I wanted to write this blog article to explain some of the ways I organize my MP3 music library. I have 3 separate music “libraries”; my SD Library, Select Library & Master Library. The SD Library has about 3200 selections on 4 SD chips, my Select Library has about 29,000 selections, and my Master Library has over 100,000 songs which contain all of my music in one location. The Master Library has all of my music, the Select Library has all the songs I’ve selected to suit any music need, and my SD Library are the minimum songs I would ever take out for a job and are easily played on my American Audio SDJ-1 players. Each SD chip is a 4 gig high capacity, holding about 1000 songs apiece. So my Master Library has all of my music and contains both the Select Library and the SD Library, the Select Library also has all of the songs in the SD Library.
MP3 Basics: tag your files!
You must tag your MP3 files. All of my files are complete with ID3V1 tags that have the correct Title, Artist, Album (if appropriate), accurate Year it was popular or released (not the date a compilation CD or remastered version was released), and the correct Genre. For all of my songs that will end up in my Select, or SD Libraries, they also have Wally Code information in the Comment section of the tag. I know this takes a lot of time, but once the work has been done, it is part of the file & will be very useful in the future! If all of your MP3 files are properly tagged, it is easy to organize them & search for the right file with almost no effort. With every Mp3 file properly tagged it isn’t necessary to use additional software to view the information & sort & organize all the files. Here’s a screen shot of what some of my music looks like in Windows Explorer using Windows XP.
You’ll see there are columns for any field I wish to display, and by clicking on the top of any column I can sort all the files in each folder, thereby allowing me to select and organize at will. With software such as MP3 Manager, I can have total control over tens of thousands of songs with just a click of the mouse.
GoodMusicDJ.com has one of the finest & most complete music libraries in the world. This library includes, but is not limited to thousands of CDs, vinyl albums, 45s and over 100,000 files. In addition to the music library there are dozens of pieces of professional grade equipment. The price includes five days of orientation & explanation of a very well organized method of cataloging & playing the best in popular music. This is your Apocalyptic music library. This includes 3 complete music systems & lighting. No other music library & system is like it. Price: $455,000.
As professional entertainers, we care about the quality of our work. We spend countless hours preparing for events, & invest thousands of dollars, on lighting, equipment & music. It’s important to have the right equipment, so our clients & their guests, enjoy great music, & want to dance at their celebration. Great care is taken, to select the right players, mixers, amps & speakers, but what if the original music is not a good as you expect?
Many seasoned DJs, know that music was produced differently years ago. Today, it seems that every song is “at maximum volume” with little or no dynamic range. Dynamic range in music, is the difference between loud & quieter passages of the song. This article is about dynamic range & the poor quality of much of the music that we buy. But there is a partial solution to this problem & I have even been able to make the MP3’s that are added to GoodMusicDJ.com’s library, sound even better than the original CDs! That may sound impossible, but I have evidence. So sit down, have a cup of joe, & see if you want to spend a little more time & effort to make your DJ business sound better.
I’m using several examples from different sources to demonstrate what I’ve learned & I’ll explain the process to make your music sound better.
The first example is “Nice to Meet Me” by Tino Cochin a VBR MP3, recently purchased from Amazon at 6,908 kb. I opened the file with Sony Sound Forge 8. Here’s what the song looks like: (Click on any screenshot below to enlarge)
Ugly, isn’t it? Look at how the levels are slammed. There is constant clipping!
The next step, is to reduce the volume of the entire song by 5.25 db! This involves trial & error & the amount of volume reduction depends on whether or not the final MP3 contains any clipping. Here’s what reducing the volume by 5.25db, looks like:
The final process in Sound Forge is to save this file at 128kbit/44kHz. Here’s what the final MP3 looks like, that is added to the library; after proper tagging, of course:
The final MP3 is less than 1/2 the size of the original VBR file & sounds so much better! Clipping has been eliminated & there is improved dynamic range! Clipping is a type of distortion that is often mistaken for just too high volume. This improved dynamic range makes the sound much more pleasing to the ear. The music is not constantly at the maximum volume. When music is constantly at the maximum volume, over time, this is grating on the nerves & people begin to complain that the music is “too loud” and you’ll be asked to turn down the volume. GoodMusicDJ has never experienced blown tweeters or other speaker components, but sometimes other DJ companies have this problem. Perhaps the cause can be traced to these clipped waves or square waves. When square waves are pumped into a speaker, the result can be blown tweeters.
