Music from command line

Pretty sure I am very late to the game but only recently I’ve found out how to download and listen to music right from the Terminal (or iTerm2, whichever your terminal is).

It’s great, everything is seamless. My combination is cmus as player and youtube-dl.

Download youtube music with youtube-dl

1. Installation
On Mac, with Homebrew, it’s just a command away:
brew install youtube-dl

or with MacPorts:
sudo port install youtube-dl

2. Add alias for common usage
youtube-dl is a very powerful tool to download video/audio from Youtube.
Its syntax is, therefore, also pretty complicated.

For my usage, I simply needed the mp3 versions of the music videos. Also some of the meta information like artist and title should be correct at least for easier classification later.

So here are 3 aliases that I commonly used to make the downloading easier:

alias ytdl="youtube-dl --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 --add-metadata --metadata-from-title \"(?P<title>.+?) (-|_|\|) (?P<artist>.+)\" -o \"%(title)s.mkv\""  
alias ytdl-atal="youtube-dl --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 --add-metadata --metadata-from-title \"(?P<title>.+?) (-|_|\|) (?P<artist>.+) (-|_|\||\() (?P<album>.+)\" -o \"%(title)s.mkv\""
alias ytdl-ta="youtube-dl --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 --add-metadata --metadata-from-title \"(?P<artist>.+?) (-|_|\|) (?P<title>.+)\" -o \"%(title)s.mkv\""

You can put this to your .bashrc, and start using as follow:

`ytdl [youtube url]`  

What the commands will be doing are:

  • Extract audio and save the mp3 version of youtube video specify
  • Save meta infos like artist and title according to partern

For ytdl, the pattern is: [title] [separator] [artist], in which [separator] can be - or _ or |
For example, in the case of following video:

  • The title will be: (Charlie Puth) Attention
  • The artist will be: Josephine Alexandra | Fingerstyle Guitar Cover

I used short forms of artist (a), title (t), album (al) as reminder how the pattern looks like

For ytdl-atal (or artist, title, album), the pattern is: [title] [separator] [artist] [separator] [album], in which [separator] is same as above with extra ( in case of last separator.

With the same video above, if we use ytdl-atal the result would be:

  • The title will be: (Charlie Puth) Attention
  • The artist will be: Josephine Alexandra
  • The album will be: Fingerstyle Guitar Cover
    It is still not perfect yet but it is quite enough for me

ytdl-ta is just a reverse in order of ytdl, should be used for cases like in this video:

Of course there will be more patterns of title you will see on youtube but those are the common ones.

Play music with cmus

1. Installation
Again with magic of Homebrew, to install cmus on Mac is simply:
brew install cmus The first installation, I’ve accidentally downloaded and compiled the build on But still Homebrew installation is much better.

2. Usage
cmus is a very useful player when you mostly work on Terminal. Its UI has 7 views (that you can switch around using number key 1-7 once cmus open):

       There are 7 views in cmus.  Press keys 1-7 to change active view.

       Library view (1)
              Display all tracks in so-called library. Tracks are sorted
              artist/album tree.  Artist sorting is done alphabetically.
              Albums are sorted by year.

       Sorted library view (2)
              Displays same content as view 1, but as a simple list which is
              automatically sorted by user criteria.

       Playlist view (3)
              Displays editable playlist with optional sorting.

       Play Queue view (4)
              Displays queue of tracks which are played next. These tracks are
              played before anything else (i.e. the playlist or library).

       Browser (5)
              Directory browser.  In this view, music can be added to either
              the library, playlist or queue from the filesystem.

       Filters view (6)
              Lists user defined filters.

       Settings view (7)
              Lists keybindings, unbound commands and options.  Remove
              bindings with D or del, change bindings and variables with enter
              and toggle variables with space.

If you are used to use terminal, it won’t be that hard to use cmus. But to make it easier to remember the list of commands, I recommend this cheatsheet
As of the 2 video above, here is what it will look like after we’ve added them in playlist:

One thing I definitely loved about cmus is that the navigation keys are j, k for up and down which is super familiar if you used vim. So again, everything is seamless. There are much more functionalities of cmus to explore and I am still in the learning process.

Hope you will find this useful if you are also late to the game :)

Written on March 3, 2019