USB MP3 Tracks Play in Wrong Order – Work-around

Problem:

Your car media player plays MP3 music tracks from a USB-stick in the wrong sequence.

I have a 2021 Toyota, and I maintain a copy of my music library in MP3 format on a USB stick for in-car use. I can browse and select an album, but it plays the tracks in alphabetic order of song title – not in the order of the track numbers. This is due to a long known bug in the player software – one which Toyota/Lexus (and possibly other vendors, I don’t know ?) appear to have simply ignored for many years.

Work-around

There is no known way to force the correct order in the player itself – but if you have the ability to process your MP3 music files on a computer, there is a work-around. Using a computer, you can process one folder/album at a time, or you can process files in bulk – your choice.

Setting up a the “script” takes a little while, but after that it becomes really quick and easy to alter your MP3 album tracks so they play in the correct track order on the faulty device. This guide takes you through step by step what to do.

Overview

The work-around involves altering the Song Title tag in your MP3 files such that the Track Number is prefixed onto the Song Title. Thus (for example) if the song “Space Oddity” is the first track on the album, then we will update it to become “01 – Space Oddity”. Any software that incorrectly uses the Song Title tag to determine the play order will thus be “tricked” into playing the tracks in Track Number order instead. The (hopefully minor) downside is that any device that displays the song title will show the adjusted version with its track number prefix.

Prerequisites

Obtain a copy of the software MP3TAG for windows or Mac. Install it on your computer. (For Windows there is a portable installation available – it will not alter your Registry.)

( Please note that I am just a fan of MP3TAG, I am not associated with the developer, Florian Heidenreich who is based in Dresden, Germany. Support for MP3TAG is available here: https://community.mp3tag.de/ )

Place a copy of the MP3 music files that you want to alter in a directory/folder. (I suggest – at least initially – working on a copy just in case you make a mistake and change things that shouldn’t be changed!)

Procedure – First Time Through

We go through this part of the process one time. Having done that, a “script” will have been established and saved, so that on the second and future usage occasions, you will be able to very quickly process any group of MP3 tracks using fast keyboard shortcuts. (It is possible to import a script file into MP3TAG, but in the time it takes to do that, you can learn how to create them. That way, you can easily create or modify any script for your own purposes.)

To begin:

  • Open MP3TAG and use the Change Directory function to point to the folder containing the MP3 tracks that you want to process. (I am going to include screen snapshots from the Windows version that I use.)
Change Directory to select the folder you want to process.

This will display the MP3 tracks in that folder. If you wish, you can select a higher level directory/folder. If you do, then all the tracks below that level in the folder structure will be displayed, so you could (for example on later runs) process all albums by the same artist in one go. Or group the folders how you like for bulk processing.

The track display in MP3TAG after pointing to the desired folder.

The columns we are interested in are Filename, Title (aka “Song Title”) and Track (aka “Track Number”). You can now see the essence of the software bug. Even though the Track Number is available to be used, and even though the Filename is already prefixed with the Track Number, the Toyata/Lexus software (bizarrely) uses the data from the Song Title MP3 tag to decide in what order to play the tracks!

Setting Up The Script

MP3TAG calls scripts “actions” – so we need to first set up an Action. You only need to do this one time.

  • Type CTRL + A to select all tracks. (This step may seem curious, but it is necessary, since the Actions menu will be greyed out unless there is a valid target for such Actions.)
  • Select the Actions from the menu tab, or type the shortcut ALT + 6.
Actions or ALT + 6

An Action Groups panel will pop up:

Action Groups Popup
  • Select the star icon at top-right of the Action Groups panel to create a new Action. Another panel will pop up asking you to name the new Action.
  • Name it something like “Prefix Song Title with Track Number”.
Name the new Action.
  • Click OK, then the panel will ask you to select the Type of Action you want.
  • Choose Format Value.
Selecting “Format Value” as the type of Action.
  • A third panel pops up for you to actually specify the details of the Format Value Action you are creating.
  • From the tag list, select TITLE. (this is the MP3 tag we wish to alter.)
  • Then enter the script as a Format string (you can cut and paste it from the Technical Notes at the end of this page.)
Adding the details of the Action.
  • Select OK. then OK again. This has added your new Action to the list.
  • You have not yet ticked the box to activate it, but that can come later – for now we are just establishing the Action for future use.
  • For now, just Close the Actions panel. It will prompt you to save the configuration.
  • Select Yes.

Optional:

If you wish to set this script as the default enabled Action every time you use MP3TAG, then either before saving as above, ensure that it is the only Action with a tick in its box – or alternatively, to set it as a default anytime – just open the Actions panel and ensure that it is the only Action enabled before closing.

New Action set as default.

That completes the setting up of the script.

Using The Script

To use the script:

  • Open MP3TAG and:
  • Change Directory to a folder that contains all of the MP3 files you wish to process.
  • CTRL +A to select all files.
  • ALT +6 to line up the Action.
  • ENTER to confirm
  • CTRL +S to save the changes.

Result

If your script has worked correctly, the MP3TAG track list will now display the Title tag column as having the Track Number prefixed on to it :

Altered Title Tags.

Technical Notes on the Script

The script to use for this purpose is:

$num(%track%,2) - %title%

Note that the ” – ” (space hyphen space) in the script is the separator – it can be just a single space, or anything you like.

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