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jason on 11/02/2012 at 10:00AM

Join the FMA Library Tagging Project

Every day, tens of thousands of you mine the Free Music Archive's growing library for musical gemstones. Some are looking for Emeralds while others dig for Obsidian, and many are looking for obscure combinations that are difficult to categorize. This may sound like dancing about architecture, but as our library continues to grow, it's becoming essential to describe each mineral composition so that music and people can find each other.

We're in the process of building more ways to help you find the sounds you seek, beyond our Genre Tree, our Curator's Selections, and our Similar Artist Search. So our question to you now is...

How would you describe the sounds you seek?

After the jump, we've compiled a list of popular search terms and musical descriptors, organized by Mood and Instrumentation, that we're considering adding to our set of musical discovery tools.

But first I want you to close your eyes, and think of three words to describe the music you came here to find... Do you see them on this list? Do you see a close match that would do the trick, or do you have a tip on keywords we should add to this list?

Leave a comment and let us know!


  • Abstract
  • Aggressive
  • Ambient
  • Atmospheric
  • Carefree
  • Cheerful
  • Chilled
  • Dark
  • Dreamy
  • Driving
  • Fun
  • Funky
  • Groovy
  • Haunting
  • Happy
  • Holiday
  • Hypnotic
  • Fuzzy
  • Jazzy
  • Melancholy
  • Mellow
  • Minimal
  • Mysterious
  • Peaceful
  • Percussive
  • Playful
  • Quirky
  • Reflective
  • Sad
  • Sentimental
  • Sexy
  • Trippy
  • Uplifting
  • Weird


  • Strings
  • Banjo
  • Violin
  • Horns
  • Piano
  • Guitar
  • Bass
  • Upright Bass
  • Electronics
  • Traditional
  • Ensemble
  • Solo Piano
  • Solo String
  • Solo Guitar
  • Percussion
  • Synthesizer / Synth
  • Acoustic
  • Electronic
  • Accordion
  • Vocal
  • Female Vocals
  • Male Vocals
  • Orchestral

Let us know what's missing! And together, we'll use these terms to tag the FMA library.

But we'll need help from our community of musical gemologists. So drop us a line if you'd like to get involved in the tagging, or the beta-testing. The reward? FMA improvements for all to share!



gogomole on 11/02/12 at 04:32PM
I think it is a great initiative! Sometimes, when editing a video, I wish I can find the track that best suits a scene, in which case these tags would be the best way for finding it!
headphonica on 11/02/12 at 04:53PM
that's a great idea as we always have problems with stuffing the uploaded music into the genre-tree somewhere - this is kind of tricky for music that does not fit into the genres there.


btw. how about "w/ vocals" or "instrumental"? as "instrumental" has only been a choice as a subgenre of "easy listening"...
jason on 11/02/12 at 07:36PM
Good call, headphonica! "Instrumental" is a key part of the tagging project. We already have a field for it in advanced search mode, but we're going to be able to do a better job of tagging them and it's going to get much easier to find these tracks.
huis21 on 11/03/12 at 03:35AM
I also appreciate the emotion tagging.
That is the main way I search for music.

When I heard about FMA i wanted to use it for a few projects but couldn't find any music because of the lack of filtering. So THANK YOU!!
queerclockwork on 11/03/12 at 01:50PM
Wonderful project! Sign me up and count me in.

We'll dig out the data. Another idea is to make a streaming radio out of these filters.

Good times ahead. Stay strong.
markcarlen on 11/04/12 at 09:31AM
This is an awesome initiative. I am a teacher and I have been looking for an easy to use site from which students could grab good CC music. Having the tagging associated with moods will really help make this a powerful tool. I have 20-30 students who could be harnessed for a few minutes a day to help the tagging. I know I would be interested in helping personally.
misterlark on 11/05/12 at 07:22PM
Reminded me of a 10 album set from Reader's Digest I have called "Background Moods" that comes with a Pleasure Programmer, a cardboard sleeve and slide that has some great categorizations such as 'Music for Cocktail Time', 'Dining by Candlelight' or 'Serenade For You Alone'.
LewisGilbert on 11/05/12 at 10:43PM
A lot of what I look for has to do with the settings of the recordings. In particular I am interested field recordings or recordings made very close to its place of origin. The words I came up with were:

Field Recorded

count me in!
Stevie MI on 11/06/12 at 01:33AM
Mood - Upbeat
Stevie MI on 11/06/12 at 01:34AM
mood -dancey. can dancey be a mood?
soundtrackseeker on 11/07/12 at 01:38AM
How about words like treacherous, triumphant, soulful, romantic, upbeat (uplifting with a beat), lively, background/low-key, bluesy, intense, inspirational, melodic, saucy, flamboyant, harmonic, soundtrack (ie., John Williams type for lack of a better term), brooding, spiritual, hymnal, soothing, calming, choral, symphonic, ethereal. Hope this helps.
katya-oddio on 11/07/12 at 05:58PM
Aren't these mood descriptors incredibly subjective? One thing gleaned from decades of WFMU listening is that one person's "carefree" is another's "melancholic." Consider the avant garde listener's interpretation beside that of the pop listener. Very different, right?

However, I do employ these and many other modifiers when tagging releases, but it does leave the FMA search open to vast personal interpretation. Isn't it to be expected with the diverse community this fantastic project has attracted? Glad to read that so many users are willing to take the time to tag!

And also, a whole-hearted bravo to instrumentation tagging!
rlk485 on 11/08/12 at 06:22AM
Thanks for extending the tagging. Another instrument would be the harmonica. Other instruments might be categorized by African instruments, Mid-East instruments, South American......

Another mood might be nostalgic.

Good luck. This is a really hard problem.

mplockwood on 11/08/12 at 06:02PM
Here are some additional suggestions which would describe the kind of music I like:
kadalsaune on 11/09/12 at 08:32AM
How about tags for notable effects used. Like fuzz, distortion, tremolo, delay, wah, vocoder, autotune, etc
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