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MusicBrainz Picard review

written by: Matthew Casperson•edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 9/16/2008
4

Picard allows you to automatically identify and clean up a messy music collection. Picard is a very useful and free tool. Here is what it can do for you.

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    Is your music collection a bit of a mess? Do you have a bunch of less than helpful directories like “Unknown Artist” and a huge list of generic “Track x” files? After many hours consolidating my CD collection this is exactly the situation I was faced with. While most music players and rippers make it easy to put a name to a song when it is on a CD, identifying a song once it is on your PC is not so straight forward.

    This is where MusicBrainz comes in. MusicBrainz is an online database of songs, albums and artists which is used by a number of 3rd party applications, as well as a few designed by the MusicBrainz folks themselves, to identify and categorise music. Picard is the latest client from MusicBrainz which allows you to easily clean up your music collection with more accurate tags and filenames.

    Once you open Picard and add your music it begins the process of identifying the tracks through the tags – the bits of information that are attached to the track that identify the artist, album, year, genre etc. Once identified Picard “clusters” your music into the albums to which they belong, and can optionally update the tags with a more complete and accurate set of information.

    You may be thinking that this isn't all that impressive, and in truth Picard may only populate tags in your music collection that you never look at anyway (I can't say that I have ever paid attention to the "catalogue number" while sorting my music). But the real magic of Picard is in its ability to generate a musical fingerprint of an otherwise unidentified track, and then match that fingerprint to its central database. Select an unidentified track and hit the Scan button, and that file called “Track7.mp3” in the “Unknown Artist” folder can be automatically identified and renamed to “Red Hot Chili Peppers\Californication\07 Easily.mp3”. I tried specifically ripping a CD with no additional tags, and Picard automatically identified every track and reorganised the files into a clear directory structure.

    Unfortunately Picard is let down somewhat by its unhelpful interface. Buttons like Cluster and Scan don't immediately allude to their true functions, and the tooltips of “Cluster” and “Scan” that pop up when you hover the mouse pointer over them are equally unhelpful. While the online documentation provides some clear instructions you do have to devote some time to following all the links.

    Once you get going though Picard is a great little tool for cleaning up a messy music collection, and its ability to quickly and easily fingerprint and identify otherwise unmarked tracks is brilliant.

    Links

    MusicBrainz - http://musicbrainz.org/

    Picard - http://musicbrainz.org/doc/PicardTagger