MP3: A New Era in Musical Enjoyment

January 4, 2010

Music changes. Not only has the style of music changed, but the way we acquire and listen to music has changed. Vinyl, although it has made a comeback in recent years, is a novelty at this point; something that is a rare commodity but not the most practical of ways to listen to your favorite songs. Cassette tapes, as quickly as they came, are now nothing more than attic rediscoveries that lead to five minutes of nostalgia, only to be put back in a box to be rediscovered again in another 10 years. The same is true for eight-track tapes and players. Even CDs, most likely your media of choice to listen to music, are taking a hit along with the rest of the music industry. All these music choices are taking a melodic backseat to the new wave of music: mp3 files, downloads and players.

An mp3 is a patented digital audio encoding using a form of data compression. It is a common audio format for consumer audio storage, as well as the standard of digital audio compression for the transfer and playback of music on digital audio players. In essence, it is a little file, filled with a song that is downloaded to your computer, and in turn able to be placed onto a personal mp3 player. Many companies offer mp3 players in varied sizes, shapes and colors. Apart from personal style considerations, when you are seeking an mp3 player, you may want to consider a few key aspects, including how many songs the unit holds, ease of use in playing the unit, readability of the display, and how user-friendly the unit's software is to operate. Most mp3 players offer software programs for your computer which will allow you to transfer songs from the computer to the player.

We do not endorse any particular brand of mp3 player. However, Apple's iPod is the market leader. Just like Kleenex facial tissues and Band-Aid adhesive bandages, the iPod brand name has become synonymous with the product in general. For the purposes of this article, we will look at how an individual would enter the world of mp3 playback with an iPod.

Like other mp3 players such as the Microsoft Zune or Sandisk's Sensa, the iPod can be purchased at many stores and online businesses which sell technology products. To capitalize on the digital music craze, Apple operates Apple Store locations in larger shopping malls around the country. In these stores, well-trained salespeople can answer most questions about using their products.

Setting up an iPod starts with a visit to www.apple.com. At the top-middle of the page, a tab labeled "iPod + iTunes" leads to a link to download iTunes, Apple's software for mp3 playback. After clicking the "Download Now" button, the download of iTunes will begin. Once iTunes is downloaded, it will be on your computer, and you can set it as your default music player.

You can add music to iTunes and sync the iPod with the computer program at any point. Apple sells songs through the iTunes Store, with prices ranging from .89 to $1.29 per tune. The iTunes Store also offers links to speeches, lectures, television programs, movie files, and an array of other content. Many people use their mp3 players to hear popular pastors and Bible teachers. The iTunes podcast section gives individuals a wide range of programs to download and many are free-of-charge.

As winter hits, you might choose to stay inside where it's warm and listen to some of your music. So we'll walk you through how to download a song. Let's say you're in the mood for "Ol' Blue Eyes" himself, Frank Sinatra. You're a fan of his rendition of "Moon River." Simply go to the search bar in the upper right part of your screen and type in the song title, then press enter. Many songs will pop up that you will be able to download. Simply click on the heading labeled "Artist," and iTunes will put the artists in alphabetical order. Scroll down until you find Frank Sinatra and then click the "Buy Song" button. iTunes will then ask you for your e-mail address and the password you used when you set up your iTunes account. Then the song will download onto your iTunes.

While many songs and programs are available for purchase, you are not limited to what you can buy. It is easy to move your own CD music into your iTunes program so you can add those songs to your mp3 player. All you have to do is insert the CD into your computer and follow iTunes instructions for importing the disk's content.

When putting new songs on your iPod, you have two options. You may either instruct your iPod to automatically sync (or update) with all the songs on your music library. Another option is to manually update your music (we recommend this). To select this option, when your iPod is connected to your computer, go to the iPod home screen and check the "Manually update music" box located on the lower half of the screen. Next, go into your music list on the iTunes library, click on the song you wish to put on your iPod, and without releasing your finger from the mouse, drag the song onto the area of the screen that has your iPod's image. Your song is now on your iPod.

You can also make a "Playlist" within iTunes. To make a playlist, go down to the bottom of the screen in the lower left portion. There will be a "plus" symbol. Click on it, and you can name your new playlist, something such as "Songs for 2010." Then you start to choose songs you'd like to put in your playlist by going into your music library, clicking on the song, and then dragging it into the playlist like we explained earlier.

When you are updating an iPod for the first time, you might want to ask a family member or friend who is familiar with updating mp3 files to walk you through the steps. After you have updated your iPod a few times, or made a few online shopping trips to the iTunes store, you'll be enjoying this new medium for music in no time at all.