Why is my music player often stuck

Sort music correctly to find songs faster

Sometimes I get annoyed with myself that when I hang up I pay more attention to the display of my CD player than to the people dancing.

I know my vinyl and CD collection by heart and know exactly where which song is. With MP3 files, I start over with sorting music.

I tried almost every possible way to sort my music. To get straight to the point, there is no such thing as an optimal system. There was never a perfect sorting for record bags or CD cases either.

Every DJ will have to develop his own system in order to know in a split second which song is where.

quality not quantity

As a beginner, I thought that the more music I take to an event, the more flexible I am in the evening. But this starts a vicious cycle because you will be overwhelmed by the amount of songs.

In the MP3 age it is no longer uncommon for someone to have 5,000 songs on their hard drive. With that you stand in front of a gigantic mountain of possibilities.

This choice and supposed flexibility is now being reversed. You look paralyzed at an endless list of music. The more options you have for the next song, the more difficult it can be to make a choice.

Anyone who owns more than 50 records or CDs faces the same problem: What is the best way to sort the music? In the past, only DJs had this mass problem.

In the end, it's about memorizing where a song is in your music collection. However, memorizing only works if you keep the structure the same.

The two goes together

I discovered something in common with all of the music sorts I have tried for records, CDs and MP3 files. I group similar music together.

You must have songs that you like to play together. Then I would start by putting these songs into the record box one after the other. In digital playlists this works via the position or the sorting order.

In my record case, for example, it looks like this:

  • Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine - Conga
  • behind it is Santa Esmeralda - Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (12 ″)
  • before that is Gibson Brothers - Cuba

Behind Santa Esmeralda are some reggae records, such as:

  • 10CC - Dreadlock Holiday
  • Bob Marley & The Wailers - Could You Be Loved

I usually play these two songs much later in the evening. Nevertheless, these records form a thematic mini-collection of Latino and reggae music.

So when I'm on a current chart and house set, I can mentally hide this whole area of ​​my record case.

Obviously, this works better in a record bag or CD case than with a digital playlist. In no case should this sorting mean that you will always play these songs in the exact same order in the future.

How do I best organize my music?

Now we come to the hard part. How do you identify similarities in order to sort music?

A song is more than its genre, the speed in BPM,
the name of the performer or the year of publication.

It is true that these variables describe individual aspects of music. But not even the sum of all variables reveals what really characterizes a song.

So that you know exactly what I'm talking about, I'll first describe all the ways I can think of to sort music.

Possible variables to sort music:

  • Artist, alphabetical order
  • by title name
  • by music style, genre, music style
  • by speed in beats per minute (BPM)
  • Main key, key according to the Camelot system
  • Own number system
  • after the date of purchase
  • When to use: pre-program, prime time or at the end of a party
  • Audience reaction
  • own evaluation criteria such as star system
  • by date of publication
  • Chart factor / news factor
  • Energy level
  • Mood that the song spreads
  • Record label
  • Catalog number of the record label

You can go on and on with this list to find new ways to sort music.

However, I can think of more negative points for each sorting criterion, why they are not suitable for organizing your music collection. Please use these sorting suggestions as a suggestion.

The difficult part is that the weighting of individual variables changes over the course of a party. The chart factor is more important at prime time, on the other hand, at the beginning and at the end of a party, I tend to rely on knowing the audience's reaction exactly.

Out of experience, my brain manages to manage the songs according to changeable variables. On the other hand, I couldn't find any DJ software that can map this requirement in the laptop.

It is made easy for laptop DJs because music programs such as Traktor, Serato and Co. have a search function. I know a lot of DJs who get on really well with it.

Which sorting doesn't work?

A playlist sorted by BPMs, genre or alphabetically doesn't help me choose the next song. That's why a laptop isn't an aid either, because I have to remember the mood of a song.

1. Sort the artist's name alphabetically

When I had around 50 CDs, I sorted my Maxi CDs alphabetically. And quickly realized that this method has no future.

My uncle told me a fitting anecdote about his CD collection:

“Shortly after moving in with my aunt, he came home one evening. In the meantime my aunt had sorted his CD collection alphabetically into the CD rack.
When I heard the story up to this point, it was immediately clear to me that it was not a working sort for a record collection. We had both tried this sorting in vain.
So the story was at least worth a good laugh. "

2. Own numbering system

After trying alphabetical sorting, I tried my luck with numbers. Each new CD was given an ascending number.

I entered these numbers in a music database that I had programmed for the C64. I was even able to save mix suggestions in it, i.e. other songs that can best be mixed with it.

I printed out little song notes from the database and stuck them into the Maxis. And I stuck the CD number on the front with scotch tape.

Somewhere at number 739 it was clear to me that it was also a dead end.

After the gigs I was able to put the CDs back in the right order quickly. But the more CDs I bought, the longer I was busy collecting the data in my music database, printing out slips of paper and numbers.

With the masses of music I was dragging home, I could have employed a data typist for part of the day. And then there was the problem that I switched to vinyl back then.

3. Sorted by speed in BPM

Occasionally I play with other DJs. This is an opportunity to watch fellow DJs as they organize their music collection.

I remember one colleague after ten years:

He stubbornly played his top hip-hop tracks from 92 BPM to 119 BPM. To do this, he got by with two identical MP3 CDs and mixed one track after the other using the ping-pong method. He knew that every song would go down well with the audience and kept picking up the pace.

Sorting the songs in ascending order by BPMs would be a working sorting method. Still, I don't think they're particularly useful.