Now let’s take a look at a song we play nearly every night, Billie Jean from Michael Jackson’s History double CD. I used an older version of iTunes to rip the CD to a wav file. A wav file, is not a compressed file, but allows for lossless saving. The original wav file is huge at 50,589 kb & you would think this is the best quality you can have, right? I’ll show you that my MP3, that is 1/10 the size actually sounds better because is does not have the clipping present, in the original CD. Here’s the a zoomed in view of the clipping present in the first drum beat of the original wav (raw file from disc) of Billie Jean:
I placed my cursor (vertical line) on the part of the wave where you can actually see the top of the wave is squared off. This is clipping. That’s horrible distortion, although in this case, just a little bit. But I don’t want any distortion in my music!
Next, Sound Forge is used to reduce the volume of the original wav file, this time only -2.25db (trial & error). Here’s what that looks like (zoomed out)
Now just save it to 128/44 file size & this is what is added to GoodMusicDJ.com’s library:
The result is zero clipping! The MP3 sounds better than the original CD because clipping has been eliminated. Many of us don’t realize that making an MP3 file can increase the volume of our music in the process of encoding; so a song already at 0db on the CD will be clipped when converted to MP3. This produces distorted music that we play over our expensive gear & hope it sounds good. I’ve actually found a source for my music that has taken this into account & doesn’t record the CD’s with a 0db level.
So far, I’ve given 2 examples; a purchased VBR MP3 via the internet & store bought CD directly from the artist, both are examples of how this process can improve fidelity.
The final example I’ll use is from a source that supplies music to many of us. This song is from a disc from (name withheld) from December 2004, “Mr Brightside by the Killers. Here’s the original wav file in Sound Forge before editing:
Once again, Sound Forge is used to reduce this uncompressed wav file by -2.5db (trial & error), the result looks like this:
I don’t know why this works, but it does! I can actually improve the fidelity of some of the poorly produced music that is in our libraries. It’s almost like changing lead into gold.
Another reason to revisit some of the music in our library is that some of the songs are not loud enough. “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, from the Saturday Night Fever CD, needed to have the volume turned up by +1.6db. Now it sounds better.
In conclusion, I’m not suggesting that you scrap your entire music library & start all over, but you may want to see if this is something you might implement over time. Perhaps taking the Top 100 fast songs list & editing 10 of the songs in a week. Remember to rip to a wav file, make the edits, then save to your MP3 format. Over time you’ll have a more musical sounding system with less irritation & fewer people complaining that the music is just “too loud”.
Keep on Rockin’!
GoodMusicDJ has one complete music system available for immediate sale. I don’t expect many to be interested in this system, only one buyer is needed. If interested, email me for additional details on what’s included. Seriously interested DJs only. At first glance this price looks ridiculous, but to a serious music lover, perhaps a DJ business with multiple DJs, further in depth study of what’s here, may prick your interest.
Here’s some of what’s included:
In the DJ Shuttle, the most important piece of equipment is the Denon DN-HD2500 with an upgraded internal hard drive with around 140 gig capacity. It is loaded with over 30,000 of the most popular songs from the swing era to today. All these files have at least partial Wally Codes, nearly all have complete Wally Codes. One of the best features of this HD2500, is the ability to create & load playlists for just about any type of music you would want. Some of the songs can be played by dialing up the Top 99 Fast, Top 99 Slow, Polkas, Top 99 Disco, Top 99 Fast from the 1990’s, Top 99 Slow from the 1980’s; you get the picture. There are about 50 playlists created & loaded on this baby.
The second piece of equipment is the SDJ-1 with 4 SD chips loaded with over 3,000 of the most popular songs. All include Wally Codes & a separate database with color coded organization of every song.
The Denon DN-X050 is included.
