At a Glance
- Accurate, fast, high-quality tagging
- Uses specialized nomenclature
Swiftly rename and organize all the music tracks on your PC–especially mislabeled ones.
Files can be messy, and music files, doubly so. When ripping CDs
into MP3 files, not everyone takes care to rename the files
accurately–and even if they do, different people may have
different naming and filing schemes. When that happens, MusicBrainz
Picard can help.
Fourteen years ago, I ripped several Faith No More CDs to MP3.
At the time, I used a naming scheme that made lots of sense to
me–I called the files “01.mp3,” “02.mp3,” and so on. I felt quite
clever at the time, because by adding a leading zero I could get
Windows Explorer to sort the files correctly.
Today, that naming scheme doesn’t really work for me. I
carefully file my music collection according to artist and album,
with each filename containing the complete track name preceded by
its number (“05 Tremendous Dynamite.mp3”). Converting my ripped
MP3s to this scheme manually would take a long time, and could be a
One step above completely manual conversion would be tagging the
files using the CDDB database or FreeDB.org. These are both old,
established projects (the latter based on the former) that work to
recognize music according to its “digital fingerprint.” However, they’re both focused on
complete CDs rather than individual tracks. In contrast, the
MusicBrainz database (which Picard queries) is built around tracks,
with each individual track getting its own fingerprint.
Another issue is that both systems employ user-generated content
with no filtering. That means you can get ten listings for the same
CD, or listings full of typos and strange capitalization.
MusicBrainz lets users edit content, but other users must vote on
it before it gets entered onto the database and served up in
reply to queries. This makes for better results and less
Getting up to speed with MusicBrainz Picard can take a few
moments. The first step is to “throw” your files into the app–you
can literally drag and drop them in, or do it with a built-in
folder tree. You then need to “Cluster” them, which divides them
into sensible groups (by album, usually).
Once you’ve clustered the files, you can either click “Lookup”
or “Scan.” The difference is that a lookup is done on an entire
cluster at once, and uses whatever existing metadata is already in
the files to query the database. It’s quite fast.
Sometimes Picard’s lookup doesn’t work, and then you need to
scan the files. Scanning is done on a file-by-file process, and
uses each file’s audio fingerprint. It takes much longer, but it
If you already know what files you’re trying to tag (as in the
case of my Faith No More album), you can also just manually query
the server. Just type “Faith no More” into Picard’s search box, and
you’ll be taken to a page in your default browser listing all of
their releases. It takes just a click to pull the info back into
Once you have the correct album information, it’s just a matter
of dragging the files onto the album. Picard usually matches each
file with its metadata correctly, but you can make corrections if
Picard uses the metadata to update each file’s tags, but you can
also have it rename the files and even place them in folders
according to any naming scheme you see fit. All in all, MusicBrainz
Picard is a very efficient, high-quality way to bring some order
into your vast, sprawling music library.