It is more important to me to achieve a certain effect on the dance floor with the next song. The speed plays a subordinate role because it simply doesn't matter whether a song is 126 BPM or 128 BPM.

4. Main key and energy level

The main key is not suitable as the sole sorting criterion, I wrote about this in detail in the blog post "Harmonious mixing according to the circle of fifths".

I use the key to form blocks of similar music in my CD portfolio. As in the example of the mini-collection for latino music above, the right key can be the decisive factor in saying “Snap! - Rhythm Is A Dancer "next to" Culture Beat - Mr. Vain "because both songs can be mixed harmoniously.

In the current version, the "Mixed In Key" software suggests an energy level as an additional variable. A value between 1 and 10 describes the energy that a song brings to the dance floor.

This energy level doesn't matter to me because I know that Mr. Vain spreads more energy than Rhythm Is A Dancer.

Donkey bridges or which learning style do you prefer?

The best way to remember music is through the cover of a vinyl or CD.

I can remember the mood of a song very well by the color of the cover. Based on the color, the picture, the logo and even the smudges and the shape of the worn corners, I determine the type and mood of the music.

These donkey bridges help me remember how well a song worked at a particular party - even after ten years.

This doesn't work with a list on a computer screen or on the display of my CD player. That's why I have to scroll through these lists much longer.

Do you sort CDs differently than MP3s or vinyl maxis?

Before we get to the part where I'm trying to describe my chaos system, I noticed something else. Depending on the sound carrier, I use slightly different grades that have one thing in common.

Arrange vinyl and individual maxi CDs

For records, I did not use a structured sorting system from the start. Instead, I put together the vinyls that went together. Similar music stands side by side.

The songs could either be mixed together perfectly, built on each other or by the same artist. So blocks of ten or 20 vinyls came together.

I put this mini-collection one after the other in the record cases. Depending on the gig and target audience, I will sort out some discs or add others.

The basic structure, however, always remained the same. Songs that I want to play later, move backwards. This finished my gig planning for the evening.

In the course of time I memorized exactly where each record was. I have the search index for the music in my head.

Based on the structure of the sorted vinyls, I knew exactly that I only had to look for a house classic in the back quarter of the second record case.

First record case

  • Songs against sagging early in the morning, late at night
  • Main program (softer)
  • Main program (latino, piano)
  • Main program (electronic, harder)
  • Latest news: Must Play Prime Time

Second record case

  • Very last song
  • House Classics
  • Pre-program (Latino, Piano)
  • Pre-program (disco)
  • Preliminary program (soft, entry)
  • Latest news: must-play pre-program

Third record case with 80s music

  • Very last song
  • Hip hop
  • Party and rock
  • Latino
  • Wave (Must Play)
  • Wave (late evening, early morning)
  • Wireless
  • Disco (top hits)
  • Italo disco
  • Pre-program (disco)

Find maxi CDs in the CD case quickly

A typical CD case from the hardware store can be divided into three columns that I use:

Left columnMiddle column
right column

hip hop



House opening act

current songs

Hip house

House (Old School)


House (Must Play)

At the very beginning of this description, I rushed past the point that it's about memorizing where a song is in your collection.

When I want to play “How Gee” I know that this CD is in the middle row of my CD case, relatively far back. It has to be one of the last 10 maxi CDs. The cover is black and white.

If I want to play a 90s hip-hop song at around 100 BPM to really rock my audience, then I have to look relatively far up in the left compartment of the CD case.

For the best rock classics, I either look for the fourth or fifth track of my self-burned sampler CDs or I search in the right column of my CD case, roughly in the middle.
Before that, by the way, are the greatest house classics that have absolutely nothing to do with rock. The cover of Insomnia glows in the color orange and the logo man of the record label is printed in black.

CD folders with your own sampler CDs

For a few years I swore by CD folders, in which I put sampler CDs that I burned myself. With music samplers like Fetenhits or Pop & Wave I have the problem that I cannot play some songs one after the other because they are on the same CD.

That's why I divided the songs into the broad genres of Disco, Pop, Rock, HipHop, House, NDW, Soul, Schlager, Oldies and Pop & Wave. And from that I derived 20 categories that could be burned side by side on two CDs:

  1. Pop intro
    Pop top
    Pop 90s
    House Soft / House Latino
    Soft party
    Pop party
    Rock intro
    Rock top
    Rock party
    Rock Classics
  2. Pop & Wave
    Soul & Funk
    ND W
    Cool down
    Rock soft

MP3 playlists grow until they become unusable

After the CD folders I switched to USB sticks. At first I thought it was great to play music directly from the USB stick. With the Pioneer software Rekordbox I can save cues and loops. Then I copy the prepared songs to a USB stick and I'm done!

Depending on the gig, I put together different playlists that got bigger and bigger. And for a short while I found the Pioneer CD player tag list helpful. These tag lists work in a similar way to sticking records diagonally into the record box. A kind of bookmark and quick guide.

After half a year I noticed that I had 70 to 120 songs saved on the stick.

I am currently reaching a limit with the playlist sorting system. I don't know all the songs on the stick by heart anymore. The mini cover is rarely of any help.

What I find much worse is that I am currently more staring at the display of the CD player than watching the audience.

This article is not quite finished yet. I will continue to write about it in the next two weeks. Among other things, I want mine Multivariate chaos sorting explain the DJ as librarian and curator describe and cover the topic of memorization in more detail.

Do you have any other suggestions for organizing music better? Please write your tip and question as a comment further down this page.

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