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Using Your Computer for Music

What are MP3s?

You can listen to music on your computer easily by just inserting a music CD in the CD drive and using Windows Media Player to play it. If you really want to use your computer as a huge library to store, play and sort your music collection then MP3 files are really the way to do it. MP3 is a file type that compresses sound information so that it takes up much less space than a CD. You can fit much more music into a certain space. You can fit about ten times as many songs on your computer if you store them as MP3s rather than as CD audio files.

What about MP3 sound quality?

MP3s vary in quality according to their bit rate. Bit rate measures the amount of information stored in the file. Bit rates are described in kilobits per second (kb/s or kbps). The higher the bit rate, the better the quality of the recording. 192 kbps is a good halfway point between file size and sound quality. The files are small but still have near CD-qualty sound. If you want better sound quality then you can increase the bit rate to 320 kbps although this will result in a slight increase in file size. Since hard drive space is relatively inexpensive, I prefer 320 kbps.

Benefits of MP3s

One of the best uses of MP3s is to store your entire CD collection on your computer which makes it instantly accessible. Most MP3 software will help you list and organize your files by artist, song title, album, and more.

Apple iTunes
Rating: 3 stars
Price: Free

Media Monkey
Rating: 5 stars
Price: Free
Media Monkey is what I use. Much easier than iTunes.

How do you get started with MP3s? The first thing you need is some MP3 playing software. The great news is that all modern computers come with some sort of MP3 playing software. For example, Windows Media Player can play MP3s and CDs, create MP3s, play DVDs, play online audio and video and this player comes with Microsoft Windows.

If your computer does not have any software then there are plenty of free players available on the Internet, such as VLC Media Player.

Now that you have some MP3 software you need some music to play on it. If you want to store your CD collection as digital then you need to copy your music files to your computer, and convert them to MP3 format. This process is known as ripping. In order to rip your music files to your computer you need a ripping program. My personal favorite is a free program called CDex.

Ripping guides:
Windows Media Player

Once you have MP3 files on your computer, you're now free to play them when you want, and you can put your old CDs away in the garage along with your old vinyl records.

Another popular method of getting MP3 files is to download them from the Internet. This is great because you can get the music files at a fraction of the cost of buying a CD, and you don't even have to leave your chair to buy them! One of the most popular places to download MP3 files is iTunes, which has millions of songs, some as cheap as 99c.

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