🎵 Rocking Out with the Music App in macOS Catalina 🎶

For some reason, it seems as if iTunes is the app people love to hate. So when macOS Catalina drove a stake through the heart of the iTunes app, splitting it into three different apps, I expected peals of joy from the masses. Instead, it seems more like a bit of gloom and doom. Many are worried about their vast collections of music already stored in iTunes becoming inaccessible, or that the new Apple Music app is going to cut them off from music not originating with Apple.

Fear not; the Music app is akin to iTunes, retaining many of the same features, though the interface has been modernized, requiring some effort to adjust to for diehard iTunes users.

Using the Apple Music App

When you upgraded to macOS Catalina, the Music app acquired your existing music collection. Every song you purchased, ripped, or uploaded; no matter how you acquired the tune, if you imported it into your old iTunes library, it will be available in the new Music app. You’ll also find your playlists, ratings, and any music file metadata, such as composer, writer, lyrics, or artwork, that you may have.

You may notice some content appears to be missing. Actually, Apple just reorganized things a bit, and some media types are now handled by the new Podcast and TV apps, as well as the Finder.

The Music app is dedicated to music, including content stored locally on your Mac, as well as music you may have in the cloud, such as from iTunes Match or from the streaming Apple Music service (subscription required).

Music app window layout.
A typical Music app display showing the user’s music library organized by album.

The Music app interface is much easier to use than the cumbersome iTunes app. It has three basic panes:

Toolbar: Located on the top of the Music app window, the toolbar contains the basic playback controls: volume control, current track info, and an Up Next menu and Lyrics menu.

Sidebar: Located along the left side of the window, the Sidebar is used to control the type of content that will be displayed in the main viewing pane. Currently the sidebar allows you to select from the three basic Music app services: Apple Music, the subscription streaming service; Library, which allows you to access both local music and music you’ve stored in iCloud; the iTunes Store, which lets you purchase new music. 

There are other optional categories that can appear in the Music app sidebar, depending on how you use the app. If you have playlists, they will be listed in a Playlist category, and if you connect an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, it will be listed in the Devices section. CDs or DVDs will appear in the Devices section as well.

Main Viewing Pane: This centrally located windowpane lists the content of whatever function you’ve selected in the Sidebar. You can browse Apple Music content, select Apple Music Radio channels to listen to, see your music library lists by artist, album, song, or by recently added, visit the iTunes Store to purchase new music, or manage your playlists.

Playing Your Music Library

Use the sidebar to select one of the possible Library functions: Recently Added, Artists, Albums, or Songs.

The main pane will display your library content as selected in the sidebar.

  • By Album: Hover over an album title to display a Play button.
  • By Artist:  Select an artist’s name to view all of their content. You can click the Play button and select individual albums and songs, or click the Play button at the top of the page to play all of the artist’s content.
  • By Song: Double-click or tap an item from the song list to start playing the music.

You can also use the Sidebar to select a playlist, which will provide the options to play the playlist in the current order, or to shuffle the list when it plays.

Playing the Apple Music Service

If you’re an Apple Music subscriber, you’ll find the usual controls for the streaming service in the Music sidebar:

Browse the Apple Music catalog from within the Music app.
Apple Music’s subscription service is available from the Music app’s Sidebar.

For You: Apple Music can use your musical history, that is, the songs and artists you’ve already been listening to, to suggest new artists or songs you may enjoy.

Browse: The Apple Music subscription service has over 30 million song titles. Go ahead and browse through them. Apple Music will lend a hand, guiding you through the vast music collection, organizing music genres, tastes, what’s new, recently added, or updated. Or, you can plow ahead on your own.

Radio: Beats 1 is the primary radio offering, with DJs from around the world programming music content to match your preferences; or, you can be bold and strike out to find new curated selections of music, interviews with leaders in the music industry, music news, and more.

The Radio offering is much more than just a music channel. It’s a great way to be exposed to new music as well as listen to your old favorites.

iTunes Store

Not much has changed with the iTunes Store; you’ll find the usual Best of the Week, Top Songs, Top Albums, featured new music, and music by genre. You can still buy and redeem gift cards.

