saves time, but make sure it has picked the right work! A second option in the script is much safer and still very useful: you can select some tracks, give it an existing work, and it’ll link every track to the appropriate movement of that work (following the part order). For something like the Goldberg Variations that is much, much simpler than picking them one by one!
Batch-set recording-work attributes allows you to select some recordings and set their work relationships as live and/or partial. If you see a live album where the works haven’t been marked as such, this is a one-click fix.
For dealing with dates:
Batch-propagate recording dates allows you to enter a date into one relationship per track, and let the script copy it to all the relationships where it’s relevant. Since we generally want the date on all performance-related relationships, that’s a huge time-saver.
Relatedly, Paste-A-Date lets you just copy and paste any date straight from your data, without having to type in the year, month and day separately, which can be annoying often!
For fixing work info:
- Replace subwork titles lets you change parts of the title of every part of a work in one go from the parent work’s edit page. Imagine someone had accidentally added every single work of the Goldberg Variations as “Guldberg Variations” instead. With this script, you could just go into the main work and tell it to change “Guldberg” in all the part titles to “Goldberg”, making it one step rather than 32!
For recording credits:
- Replace recording artists lets you take the artists linked as performers for each recording on a release and set them as that recording’s artist credit, as per the guideline. While this is not always ideal (for example, you might want to credit a quartet for the recordings, but add every musician separately in the relationships), you’ll probably be using it at least 90% of the time.
For artist info:
- Fill entity info from Wikidata does exactly that. If an artist (or place) has a Wikipedia page, this script can fill in a lot of information for you while adding an artist (or adding info to an existing one). You need to give it a link to Wikidata, which is the knowledge base underneath Wikipedia. You can find the link on the sidebar of almost every Wikipedia page - in the English Wikipedia, the link is listed as “Wikidata item”. As always when pre-filling data, make sure it all looks correct before submitting!
For merging recordings:
- Mass merge recordings lets you easily merge the recordings on two releases. Given classical recordings get re-released and included in boxsets all the time, this is a great way of making sure the recordings on all those reissues are the same without having to merge them one by one.
There are a ton of different importers to pre-fill data from other sites and stores instead of entering it by hand. They can save a lot of time - just remember to fix the data to follow our guidelines before submitting!
Thankfully, we’re not the only website where you can find info about classical music, and in fact you can do a surprisingly huge amount of good editing without ever holding a CD or booklet in your hands! Here’s an ever-growing list of options:
Discogs has a lot of releases, especially for contemporary classical. You can often find performer info there, and their titles usually follow the printed ones pretty closely (except for Being All Capitalised Like This - remember to change that).
Worldcat (and smaller library databases) are great options for finding performer info for relatively obscure releases. You won’t often find full tracklists, but it’s common to have data about who performs on each work in an album. Keep in mind Worldcat aggregates data, and will sometimes have multiple entries for the same album with different amounts of information. Check them all!
Allmusic is not very good for almost anything. Their titles, for example, are always standardised and should never be used as-is unless you really can’t find anything more similar to the album titles. It is very good for one thing though: it has a lot of releases and it has track times for them, which makes it a useful tool for identifying a release for which we have no performer data, but where we do have a discID (or track times, in general), by comparing the track times and seeing if they match. They also have a lot of (small) covers, useful to check what artists should be credited for the release.
Amazon can be very useful, since it usually has front covers and also has back covers (with full tracklists) relatively often. Remember you can find items by barcode, so if you have a barcode in MusicBrainz, but almost no info otherwise, an Amazon barcode search is a great first step. In general, for physical products, ignore all the info on the site other than the images and the reviews, which can include useful information that can’t be found elsewhere. For digital downloads, the store data is much better and things like titles can be used relatively safely.
iTunes store / Apple Music can have useful track titles (although they’re not always the same as on a CD) and they will always have a front cover. The artists on the tracks are often a better way of finding performer info than on Amazon or other sites. Of course, for digital downloads they are often the primary source, and can be followed relatively closely (remember to apply the guidelines!)
Spotify has a huge selection of classical music available. It’s not all there, of course, and the metadata can be sketchy, but if you’re wondering if a specific track in an album has an organist playing or is a cappella, or whether the version of a work on an album is for piano or orchestra, just listening to it can be the easiest way to find out!
Naxos tend to have a lot of info available for all their releases. This includes back covers - in general, follow the back cover tracklists, rather than the ones on the page itself which usually use standardised titles. Even when a back cover is not available (for example for releases from other labels they only act as distributors for), you’ll often find performer info here. To keep in mind: they often add a leading zero to their barcodes on the entry on the site, make sure it’s printed on the back cover before adding it (it almost never is in my experience).
Deutsche Grammophon don’t list all their releases on their online catalogue, but when they do you can find a lot of information there. The titles are usually standardised, so find a better source if possible, but you will generally find performer info, recording locations and dates, etc. The same applies for Decca Classics, since they’re basically the same site (and indeed you can search both catalogues at the same time from either site). It’s also possible to find many (but not all) Philips Classics releases in these two catalogues.
Hyperion have full booklets for most of their releases (both on the main label and their Helios reissue label). Take all the information you want from them, but do not upload the booklets to the Cover Art Archive - they specifically request not to share them elsewhere. Generally, follow booklet tracklists rather than site ones. To keep in mind: CDA catalogues are Hyperion, while CDH are Helios. Reissues will include an “Originally issued on XXXX” line, which lets you create the original and the reissue at the same time most of the time.
Chandos have full booklets for most releases (look under Media). Generally, follow booklet tracklists rather than site ones. The information on the site itself is fairly limited, but the booklets make up for it. Make sure to assign the releases to the right sublabel if needed (Chaconne for early music, Chandos Classics for some reissues, etc).
To find worklists and info for contemporary composers, of course the best option is often their websites. They don’t always exist though, and sometimes they’re very barebones. Other sources that can be very useful are B.R.A.H.M.S. by the IRCAM in Paris (mostly in French but relatively easy to follow), and Music Sales Classical, a consortium of publishers that have a pretty wide catalogue and a fair amount of info. Other publishers, like Schott and Boosey&Hawkes, are also useful. Very often you can find the right page at a publisher just by googling the work, but especially when trying to clean up all the data for a composer it can pay off to just figure out who’s their main publisher.
To find worklists for composers whose music is in the public domain, IMSLP is often one of the best options (remember to add the appropriate links to the artists and the works while at it!). Wikipedia has very complete lists for some composers too (including some contemporary ones!) but the amount of data varies wildly between composers.