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How to use Siren to listen to music without leaving your terminal


Everyone loves music, and despite the advent of streaming, subscription models, and the availability of music in the cloud, audiophiles still keep a neatly curated collection of audio files on their local machines.

If you’re a terminal-resident Linux user, it’s easy to play your tunes while you work, without ever leaving the command line.

Why would you want to play music in a terminal?

For Linux purists, an OS’s graphical elements are useless and streaming is lame (pun intended) because it relies on resources beyond your direct control and uses bandwidth that could be better used elsewhere.

Playing locally stored music files means you’re not dependent on patchy connections, subscription models, or arbitrary removal of media by rights holders. There’s only one person in control of your music, and that person is you.

A terminal-based music player, such as Siren, is even better. It reduces resource usage by removing flashy visuals and unnecessary clutter. With Siren, you don’t even need a desktop environment installed, so you can get started with the latest version of Dua Lipa, while working hard on your bare-bones Linux platform.

What is the Mermaid?

Siren is a text-based music player for Unix-like operating systems including Linux, OpenBSD, NetBSD, FreeBSD and OS X. The software supports a wide variety of formats including Ogg Vorbis, MP3, Opus, FLAC, AAC, WavPack, WAVE, and AIFF, so whether your tracks are old Engelbert Humperdinck 24kHz MP3 files ripped using an Amiga in 1996 or a brand new lossless FLAC file, Siren has you covered.

Reflecting the diversity of the Unix-like ecosystem, playback is possible via sndio, PulseAudio, ALSA, OSS, Sun audio, PortAudio and libao.

How to Install Siren on Linux

Although Siren is available for several operating systems, we will only cover installing Siren on Linux.

Start by opening a terminal and using Git to clone the repository:

git clone https:

Move to the new directory with the cd command:

cd siren

You’ll be compiling Siren from source, which means you’ll need to specify where the software will reside and what plugins to install to ensure compatibility with your media files.

By default, Siren will install itself in /usr/local/ with maximum format support and full documentation. To change this, you can add configuration arguments to the next command. See the project’s GitHub documentation for a full description of arguments and options.

make install

Alternatively, if you have an Arch-based Linux distribution, you can install Siren directly from the Arch User Repository (AUR).

Once installed, you can launch Siren by entering Mermaid in any terminal.

Use Siren to listen to music in your terminal

Siren’s user interface does not take up much screen space and is divided into three areas: you can enter commands and searches in the bottom row, while the two rows above are used to display reading information.

Most of the window is taken up by one of four views, which you can switch between by pressing 1 at 4 on your keyboard. The library view shows all the tracks in your music library and the playlist view shows the current playlist. This interface is quite different from other terminal-based Linux music players like cmus.

Browser view lets you browse the file system for more funky tracks on your system, which you can either play directly or add to your music library. The final view is that of the queue. Queued songs will be prioritized and played before songs in other views.

Useful keyboard shortcuts for Siren

As a terminal-based music player, it makes sense that the controls are keyboard-driven. Siren has dozens of keyboard shortcuts, and you can read them all in detail by typing:

man siren

To help you get started, here are the Siren keyboard shortcuts we find most useful:

  • X: To play
  • vs: Pause
  • v: Stop
  • z: Play previous track
  • b: Play next track
  • a: Add the selected entry to the queue
  • D: Delete the selected entry
  • I: Delete all entries

With Siren you can play music without leaving the terminal

Siren is, without a doubt, one of the best terminal-based music players for Linux and other Unix-like systems.

If you want to work without distractions (other than the sound variety), you can minimize the terminal window so that it doesn’t get in the way. But Siren looks fantastic when you organize it with other terminals or use it as part of a dedicated tiling window manager like Regolith.