Play Music files in Terminal in OS X

OS X's built in afplay CLI utility lets you play music in background without leaving the shell.

If you’re a developer and use a Unix-like OS, you must be spending a good amount of time inside the shell. Here’s a nice, little tip on how to play Music with in the command line interface, in OS X.


OS X ships with a CLI utility called afplay. There’s not much documentation available, even the man page doesn’t show its options. But it’s there and more importantly, it works.

To use it, pass a Music file’s path in the command, like this:

afplay ~/Music/song.mp3

I guess it works for all Music files, regardless of the type (I tried it with .m4a and it worked fine). To stop the play, you can of course hit Ctrl + C and the shell will terminate it.
You can also play Music in background by appending an ampersand to the command, like this:

afplay ~/Music/song.mp3 &

This will allow you to use the shell while the Music is playing in background. To stop it, you can do killall afplay.

You can also use Quicklook’s CLI to play Music files. The utility is named qlmanage. It basically throws a Quicklook pop up of any file you pass as an argument. So it works fine for Music files too.


If you like this, you might want to take a look at some useful Quicklook plugins. Also, thanks to Rakshit Thakker for the tip!


Andrew Gitt September 18, 2013

Haha. Thanks for this nice and fun tip, Vibin. 🙂

Nishant September 23, 2013

Nice one 🙂