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16 Extract a “Secret Track” into the iTunes Library

Sometimes the authors of CDs get sneaky on us. Sometimes they like to slip in a “secret” track, right at the end of the disc, after a long period of silence following the end of the final track. This practice is left over from the days of cassette tapes, when the tape might have several minutes of dead time left over at the end. An unsuspecting listener might hear silence after the end of the last track and, thinking that the tape was over, simply stop the player and rewind the tape. Only the true die-hard fans of the band would listen to the silence all the way to the physical end of the tape; these fans would be rewarded for their trouble by the occasional hidden, “secret” track stuck in right before the end of the tape.

In the age of CDs, this practice made less sense because any quick perusal of the track lengths would indicate that there was something fishy about a Track 12 that lasted for 14 minutes, especially if the song itself didn't run for more than the usual 3 or 4 minutes. However, some CD authors continued to do this, hiding “secret” tracks in plain sight.

But it's the iTunes' age now, and we've got control over our music that just wasn't possible in the earlier days. Now we can snip up that final 14-minute track, crop out the useless silence from the middle, and turn the “secret” track into a full-fledged track with its own rightful place in the song listing. We can listen to it without having to go through the preceding “real” track and the intervening silence first. After we've enjoyed the band's little joke, we can move on to organizing our music the “right” way.

  1. Find the Song with the Secret Track

    Navigate to the song in the library listing that has the hidden track buried inside it. Select this song by clicking it; then choose File, Show Song File (or right-click the song and choose Show Song File from the context menu). This command opens a Finder or Windows Explorer window showing the selected song file.

  2. Create a Duplicate of the Song File

    In Mac OS X, click the song file to select it, then choose File, Duplicate to create an identical copy. In Windows, right-click the file and choose Copy; then right-click in the same window and choose Paste to create a duplicate of the file.

  3. Add the Duplicate File into iTunes

    Drag the newly created duplicate into iTunes to add it to the library as described in 11 Add a Music File to Your iTunes Library. There should now be two identical copies of the same song right next to each other in the library view.

  4. Name the Duplicate Track

    Now it's time to choose a song name for the newly unhidden not-so-secret track. By their nature, these songs aren't normally shown in CD track listings, so you'll have to choose an appropriate title yourself. Type the new song name using the editable fields in the song listing pane or the Info window.

    It's also a good idea to choose an appropriate track number for this song. If there are 12 “official” tracks on the disc, and you enter 13 for the track number for the new song, the 12 in the “total” field (after the of) gets blanked out (because it's no longer valid). You might want to make a quick change to all the tracks in the album and update them all so that there are 13 total tracks. To do this, select all the tracks in the album (or select the album title in the Album list), choose File, Get Info, and update the “total” field (located after the of under in the Track # column).

  5. Adjust the End Time of the Original Track

    Select the original track, the one from which the secret track was extracted. Play the track and move the scrub bar to the end of the first segment of audio, the end of the “real” track. Click the second line of the display until it reads Elapsed Time; write down the time signature it reports one or two seconds after the real track ends.

    Move the playhead to the point where the secret track begins. Write down the time signature when this occurs; make sure to pick a time about one second before the track starts so that you don't end up missing the first sounds of the secret track.

    Choose File, Get Info to display the Info window; click the Options tab. In this tab, you can customize the effective starting and ending time for individual tracks; that's ideal for your needs here, because what you want to do is snip out the silence in the middle of both the original and new files—and get rid of the irrelevant track of music from each of them as well. For the original song, set the Stop Time field to the time signature you wrote down for the end of the original track.

  6. Adjust the Start Time of the Secret Track

    Click Next to select the duplicate track. (Make sure that you have the right file by switching to the Info tab temporarily.) Set the Start Time field to the time signature you wrote down for the beginning of the hidden track. Click OK.

    Now you've got two separate tracks, for all intents and purposes the same as if they'd come off the CD that way. True, both tracks still have an erroneously long running time, but if you play either song—in iTunes or on the iPod—all that plays is the actual music, the part you care about.

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