Amazon Alexa Smart Home

How do I make Alexa play exactly the music I want?

Make Alexa play music you want
Hey, honey, if you keep on playing One Direction over and over again I'm gonna hit you with that thing, okay?

There are an outrageous number of ways to make Alexa play music. Assuming you’re signed up to Prime, if you say “Alexa, play some music” it will pluck a semi-random playlist from the air, based upon what it thinks are your preferences. Say “Alexa, play Bjork” and it will shuffle a bunch of the most popular Bjork songs (available on Prime, that is).

Likewise you can play a genre of music. “Alexa, play some indie music” will select a relevant station – that is, a set of pre-determined tracks. In my case, she decided to play the 90s Indie Music station, kicking off with Pulp’s Common People.

But this article is about making Alexa play exactly what you want, right down to the tracks and the order it plays them in.

Choosing specific tracks, albums and playlists

Let’s assume you have a particular album in mind. Say, “Play the album Purple Rain” and you’ll hear Prince’s eulogy for “this thing called life”.

If you want to play a specific song then you say, “Play the song Vienna” and you’ll be treated to one of our editor’s very favourite tracks.

Now, naturally, you’re in the mood for cheesy 1980s pop. You could shortcut to Amazon’s own playlists of Prime music, of which there are hundreds. Click on the 1980s decade down the left-hand nav bar to behold choices such as “50 Great 80s songs” and “80s Rock Ballads”.

If the latter appeals then say, “Alexa, play 80s Rock Ballads” and relive those honeyed days of Sweet Child O’ Mine and Romeo and Juliet.

But we want specific songs, which means creating our own playlist. At this point, you must switch to Amazon Music on your preferred device and hit “Create New Playlist” under “My Playlists”. You’ll be prompted for a name, such as “80s Cheese”.

Amazon Music Prime

If you know which band or singer you’re interested in then search for them. Let’s go for Rick Astley. You’re in luck: Rick Astley’s Greatest Hits is a Prime album, so head to the album and, in Windows, hover over the track length and click on the three dots that appear – select Add to Playlist and select 80s Cheese from the dropdown.

Rinse and repeat until you have all the songs you want to listen to, and then all you need to do is say “Alexa, listen to my 80s Cheese playlist”.

What about Spotify Premium and Amazon Music Unlimited?

This guide has concentrated on Amazon Prime, but if you subscribe to either Spotify Premium or Amazon Music Unlimited then you can perform similar tricks.

For the latter, you simply need to say “Play [the playlist name]” and it will play. You can also opt for music by emotion – for example, “Play happy music”.

Spotify is more awkward, but still straightforward if you remember to say “from Spotify” at the end. So “Play indie from Spotify” or “Play from Spotify” will do the trick.

Name the artist

Another trick to make Alexa behave, especially if you’re using Spotify’s vast library, is to name the artist as well as the track. For example, if we tell Alexa to “play Space Oddity”, we don’t get David Bowie’s dulcet tones blaring out of the speaker, but those of cover artist Mike Masse, because he appears in one of our playlists. If you tell Alexa to “play Space Oddity by David Bowie” however, Alexa plays a live version recorded by the Thin White Duke himself. Which, with all due disrespect to Mike Masse, is far superior.

My favourite ninja commands

There are some extra commands for playing music that you may not be aware of – there’s a full list on Amazon’s site.

Here are my five favourite choices:

“Alexa, I’m tired of this song.” Gets rid of that irritating track that seems to play every time you tell Alexa to just “play some music”.

“Alexa, play Radio 4.” So long as your chosen station is on TuneIn, Alexa will find it.

“Alexa, when did this song come out?” You can also ask the name of the song (“What is this?”), the artist (“Who is this?”) and, on Prime, “Who’s the lead singer of this band?”

“Alexa, skip.” Sometimes one just isn’t in the mood.

“Alexa, set volume to level 8.” And sometimes, one is.

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

25 Comments

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    • Hi Lea – I don’t think it’s possible to block an entire genre, but if there’s a particular song that keeps on cropping up then say “Alexa, I’m tired of this song” and it should never appear again. Theoretically, Alexa should learn your preferences over time as well, so country music should gently fade out of your life…

    • You should first say, “Alexa, play tracks by Garth Brooks.”
      After 5 minutes, you will not want what you originally wished for. Some Country is really quite good but most is rubbish IMHO. It’s finding the good and Garth is VERY good.

  • After telling Alexa I liked a song she played , she says ‘rating saved’. Is there a command to use so I can play them again?
    Thank you

  • How can I have Alexa play only rock and roll genre and only for years 1955 to 1970? I have Spotify and Amazon prime.

    • That’s quite specific! The best way would be to create your own huge playlist (perhaps based upon some collected albums or other people’s playlists on Spotify) and then give it an obvious name – it’s clunky but it will work!

  • I’m still trying to figure out how to teach Alexa to differentiate between the band “Alvvays” and some seemingly far more obscure band “The Always.”

  • Hello Tim.. Hey, I wonder if this is possible: I would ideally like Alexa to play music from MY collection. That is, from the 4000+ albums that I have archived on my computer hard drive. I that possible??

  • How can I get Alexa to play a Genre of Sinatra (American Classic Music) with other Artists of that Era/Genre?
    When I’ve asked for specific: “play American Classic Music”, Alexa plays Country Music…. Yuk!!!!!

    • Hi Mary – the trick here is probably to find a couple of stations you really like on Amazon Prime Music. For example, there are Prime Stations called Crooners, All 50s and Big Band. If you say, “Alexa, play station Big Band” it will only play tracks that fit that category. Hope that works for you!

      • Tried “Crooners” 5 times and Alexa repeats it as “Cruise” and plays this God Awful Country BS!
        I really give up on Amazon Music!
        Guess you have to be a hip hop & country loving millennial.

    • That should be relatively easy. For example, I just said: “Alexa, play Fear of Music from Spotify” and it worked fine. And what a fine album that is too…

  • Sometimes I’d prefer to listen to a particular mix. For example, I have both As the Rush Comes (Radio Edit) and As the Rush Comes (Gabriel and Dresden Chillout Mix). Alexa always plays the radio edit. If I try to specify the mix, she says she doesn’t understand. Is there a way to tell Alexa a specific song instead of her first guess?

    • Hi Geoff – sorry for the belated reply. I’ve had some success by saying play “[track name] by [artist name] and [mix artist]”, but can’t get that to work for As the Rush Comes in the example you gave. But that could be because I just don’t have the track in my library…

  • Please tell me how to make Alexa play a specific playlist, starting at a specific song in the list. The list I refer to has 40 songs on it and I often want to start the play in the middle of the list. Thank you..

    • Hi Gilly – not good news I’m afraid. I can’t see a way to do what you want. The best I can find is to start the playlist and then say “Alexa, Skip” until you get to the track you want. Not much use! Tim

  • Has anyone figured out how to get the Echo/Echo Show to play a “multi-disc” album and then get it to skip to disc 2 or 3? For the life of me I cannot get it to do what I want. For example, the new release of Appetite for Destruction from Guns N’ Roses (Super Deluxe) has like 5 discs. I’d love the ability to start at disc 3. I’ve tried “Skip to Disc 3”, “Play disc 3”, “Play track 34” etc. Nothing seems to work except “next, next. next ” 33 times!! Annoying!

  • I have Amazon Music Unlimited. I have a playlist named “Jenna’s Playlist”. When I tell Alexa to “play Jenna’s Playlist” it can’t find it, but when i say “play playlist Jenna Playlist” (not Jenna’s) it can find it but repeats the title as Jenna’s Playlist. WTF?!

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