How to properly organize your tango music collection?
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...
This introduction could be nuanced today thanks to TangoLink, a precious tool allowing you to quickly rename and tag your audio files, as well as to modify them afterwards. However, making the right choices early on is always better...
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 320kb/s, FLAC, WAV. I started more than 10 years ago using mp3 320kb/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 320kb/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:
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?
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:
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:
DI SARLI Carlos
19410218 - Charlemos - Roberto Rufino
19410218 - Pena mulata - Roberto Rufino - MILONGA
19410306 - Cortando camino - Roberto Rufino - VALS
19410306 - La cachila
19410418 - El estagiario
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. Using TangoLink software, numbers can be automatically added to your tracks, such as on the El Recodo Tango Music. It allows you to save time, and to spot titles that you thought - wrongly - similar in your collection.
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.
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