Tips on organizing classical music

I there: I’m looking for suggestions on how best to organize my classical music. Right now my files are organized by Album Artist > Album. Files are named with the track name unless they are compilations in which case they are named with the artist name - track name.

I guess the fundamental thing I should decide is: should classical albums be organized into folders of the composer or the main performing artist? Or maybe the conductor? I’d like to know what other people do. Thank you.

Who do you consider the most important person(s) for the music, the composers or the performers? Do you more often think “I’d like to listen to some Rachmaninoff now” or “I’m in the mood for some Ashkenazy”?

Personally, I always think of the composer first and then decide what I want to hear and who I want to hear perform that work, so my folder structure is \Composer Name\Release title.

In the end the folder structure doesn’t even mean all that much, because I use the filters and simple text search in my music player to find what I want to listen to. The benefit of the folder structure that I use is that all music from the same composer is listed next to each other.

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I have separate areas in my music collection for Classical, Jazz, OSTs, Audio drama, Comedy and everything else (Pop).

OSTs can be determined broadly from the Secondary Release Type.

But the BIG difficulty is Picard knowing which of the other categories an album should be included in e.g. how can Picard know whether an album is Classical Music or not. Genres are NOT IMO a reliable way of doing this because of the way that MB handles genres leads to very inconsistent usage.

See my thread asking about interest in an “Is Classical Music” plugin.

I just do that manually. It’s not like I have to tag hundreds of files every day, so there is no need for me to automate it. Options profiles would be very nice to have though.

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It is not just the initial tagging - MB data is updated on a regular basis, and most people run their files back through Picard on a regular basis.

One thing that IME can change reasonably often esp. if you have complex file naming scripts is the lowest level directory (so for example I have a Release disambiguation in there).

At present, you can have Move Files either disabled or enabled - what you cannot do is rename the lowest level directory separate from it being moved somewhere completely different. I would personally like to see Move Files apply to the path other than the lowest level directory (or to be more accurate the parts of the path that contain the %albumtitle% variable) and have a new option Rename Album Directory for the these lowest level directories.

I think I hear in your question an implicit assumption that the collection needs to be accessed the way it is organised, and organised in a strict, consistent hierarchy.

Here’s an alternative view: classical music works best when it can be accessed by different ways when the mood strikes you: chasing down everything by a singer one day, comparing recordings of a work another day, listening all the way through a particular opera recording on another day. That means you need a tool which can search through your music collection according to multiple attributes — composer, main performing artist, composer, work, whatever. Walking through a strict, consistent hierarchy cannot give you that flexibility. So, find a tool which doesn’t limit you to that.

Yes, the music files need to be stored in directories, and directories are easier to manage if they are in a strict consistent hierarchy. But if you have a flexible tool for searching, it doesn’t matter nearly so much what the file storage structure is.


Thank you all for these suggestions. Right now I access my music primarily through my HEOS app. That lets me access Album Artists, Artists and Composers quite quickly, but, its search function only lets me search for Artists, Albums and tracks. So one specific question I have is this:

Is there a way I can populate the Artist field in Music Brainz with multiple entries so that a search for one component of the string would be returned.

What I’m thinking of is there some way of entering data in the Artist field separating the conductor, the composer and the main performer say by semi-colons or something like that?
So could I set it up like Hayden, Franz Josef; Karajan, Herbert von; Berliner Philharmoniker so that a search for “Hayden”, “Karajan” and “berliner” would return that release?

If you are using the Classical Extras plugin you could try this script:


Make sure you test it well on test files before deciding to use it on your actual library.

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What does the first function do?

See the chapter: Information on hidden variables

Classical music should be organized by Composer first except in certain circumstances such as a compilation or recital containing works of several composers on the same disc. There are many media players and organizers. Here’s how I do it:
CD ripper: dBPoweramp.
Playback: usually Windows Media Player; sometimes VLC or others.
Location: a dedicated hard drive on our PC with a full backup on a separate hard drive.

  1. When ripping place Composer’s Last name, First name in Artist field.
  2. Copy and paste that at the beginning of the Album title field followed by space, hyphen, space, then the Album title. This ensures you’ll see it under Beethoven in an alphabetical display in your media player. I want all Beethoven recordings next to each other, not scattered around under different artists or types of work.
    Example: metadate from Musicbrainz shows Artist:Willem Kempff, Album title: Piano Concerto No.5 by Beethoven,
    My correction makes it Artist: Beethoven, Ludwig, Album title: Beethoven, Ludwig Piano Concerto No.5 (Leitner)
  3. If it’s a recital disc of say, three main composers/works then I list all three composers as Artist and in Album title. If one of the works is my main Interest then I list that composer’s name first. If it’s more than three composers then I usually list the musician’s name as Artist and in Album title.
  4. Windows Media Player and most other players different ways to view your collection including artist, album, composer, genre, etc. I prefer Artist view so that my Classical stuff appears alphabetically along with all other genres which are mostly organized by the actual artist name, not the composer; thus, when I scroll through the collection in Media Player, Beethoven albums are displayed shortly after Beatles.
  5. Media Players allow you to type in an artist, album, song, composer, genre, etc. and instantly get a full list of what’s available (assuming you have file indexing turned on).
  6. On the dedicated hard drive the folder structure is organized as follows:
    Main folder: Music Collection
    Inside the Music Collection folder are subfolders for Spoken word, Celtic & New Age, Christmas, Classical, Jazz & Big Band, Opera & Operetta, Reggae, Rock & Pop, Soundtrack, Zydeco Cajun.
    Test tracks for audio setup.
    This allows access through the Windows file manager, i.e. Explorer. Organizing this way works in Windows XP, Windows 2000, Vista, Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10. The entire collection can be moved / copied from one drive to another or from one Windows version to another without any problem.
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HI there, can you give me some specific help on installing the Classical Extras Plugin?

OK, I’ve got this installed, but the technical documentation is hopelessly complex. I need an explainer or a tutorial.