Your choice of either a pair of Mackie SRM-450’s (with stands) or Bose L1’s is included.
If the potential buyer does not appreciate what’s in the HD2500, then the price of $55,000 is ridiculous. To someone who knows what GoodMusicDJ goes through to add music to the library for decades, this is a bargain.
If you think this is funny, share a link with others so they can get a good laugh too. Maybe, one of them will see what a great deal this is.
I’ve been DJing for dancing crowds in West Michigan since 1974. When I was still in high school I did my first Jr High dance & then began working for Greg Miller & Company in Muskegon, MI. From the beginning it’s been important to me to segue from to current song to the next without emptying the dancefloor. When playing for a wide variety of musical tastes and a diverse age group typically present at a wedding reception, it’s critical to make people comfortable & stress free on the dancefloor so how you play the music is as important as what you play.
From my earliest memories of being a DJ, my nightmare has always been the same; I have a dancefloor full of celebrants & as the current song is ending, I have no idea what to play next. That’s what I call a nightmare! To insure I don’t have this happen to me in real life, I’ve devised a code system that helps me pick out my next tune, and have the next 5 or so songs “at the ready”. Back in the mid 1980’s, I came up with a system that tells me what I need to know as a DJ playing dance music. I call this the Wally Code.
The Wally code is simple. Every song is given a music type, degree of familiarity, tempo rating, an energy level rating, type of beginning and finally, type of ending. Here is an outline of what this might look like: Type/Familiarity/Tempo/Energy/Beginning/Ending. By employing this system, I can easily program an evening’s music even if I’m not familiar with the individual songs. Here’s an example of what the Wally Code would be for Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll”; Rock/1/5/4/I/F.
Long before there were MP3 files and the accompanying ID tag, I was employing these Wally Codes. I began with a database with fields for all the usual data, such as song title, artist, year & album. I also added a field for my Wally Codes, so I could organize my music according to this criteria. Remember what it was like…I had my Tandy computer with a 20 or 200 megabyte hard drive that cost me about $200 , dot matrix printer with fanfold paper & monochrome monitor. If I needed a particular rock song with a fast tempo, that everyone would recognize, with a dynamic beginning & high energy level, all I had to do was consult my database. Since the computerization of the DJ industry & the invention of MP3 files, I have been putting my Wally Code information in the comment section of the MP3 ID tags. With my MP3 managing software, I can easily sort my music using my Wally Code system.
In my market in West Michigan, there are limited opportunities to play for events such a Bar Mitzvah, and as of yet, I’ve never been approached for one of these celebrations. The bread & butter of my business is wedding receptions which would typically have music culled from pop, rock, country, Motown, rap & some polkas categories. Being familiar with these types of music is a must. In larger markets, a DJ will need to be familiar with more types of music popular in his region. Since Wally Codes were designed to be sorted in a database field, the type of music is most crucial. With MP3, files properly tagged, the music type in the Wally Code is considered with the genre in the ID tag. An example of this would be the song “The Dance” by Garth Brooks (Slow/1/1/1/D/F). The ID tag genre would be Country, but the music type would be Slow. Here are some music types, some are abbreviated to save space:
The next most important factor, after the type of music, is how familiar people would be with the music. It would clear a dance floor full of celebrants to follow a popular song with one that no one is familiar with, no matter how “good” the song is, if people don’t know it, they will leave the floor rather than be embarrassed by trying to dance to an unfamiliar song.
This numeric value is on a scale of 1-5. A song with a rating of 1 would be a song that is familiar to virtually everyone; one doesn’t need to be a fan of that particular music type to know this music. A rating of 2 means everyone familiar with songs of that music type and from that time period would know this song. A rating of 3 is given to songs that many people would recognize who are very familiar with songs from the same era within that music type. A rating of 4 is given to songs that are not that popular. A rating of 5 is one that might be an album cut that never gets airplay or made the charts.
