Fetching Lyrics in iTunes

Back when people bought CDs they came with liners that typically had lyrics in the liner notes. because yes kids, we  didn’t always have iTunes, the Amazon MP3 Store or even a bay filled with anti-ninjas. Every song in your iTunes library has something called an ID3 tag — it’s where all the information about the song is stored such as track name, album name, artist name, etc. There’s also a spot in this tag for song lyrics. The iTunes store populates several fields in the ID3 tag when you purchase a song but it mysteriously leaves a big blank hole for lyrics.

Gimme Some Tune – The previous solution

In the past, there was an automatic and rather instant way to add these lyrics as each song played in iTunes with a program called Gimme Some Tune. It’s a great app for adding some cool functionality onto iTunes, but the lyrics fetching no longer works because the wonderful folks at the RIAA have decided they can’t allow a useful service like LyricWiki to exist if they don’t make money of it. You can read the Gimme Some Tune developer’s blog entry here from yesterday – July 3rd, 2010.  It sounds like an updated version is still quite a ways out.

iLyrics – Automatic method

The alternative I’ve come across is called iLyrics and runs as a widget on OSX. You can download and install it from http://www.creativecrap.com/ilyrics-widget-itunes under the “Downloads” section. The current version I am working with is 2.4.1

It also has the ability to run as a daemon and also update songs on the fly as they play in iTunes. Keep in mind that since this is a widget, you have to enable and disable it from always running in the widget settings (see next paragraph). Also, when it is running and successfully finds and updates lyrics, you’ll notice about a 2 second pause right after a song starts playing — iTunes needs to briefly stop the audio in order to update the ID3 tag. Just like tingling hair conditioner “That’s how you know it’s working.”

To change the settings (after it has been installed) bring up your dashboard to see your widgets (hit f4 or click the Dashboard icon).  In the lower right corner there is a grey dot  that’ll appear when you hover over it.  When you click the dot it’ll flip the widget over to show settings for the widget. Here you can tell it to auto-check for lyrics and auto-save if the song has no lyrics.  Click Done once you’ve set it up.

You might even want to give iLyrics a try with Needle Drop. You can let it run overnight with iTunes on mute.  Needle Drop allows you to play a short chunk from every song in your iTunes library — if you set it to about 5 or 10 seconds, it should provide enough time for iLyrics to query the internet for lyrics and then update the file before moving on to the next one.

iLyrics – Manual method

If you prefer to update songs manually and not leave the widget running all the time, I’ve outlined it below as a simple 3 step process.

Step 1:

Start playing a song with no lyrics. You can right click a song and choose Get Info to bring up the window shown below. Remember to Close the Get Info window once you see that it has no lyrics… The widget can’t update the lyrics if you have the ID3 settings open for edit.

Step 2:

Launch your Dashboard Widgets — to do this, hit F4 or click the Dashboard icon, or you can also set an active screen corner for it under System Preferences -> Exposé. You’ll notice the new widget knows what is playing in iTunes and shows the ID3 info it knows about.

Step 3:

On the very bottom of the widget you’ll see a drop down list with an option to Save to Song…  Click that and BOOM you’re done!  It’s like Magic!  Unfortunately lyrics won’t be available for every song you try.

An Added Bonus

When you play the song on your iPhone / iPod / iPad it can display the song lyrics.

Making your own iPhone Ringtones in iTunes for free

Ever wondered about making your own ringtones in iTunes, but didn’t want to re-buy a song you already own just to convert it to a ringtone?

Personally, I’m a huge fan of iTunes.  It was literally the first Apple product I ever used and liked.  The first time I used it was when I was working for the geeksquad and a client wanted to burn MIDI files to a CD.  I discovered that iTunes could do it, so we downloaded it, played around with it, and I was hooked.  Eventually I got an iPod and that was enough momentum to bring me over to the light side.

So, here’s what to do to take an MP3 and convert it into an iPhone ringtone with iTunes.  (You can also create free ringtones with other programs that ship with OSX, like Garage band, but since that doesn’t exist on Windows, I’m going to stick with iTunes.) Here’s what the properties looks like for a finished ringtone (note that file sizes and quality will be different for different versions of iTunes, since now iTunes handles quaility automatically for Apple Lossless Files.)

Step 1. If you don’t already have a playlist to use for chopping up mp3’s create a new playlist. I call mine “Chop” and that’s about the only thing I use it for. From the file menu, select New Playlist.

A playlist named ‘untitled playlist’ will be added to your collection, and automatically will be selected for rename so you can just begin typing and then give it a name.  This playlist will be where to dump songs that you want to convert into a ringtone.

Step 2. Drag and drop the song file you want to convert from your music collection into your new playlist.  Then click on the Playlist to see only the songs in the playlist.

Step 3. Make sure you are looking at your chop playlist.  You’ll need to listen to the song a couple times to narrow down the 30 second chunk that you want.  Once you figure out where in the song you want the ringtone to start, take note of the minutes and seconds into the song you you are.  Once you know how far into your song the good part begins, we need to tell iTunes that’s where it should start playing this song.  Let’s call this your ‘start time.’ So, we need to change the properties for this file.  Right click on your song and select “Get Info”

Step 4. This should only change how the song plays when played inside of this playlist.  Inside the properties window, go to the Options tab. On this tab you’ll see Start and Stop times.  Check the boxes next to both and put the minutes and seconds of the ‘start time’ we got in step 3.  Then, add 30 seconds to your start time, and that’ll give you your stop time.  Click OK and now that you’re back looking at your playlist in iTunes double click the song to play it again.  Chances are your guess wasn’t exact and you’ll need to add or subtract tenths or hundredths of a second from your estimated start time.

…after testing different starting times, I’ve ended up with 1:52.85 as the perfect start time for this song. This will only change how the song plays when played inside of this playlist.

Step 5. You’ve just done the hardest part and now you’re almost there.  You need to tell iTunes to convert this song to the ringtone format.  Go into Preferences for iTunes.  On OSX this is under the iTunes menu item, in Windows I think it is inside the File menu.  Make sure you are in the “General” Tab (it’s the first tab on the left) and click the “Import Settings…” button.

…and choose the Apple Lossless Encoder.  This will encode songs as .m4a files which are identical to .m4r files in every way that matters.  Then hit OK.

Step 6. Right click on your file again, but this time choose “Create Apple Lossless Version.”

It should take about a second and then it will make the typical happy sound it makes after it finishes ripping a CD.  Now go back to your full music collection and find the 30 secondversion of your file.  It will be right below the full length one.  Note it won’t show up in the chop playlist because you haven’t added this version of the song to your playlist yet.  Once you find it, right click on it and in OSX select “Show in Finder”  (I think in windows it should say “Show in Explorer.”)  Now that you’re staring at the file on your filesystem rather than the song in iTunes, go ahead and rename the extension to m4r (be sure you are doing it to the version you just created not the full version of the song.)  It will probably warn you about changing the extension and tell it to go ahead and change the extension.  Keep the finder/explorer window open so you can return to the .m4r file in a second but switch back to iTunes and delete the 30 second version of the song.  When it asks if you want to delete the file too, or just remove it from iTunes, tell it to just remove it from iTunes. You don’t want to trash the file you just made. Now, return to your .m4r fle in finder/explorer and double click it.  It should immediately begin playing and be added to your Ringtones section in iTunes.

It should also now show up in your list of Ringtones to Sync once your iPhone is connected.

Sync your iPhone with iTunes and it should now be available as a ringtone! Don’t forget to go back to the original file and uncheck the start and end times.