How to properly organize your tango music collection?

Organize your tango music collection

Are you a tango DJ or planning on becoming one? Are you a dancer who just wants to enjoy her/his tango music at home?
Well, then you should take a little bit of time to label your audio files and replace those “Track 01.mp3” on the recordings you like so much without even knowing the orchestra or when they were recorded. It is time you organized your tango library, and the following will probably help you!

Gregory Diaz
Do not copy this content without authorization.


The first steps will probably take you some time (depending on the quantity of recordings you already have), so I highly recommend you make the right choices right now as you will probably not feel like shaping it all again in a few years. The structure your library will be organized into is probably the structure you will have to live with for years, if not for the rest of your tango life, keeping in mind that your own use and requirements will probably have changed in a few years. So keeping it scalable would also be a good idea...

In the following chapters you will learn how I organize my own collection, as an example, and you will understand why I chose to do it this way. From this information, you will have to make your own choices depending on your specific needs.

What audio file format should I use?

This is probably the most crucial choice and there are 3 main options, from lower to higher quality (but from higher to lower ease of use): MP3 380kb/s, FLAC, WAV. I started more than 10 years ago using mp3 380kb/s before moving progressively to WAV format. Several reasons for that: the quality criteria is even more important to me now than before, the cost of storage decreased a lot the last 10 years, and I don’t use tags. So my recommendation is to stop with compressions and use WAV format. Of course, you can easily encode your entire collection (a copy) to mp3 380kb/s if needed (I did it myself in order to be able to listen to tango on my smartphone). But your original collection should stick with the highest quality. If you are headed directly to mp3, be sure of 2 things:

  • The mp3 file has been encoded only 1 time from a linear source (CD, Wav file…)
  • The mp3 bitrate is at least 256kb/s (for your own listening), or better: 380kb/s for DJing
  • Shall I have time, I will write an article entirely dedicated to audio quality in tango, including much more details on this topic.

    What key data do I store in each recording?

  • MAIN ARTIST: usually the orchestra (i.e. Juan D’ARIENZO)
  • DATE: when it was recorded (i.e. August 26th of 1938)
  • TITLE: (i.e. La bruja)
  • 2nd ARTIST: usually the singer/estribillista (i.e. Alberto Echague)
  • STYLE: tango, a waltz (vals), or a milonga?..
  • Several other fields could of course be added (composer, author, disc numbers, label, duration, lyrics, musicians….) but we will consider that the ones listed above are the most useful to identify a recording and organize a personal library while keeping the amount of data and work reasonable. If you need more information than those 5 fields, log back onto El Recodo Tango Music and find out!

    Should I use tags or filenames?

    To store the information listed above, there are basically 2 methods: tags and filenames. Using tags is not possible if you are using WAVE format, so you will have to deal with file names. If you are using another format such as mp3, then it is possible to store the data into the file itself.

    Now here are 2 things you should take into consideration:

  • If you opt for the tag method, be careful with your player/library software. If not well configured, some of them like to modify the tags automatically therefore destroying several years of your work in a few seconds.
  • If you are using WAV files and a software invites you to fill in some tag fields (just like an mp3), be careful, this information will be stored into the software only, not into the wave files! So basically, when you will transfer your collection to another PC, or if you need to replace your laptop, you will probably lose all your work. As for me, I have used filename storage and have had no issue whatsoever since I started. This is not the most user friendly method, but it is simple, reliable and I am still happy with it. In the next chapter, this is the method I will be describing.
  • Of course you can combine the two following methods, adding some more tag fields if you like.

    How do I organize my audio files?

    First of all I like to create a tango folder which will contain my library, that’s separated from other music. In this folder, I create 1 folder for each MAIN ARTIST (orchestras). The folders are named like this: DI SARLI Carlos, D’ARIENZO Juan, PUGLIESE Osvaldo… So it is very easy to pick any orchestra from this list, sorted by names.

    Inside the folder of DI SARLI Carlos (for example), I will transfer all the audio files directly, sorted by name. The audio file name must contain the 4 remaining fields that I separate with a “ - “: DATE – TITLE - 2nd ARTIST - STYLE

    The result looks like this:

       BIAGI Rodolfo
       DI SARLI Carlos
         19410218 - Charlemos - Roberto Rufino
         19410218 - Pena mulata - Roberto Rufino - MILONGA
         19410306 - Cortando camino - Roberto Rufino - VALS
         19410306 - La cachila
         19410418 - El estagiaro
       VARGAS Angel
         19471103 - Milonga para Gardel - Dir. Eduardo Del Piano - MILONGA

    The first piece of data I’m using here is the recording date because I consider it is usually the most important criterion when looking for similar recordings by an orchestra (when building a tanda for example) or just to be able to navigate through tango history, orchestra and styles evolutions. The tip here is to use the date in the yyyymmdd format so all your recordings will end up being sorted by date. In case of unknown month or day, I use the 0 as a joker (which does not affect the sorting that much).