When assigning a familiarity value for new music, it’s difficult since the degree of familiarity is often a factor of time. Often you’ll need to update this value over time when you find out that a particular song has become very popular or has dropped from everybody’s playlists. If you are very good at this, perhaps you have a future as an AR man. A song I got in October of 2010, is “Empire State of Mind” by Glee Cast. I think it is a very forgettable song so I gave it a Wally Code of Rap/5/4/3/D/Q
The music tempo is on a scale of 1-7. A song with a rating of 1 for tempo, is a slow song, such as “Crazy” by Patsy Cline (Slow/1/1/1/D/Q). I would give “What I Like About You” by the Romantics a tempo rating of 7, with an Energy Level of 4, but more on that later. Many slow songs are a little faster, but still would be considered slow dances, so I rate them a 2. By the time you get to tempos in the 3 & 4 range, they may be difficult to dance to. A tempo of 5 would be your typical rock/pop song. A rating of 6 might be your typical Polka tempo. A rating of 7 is for the fastest of fast songs, & generally reserved for the last song in a fast set of music, or for crowds that just won’t sit down! Sometimes the tempo varies and the letter V is used to designate these songs instead of the numerical value. An example of this might be “Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross. It has a Wally Code of: Slow/2/V/3/D/F. If a song starts slow & then gets faster, such as “I’ve had the Time of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, I make note of that in the beginning code so the Wally Code would read: Pop/1/4/4/S/F. The letter “S” stands for slow for the beginning value. More about that when we cover song beginnings.
Now we’re going to deal with a judgment of how much people “get into” the music. This is on a scale of 1-4. Most popular slow songs might have a tempo rating of 1 with an energy level of 1 as well. The song may be well loved by all, but the energy level or how much people “get into it” might be something different. A Wally Code for “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller Orchestra would read Swing/1/5/4/I/Q. The Wally Code for Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” would read Slow/1/3/4/D/Q; the energy level of 4 means it’s a great crowd pleaser and people really get into it. In comparison “1 2 3 Red Light” by 1910 Fruitgum Company would be Pop/3/4/2/I/F; it has an energy level of 2 because people don’t get into it that much.
Over the years I’ve learned that how I play the music is as important as what I play. An experienced DJ working a wedding reception would never play the music in a random order. This would regularly clear the dance floor. Even grouping by music type, is not enough. How a song begins & ends is an important factor when playing music to keep the crowd on the dance floor. A song with a dynamic (D) beginning means the song is danceable from the beginning such as “Heat Wave” by Phil Collins (Motown/3/6/3/D/F). Many songs have an intro (I), which is for the most part is not danceable. These songs typically have intros of 7 seconds or longer. An example of songs with a intro beginning is “California Girls” by the Beach Boys (Pop/1/4/3/I/F). Sometimes we come across a song that fades (F) in. An example of a fade in can be found in the song “Sleep the Clock Around” by Bell & Sebastian (Rock/5/4/3/F/F). Sometimes a song will start slow (S) and then get faster. We’ve already mentioned the example of “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes (Pop/1/4/4/S/F)
Now for the final value in the Wally Code, the ending. This is typically a letter standing for fade out (F), quick ending (Q), strong ending (S), many times live songs have this type of ending. An extreme example of this is “Free Bird (Live)” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (Slow/3/2/4/S/S). Sometimes a song has a weak ending that if played, will likely clear the dance floor. Many newer songs fall into this category such as “Need You” by Travie McCoy (Rock/4/5/3/D/W). Now that we have displays that show the remaining time for a song, the next example is not as important as when I used to use cassette tapes on the job. Sometimes a song has an abrupt ending (A). An example of this would be “Push it” by Salt-N-Pepa (Rap/2/5/3/D/A)
Two more examples come to mind that are much more rare, but need to be recognized. One song that I rarely play because the ending is impossible to dance to is “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince (Rock/2/6/4/I/B). This song has a designation of B for the ending. Why I picked the letter B escapes me, after all I did this back in the ’80’s. If you play this song, it will definitely clear the floor at the end of the song! The other song ending to be aware of is a fake ending. The song “Do You Love Me” by the Contours (Rock/1/6/4/I/*), is an example of this, so I use an asterisk to denote endings that fake us out. Another one is “Thank You” by Led Zeppelin (Slow/3/1/3/F/*).