All About Alexa Music

Based on messages I’ve been receiving from readers lately, it’s high time I did a post all about Alexa music: how to access music via Alexa devices, how to control playback, and how to deal with common problems.


I'm Paul McCartney


First, let me share some pertinent links to posts that address the questions I get most often.


Free Music For Your Echo (and other Alexa devices)
When this post was written, Echo was the only available Alexa device. It’s just as applicable for other devices though, and the information in it is still accurate. There are many sources for free music Alexa can play, you don’t have to subscribe to Prime Music, Music Unlimited or any other premium music streaming service. See this post for more details.


Get Your Music Into Amazon Music So Alexa Can Play It

**UPDATE 2/24/17** It’s being reported that Amazon is retiring the ability to upload your own music to Amazon Music on or about January 2019. You might not want to bother with this now, since you’ll only be sure to have access to the uploaded music until January 2019 and will have to re-download the tracks before then to make sure you don’t lose them entirely.

If you’ve already got a large digital library in iTunes, on your hard drive, or in some other music library service, you can already access it from your Alexa device via Bluetooth connection. But if you want the full range of playback controls and special music features Alexa has to offer, you’ll need to get your music out of its current location and into Amazon Music Library. This post explains how to do it.


The Secret, Undocumented Audio Equalizer in Amazon Echo
This one has been argued all over the ‘net since it was first (possibly) discovered. Personally, I believe it’s a thing. Try it yourself and see if you agree.


Alexa Music Playback Commands

Say the wake word followed by any of these during music playback.

What’s playing? / What song is this? / Who sings this song? / What album is this from?
All of these questions get the same answer: “This is {song name} on {album name} from {artist}.”

Softer. / Turn it down.

Louder. / Turn it up.

Volume {number}.
Alexa’s volume scale goes from 1 to 10.




Next song. / Skip.

Will keep repeating the currently-playing song until you stop it.

Set a sleep timer for {number} minutes.
When the timer expires, Alexa will stop audio playback.

…and when the song’s over, try:
Play that again.


Common Problems and Solutions

1. Alexa will play some of my playlists, but not all. For some, she says she didn’t find a playlist named {playlist name}.
The first troubleshooting step is to try looking up the playlists that won’t play in the Alexa app and launching them from there. If you can’t find them in the Alexa app, then Alexa can’t see them either. If these lists are recently-created, it may be an issue of time needed for Amazon’s servers to update.

If you can find them and launch them in the app, then that means Alexa isn’t understanding the names when you request them. In that case, go to Settings > History for the device you’re using in the Alexa app to see what Alexa thought she heard. If this is the issue, try renaming the lists to something that will be easier for Alexa to understand.

Remember: Alexa’s not great at comprehending foreign words or made-up words, because the way she’s programmed to interpret their pronunciation is usually wrong. For example, there’s a song called Expecto Patronum in my library, and as any Harry Potter fan knows, the second word is pronounced “puh troh num”. When Alexa plays it back, she announces it as “pat truh num”. If any of your playlist names employ foreign or made-up words, you may need to change them.


2. Alexa doesn’t always find the music I’m requesting, she’ll mix up artists, albums and songs.
Alexa’s getting better at fuzzy searches all the time but if this is still an issue with your specific music library, the more keywords you can include in your request, the more likely Alexa is to find what you’re looking for. Examples, with keywords in boldface:

Alexa, play the song Across the Universe by the artist Rufus Wainwright from the album I Am Sam original soundtrack.

Alexa, shuffle my playlist Summer Afternoon.

Alexa, play the album Let’s Get Small by by the artist Steve Martin.


3. When I’ve got Alexa connected to an external speaker via Bluetooth, the sound volume sometimes goes up and down. How can I fix it?
This is usually an issue of signal strength.

First, recall that all Bluetooth devices have a limited range, the maximum at present is roughly 30-35 feet, and different devices support different range distances. So first, make sure the connected speaker is within range per its supported maximum distance. Also ensure there are no major physical barriers, like walls, between the speaker and the Alexa device.

Next, check the battery on your Bluetooth speaker. Most nowadays have built-in, rechargeable batteries, and as remaining battery life fades so does signal strength.

If it’s not either of these, check for potential sources of Bluetooth interference, such as other Bluetooth devices within range of your speaker that may be momentarily bouncing on and off the same bandwidth you’re using from time to time as they scan for the strongest possible signal.


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Since Dot and Echo can stream to external Bluetooth speakers, lots of Alexa device owners are in the market for a quality, portable Bluetooth speaker. The Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth speaker II (UK visitors click here) is a great choice from an award-winning brand in consumer audio. This speaker is a much more affordable and colorful entry into the Bose audio family. Currently (as of 5/2/17) rated 4.5/5 stars and priced at $129.

Bose Soundlink II

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