    Sometimes you may find alternative titles. In that case it can be added in parenthesis.

    Then the 2nd ARTIST (usually the singer). If there are several singers I separate them with “ y ”, but you can also use “ and “ if you prefer. If the 2nd ARTIST is an orchestra director instead of a singer, I add “dir. “ in front of the name. If it is an instrumental, I don’t write anything rather than adding “inst” or something like that (let’s save some time).

    Finally the STYLE must be added, but most of the recordings are tangos, so no need to mention it in this case. I only need to identify waltzes, milongas and all styles which are NOT tangos. So if it is a tango, I leave it empty, otherwise I’ll add it in uppercase.

    Now that the library is perfectly organized, it will be easy to build tandas and to navigate through the recording years. Be careful not to lose it all: make 2 copies (in addition to the original one) of your TANGO folder. An external hard drive only costs 100€ and WILL save you sooner or later, believe me...

    To go further…

    Why don’t I create subfolders for singers?

    It may be useful. If you are looking for D’ARIENZO-Echague for example, you would click on D’Arienzo, then go to the subfolder “Alberto Echague”. Right… but… I am not a fan of this method. I consider that the date is much more important than the singer. By filing all D’Arienzo-Echague recordings together, you are also mixing 3 totally different periods: 1938, 1944-1957 and 1968. And these all sound so different that you would rather mix distinct singers from the same period (for example Echague and Laborde around 1945) than mix these three Echague periods. It would be much more consistent. If I need a list of all of Echague’s recordings, I simply use the search engine from Windows explorer to search through the folder, or the powerful El Recodo Tango Music database.

    Different songs, same title

    The title is the main information to identify the song. Ok… but many times distinct songs share the same title! This is when the composer and author names come in handy. As an example, I know at least 3 songs called “Pensalo bien”, but only one was written by Juan José Visciglio / Julio Alberto and Nolo Lopez, and this is the only one we know as the hit of our milongas, through D’Arienzo/Echague recording in 1938. So if you are interested in finding, today or tomorrow, alternative versions of the same music easily, it would be good to be able to identify these 3 totally different ‘Pensalo bien”. I am not saving the composers’ and authors’ names in my personal library (but I do on El Recodo Tango Music). If you are in the same case, you can use a simple number: Pensalo bien, Pensalo bien (2), Pensalo bien (3)… corresponding to 3 different pieces sharing the same title.

    Same music, different lyrics:

    Composers and authors were not always working together at the same time when creating a new tango. What happened many times is that the music was composed without lyrics (instrumental) and lyrics were added later on. Worst… you can find 2 distinct sets of lyrics (from distinct authors) written for the same tune. It is the case of the famous piece “El choclo” composed by Angel Villoldo. The first lyrics were written by that same Angel Villoldo in 1903. But years later, in 1947, Enrique Santos Discepolo and Juan Carlos Marambio Catan wrote a new set of lyrics for it.

    Gregory Diaz
    Do not copy this content without authorization.

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    POST A COMMENT About this article

    patricia Fandino
    Hola Gregory, te envié un mensaje por fb!! puedes mirarlo?? tks
    Gregory DIAZ
    Sorry I forgot 1 point, about your iTunes comment. The purpose of my article is not the player software and I don't mention them I think. The goal I had in mind when writing this small article, was more how to organize properly the files and associated data in the most standard and scalable way, so then you can use ANY player. .
    Gregory DIAZ
    Thanks Richard
    As I said the quality topic I need a full article that would of course include AAC which I will not recommend at all...
    About the 2nd remark I think i actually bought more than 500 cd :)
    I don't mention this part in the article but I use a parallel file organization for albums, from which I copy the best versions of recordings to build the library as it is described in the article and this is the one I use on daly basis.
    Richard garrido
    My second remark, is that i like very much your title : ' How do i organize my audio files', and at the same time, i do have reservations about the other title ' How to properly organize your Tango music collection?'
    The way you do it is very fine, but imagine for a second someone that has 500 Tango CD's , and wants them in iTunes....
    Then , the way to organize his Tango music collection will be different than yours, not better, not worth... just different !
    Richard garrido
    Hi Gregory, your article is very good, nevertheless, i would like very much to have an idea of the percentages of Tango DJ or Tango 'addicted' using iTunes,
    my observation during the last 5 years of people 'playing' recorded music during Milonga's tels me than more than 50% of them are using a mac and iTunes.
    if we acknowledge this information, i consider that is becomes mandatory in an article about Music File Formats to speak about AIFF, AAC and Apple Loosless.
    Gregory DIAZ
    Frank, I plan to write another article dedicated to audio quality in tango. There is a lot to say so it may take time. ..
    Frank Hoonakker
    Nice article ! Now, tell us what are the best place to buy nice quality songs ? What are your best sources ? Thanks
    stamatis katharopoulos
    very useful info Gregory, thank you!!!!