Ask the iTunes Guy: Glitchy tracks, numbers game, and too-large libraries

The iTunes Guy

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You know the one where you get a track from iTunes Match and it’s not perfect? How about the one where you’ve just got too much stuff in your iTunes library and it slows iTunes down to a crawl? Or that thing where there are numbers at the beginnings of track names and you’d really like to get rid of them? Well, read on to find out how to fix these problems.

Glitched tracks from iTunes Match

Q: I’ve found that some old purchased iTunes songs are glitching when played directly from iTunes Match. Have you come across this? How can I fix it?

I’ve come across a number of similar problems with iTunes Match tracks since the service went live. One of the most common is truncated tracks, where the tracks just cut off after a few seconds or a couple of minutes. But this also happens with iTunes purchased downloads, so it’s most likely just a server problem. I’ve found that redownloading those tracks resolves the issue.

What you’re discussing, however, is tracks where there are problems within the music files themselves. There may be a click, a pop, a dropout, or some other annoying glitch. The best way to illustrate this is to look at the waveform of one of these tracks, such as found in this screenshot sent to me by the user who submitted the question:


As you can see, there is a visible glitch in this track's waveform; this translates to a brief, but loud, click during playback.

You can see the two sections where there are glitches in this track. With other tracks, the problems may be different. I saw one where there is a one-channel dropout—in other words, only the right or left channel has a short bit of silence. In others, there is noise for a brief moment.

There are two solutions to this problem. First, if you still have the original tracks, delete them from iCloud, then re-add them to iTunes Match. This works if iTunes uploaded your tracks. But in the above case, it’s a purchased track that has glitches. You can try deleting your local track and re-downloading it, but I’ve found that generally doesn’t resolve the problem. The only thing you can do is contact iTunes support and let them know of the issue. Whether or not they’ll get it fixed is anyone’s guess. Unfortunately, you have no other choice, short of getting another copy of the track from somewhere else. But even if you do this, the file on iTunes’ server has glitches, so your matched copy will still have the problem.

Getting rid of track numbers

Q: For various reasons, not the least of which is neatness and alphabetical listings, I don’t want track numbers at the beginning of every track. Over the years I’ve painstakingly removed these track numbers only to find out the albums often don’t play in order if these are removed. I’m certain I’m missing something, and any help with this would be appreciated.

If I understand correctly, you have albums where the track names are like this (this is Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue):

1 So What
2 Freddie Freeloader
3 Blue in Green
4 All Blues
5 Flamenco Sketches

Some downloads include track numbers in the name tags. This is generally only useful with older music players that don’t correctly read Track Number tags. You’ll need to do two things to fix this, both of which use AppleScripts.

First, select an album, with the tracks in the correct order. Run Doug Adams’ Albumize Selection (free; donation requested) AppleScript. This will set the Track Number tags in the order of the tracks. So, the first track will become Track 1 of 5, the second Track 2 of 5, and so on. This will ensure that when you play an album, iTunes knows the correct order.


Run this script to remove a set number of characters from the beginning or end of almost any tag: Name, Artist, Album, etc.

Next, with the same tracks selected, run the Remove n Characters from Front or Back AppleScript. Choose to remove 2 characters from the front of the Name tag: that’s the number, and the space. If there are other characters, such as a dash or a colon, remove them as well. If you have more than nine tracks, you may need to run the script twice—once for the single-digit track numbers and a second time for the double-digit numbers. Sometimes track numbers are noted as 01, 02, etc. In this case, there are the same number of digits for each track number.

Library too large

Q: My iTunes library is just shy of 100,000 tracks. I have a large collection of audiobooks and educational courses, along with a lot of music. I’m looking for suggestions on how to manage a library of this size. Searching is slow. Changes to playlists or changing options, such as “Remember playback position” is slow. Do you have any suggestions on how to work with a library of this size?

The short answer is that you should not have a library that large. iTunes gets very sluggish over about 30 to 50,000 tracks. I’ve split some of my music into a second library, and I use it as a sort of archive for things I don’t listen to any more. I shunt music back and forth between the two as necessary.

To do this, open iTunes and immediately press the Option key. You’ll see a dialog asking you to choose a library or to create a library.

new library

You can create a new library by launching iTunes and quickly pressing the Option key.

Create a new library with any name you want and iTunes will show you a blank library.

To move music to this library, you’ll need to get it out of the first library as there’s no direct way to transfer music from one library to another in iTunes. What I do is create a folder somewhere, open it, then select tracks I want to move from iTunes and drag them to the folder. Check that all the files have moved—compare the number of tracks selected in iTunes with the number you’ve moved to the folder—then delete them in iTunes. Quit iTunes, launch it again and choose the other library, and then drag all the tracks into the iTunes window.

You might want to set up a playlist in your main library as a “holding” playlist for tracks you want to move because it’s easier to move a lot at once, rather than drag a few albums. When you’re done quit and relaunch iTunes.

Have questions of your own for the iTunes Guy? Send them along for his consideration.

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