Categories for classical music

For listerners of classical music it would be very helpful to have categories of music (e.g. symphony, piano concerto, string quartet, opera etc.) to categotize compositions and to search by composer/category/composition within the library. For large oeuvres of composers like Mozart, Bach or Beethoven it is very cumbersome to find e.g. a certain symphony without browsing the endless list of unordered compositions.
In general, I feel that classical music with its specific needs of classification does not have the same focus as other genres.

Roon is not maintaining a genre hierarchy. It just uses what it is given by the the metadata suppliers it contracts with. I don’t think that will change as roon isn’t a content supplier. Very roughly it is using the allmusic genre hierarchy specified by Tivo but there are a lot of gaps and inconsistencies in the supplied metadata. In principle the default roon Classical sub-genre hierarchy should look something like this:

Roon allows you to define your own genres and sub-genres and the hierarchical relationships between them. I have defined a Classical sub-genre hierarchy that very roughly follows allmusic although I have many sub-genres of my own precisely to navigate a largish library.

To be fair I had a quick look at the roon knowledge base and I couldn’t find a simple explanation of how you would go about building a sub-genre hierarchy to improve navigation. I have just got there by trial and error. Perhaps someone else knows where in the knowledge base?

these classical hierarchies exist in other databases. to be fair, genre hierarchies, and proper weighting of them, are a problem across Roon, not just for classical.

I have found myself doing something similar with all the top level allmusic genres. Pop/Rock is probably even more meaningless than Classical.

One thing I have noticed is that some attention to genre classification seems to improve roon radio and various discovery features. It may be expectation bias because of the effort or just coincidence as this has been a several years project but it does make me wonder what exactly Valence is doing.

Thanks a lot for your quick response and your insight. You are right: Roon is only using what is given and adds nothing. Now, your suggestion of creating specific sub-genres will only help if you start navigating with the genre, then sub-genre. Yet, I am used to navigate mostly with composer, then form (e.g. symphony).
My favorite in “pre-roon-times” was JRiver Media Center that I was using for many years, tagging the entire library with my specific pattern. This can obviously not be realized in roon. But what may come closest is to start with composer (e.g. Brahms), then compositions, then focus (form and/or instrumentation (e.g. string sextet). This has often good results. Unfortunately form and instrumentation is quite inconsistent und uncomplete. Thanks for your comments

To my knowledge that is not strictly true. It is a lot of work but it is easy to do. In roon you can specify any “top-level” genres you want, and any sub-genres under those as you please. So for example as sub-genres of “Classical” I have defined period tags like “Classical/Baroque” or “Modern Composition” and also instrumentation like “Choral” or “Classical/Piano” and also form like “Concerto” or “English Art Song”.

This does not integrate with the Composition view but I gave up on roon making any changes there long ago and this approach works good enough for my purposes using focus. Where it breaks down is that in roon you cannot set genres at a track or performance level, only an album level. But I have no need of such precision and this approach works well enough for me.

I did not yet suceed in creating a new sub-genre. How do you do this?
(I created new top-genres, but not subs)

As an alternative to creating new genres, you could also use the Date, Period, Form and Instrumentation attributes in the Composition browser for at least those categories? You can use the Composition editor to add or edit these attributes to compositions.

The metadata in the composition browser is very incomplete and it is not possible to edit the “instrumentation” in roon. There have been numerous requests to improve the composition browser but I personally gave up years ago. It’s a great shame I think that after the initial work on the composition browser roon stopped further development.

Technically, the work-around of doing something similar with genre sub-categories doesn’t really work either as the genres are at an album rather than composition level. Personally, I don’t find that much of an issue in practical terms for the way I use roon. For example, I might shuffle “Choral” and “Modern Composition” and that may well throw up a Classical or Baroque Choral piece because that happened to also be on a predominantly “Modern Composition” album. But it usually still works as the album was designed with complimentary “periods” by a human record executive in the first place. Mostly I find this approach works better than starting radio with a “Choral”, “Modern Composition” seed which can drift off message very quickly although more recent roon releases seem to be able to keep a consistent mood going longer than in the past.

I didn’t find an explanation in the roon knowledge base. It might be there but I cannot find it.

Let’s say you want to set up a genre hierarchy as follows

>      Vocal Music
>           Choral
>                 Sacred Traditions
>                 Secular
>           Art Song
>                 Lieder
>                 American Art Song
>                 English Art Song
>                 MĂ©lodie

What you have to do is “chain” the lower level “sub-genres” so that they all point upwards to the next sub-genre in the hierarchy until eventually you get to the Classical top level parent genre.

So, if I press the three dots next to my “English Art Song” sub-genre I can edit it to point to the sub-genre “Art Song”

Then I do exactly the same with my sub-genre “Art Song” and point it to “Vocal Music” and then finally I point “Vocal Music” to the top-level genre “Classical”

It is less work than it looks. The other thing to do is to make sure that your “genre mappings” in Library Settings also reflect your hierarchy.

I personally find this greatly improves navigation / discovery / radio. Also when the next roon comes along migration should be a lot easier. For example, although roon doesn’t use genres at a composition level (only album level) I mostly do now tag genres in new albums at a composition level as a sort of future proofing.

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I guess you know this but for a given composer, it is easy to filter a given style of composition with Focus:

Or you can start with compositions and then focus on composer and form or filter in other ways. The filter/focus page you like most can be easily bookmarked so you then quickly change a focus option to find what you are looking for rather than starting from scratch each time.

Notwithstanding all the metadata classification issues which are a huge area does this not meet the feature request in your original post? These views were designed specifically for classical music, what more would you like to see here?

I would like to see the solo instrument(s) named and the soloist(s) named so that I could easily find all cello concertos for instance or all performances by a particular soloist. Other than this (which I’m pretty sure has already been requested but is lacking the metadata) this works well enough for me - provided the metadata is correct that is :slight_smile:

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One of the problems with this screen is that “Instrumentation” is not user editable anywhere in roon, although “Period” and “Form” are. You can also immediately see from your screenshot that there are other problems. There are Romantic, Modern, Post-Romantic and Baroque “Mozart” compositions which obviously doesn’t make any sense and I know from experience that Instrumentation and Form are quite incomplete as roon’s meta data suppliers do not consistently tag these.

Personally, I never start a search from a composer screen although I have the impression that many do. I am much more interested in creating a shuffle, playlist or radio stream from a form, and/or period that varies the composers so I don’t think I have ever used this screen except once or twice when it was first introduced.

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I tend to agree that the elements of a good Classical experience are already there in roon. It is more that existing functionality was never really finished. For example, work on the composition browser seemed to cease years ago, large box set handling is still an issue and user editing of streamed content is weak.


…and that too many classical recordings are simply classified as “classical” and nothing else.