The iTunes store accessed from the Music app.
The iTunes store is alive and well in the Music app, though you’ll only find music in the store; no apps, movies, or TV shows.

You can access the iTunes store from the Music app sidebar.

Ripping CD or DVDs

iTunes has been able to rip CDs and DVDs since it was first introduced, and the new Music app is no different. There are multiple ways to rip and import from a music CD; we’re going to look at the two primary methods:

The easy method: Start by inserting the CD you wish to rip into the CD drive. You can use either an internal drive or an external one. If you need to add an optical drive because your Mac didn’t come equipped with one, check out these DVD, CD, and Blu-ray offerings from Other World Computing.

the Music app can still rip and import music CDs
Just insert a CD and the Music app will offer to start ripping and importing the music it contains.

Once the CD mounts to your desktop the Music app will launch automatically. If the Music app doesn’t respond to an audio CD or DVD being inserted, check the Music app’s preferences. You’ll find CD options under the General tab.

The Music app will display a notification asking, “Would you like to import the CD ‘CD Name’ into your music library?” Click or tap the Yes button to start the ripping and importing process.

In the Sidebar, you should see the CD/DVD listed under the “Devices” heading. You can follow the import process by selecting the CD/DVD device.

The other method: This method assumes that you’ve already inserted a music CD/DVD, but for some reason chose not to let the Music app automatically rip and import the songs.

From the Music App sidebar, select the CD/DVD name, usually listed under Devices. 

CDs can be imported intot he Music app directly from the sidebar.
In the Devices category, you’ll find the currently mounted CD and all its music tracks, ready to be imported.

The content of the CD/DVD will be displayed. Make sure each track has a checkmark next to the song name, and then click the Import CD button.

You’ll be presented with options for importing the songs, including selecting the type of encoder, the bit rate, and other options. For most music content you can use the defaults. Click or tap the OK button.

The ripping and importing process will begin. The process is complete after all the tracks have a green checkmark next to their name.

Viewing Your Music Library

We already mentioned the basics for viewing your music library by selecting one of the Library options in the Sidebar. And while this gives you basic access to your music library, there are some additional features that can make finding and managing your library easier.

Use the sorting option to get a better view of your music library.
You can find the sorting option in the View menu.

Sorting: Artists, Albums, and Songs all have options for how the content is displayed in the main Music app pane. To configure the sorting options, pick one of the Library sidebar viewing options, then from the View menu, select Sort By. You’ll see a list of sorting options appropriate for the sidebar view you chose.

If you’re viewing by Song, you can also pick the sorting option by clicking or tapping the name for each column displayed.

Filtering: As your music library gets larger, finding specific artists, albums, or songs can get more difficult. To ease the problem, try enabling the Filter field. The Filter field lets you enter all or part of the name of the item you’re looking for. The Music app will filter the results to match up to the name you’ve entered.

You can turn on the Filter field by selecting Show Filter Field from the View menu.

Syncing Music

Noticeably absent from the Music app is the ability to sync your music content with other devices, such as your iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Syncing has been removed from the Music app and moved to the Finder. This is part of Apple’s breakup of iTunes, moving features to where they logically belong.

Syncing content has been moved to the Finder.
Syncing music to other devices is now handled by the Finder.

To sync devices, you need to connect the device to your Mac. Once mounted, the device will appear in a Finder window’s sidebar. Selecting the device in the Finder window will present you with syncing options.

Music App Wrap

I’ve been giving the new Music app a going over since the first beta of macOS Catalina appeared. And while the beta process isn’t complete yet, the Music app looks to be in very good shape. There were a few items still being developed, such as an introductory tour, and help files. But the core of the app looks good.

Even more important, the features you’re used to from iTunes are mostly intact, and the ones that are missing are likely to be found in one of the other new Catalina apps or in the Finder.

Overall, I’m beginning to prefer the Music app over iTunes, finding it easier to use. It also seems much more robust.Let us know what you think of the Music app by posting your thoughts in the Leave a Comment section, below.



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