Per-user MPD setup
The Music Player Daemon is a program that stores information about your music collection. It manages metadata and playlists of currently queued songs or ones that are saved.
MPD uses a server/client model. To interface with it we need to use one
of the many available client programs. The simplest one is
a console utility with basic functionality for querying the daemon’s
status, handling media controls, and the like. A more feature-rich
ncmpcpp, which also runs in the console.
MPD may be run as a system-wide server and can be controlled remotely as well. For my use case, all I need is a local, user-specific setup. This is what we will be doing.
Assuming you have followed the instructions in the chapter about installing the core packages, you should have these in place:
sudo apt install mpd mpc ncmpcpp mpdris2 python-mutagen playerctl
Then switch to the base of my dotfiles’ directory and proceed to create symlinks for the music-related programs:
~/cpdfd $ stow music
Now you need to run a series of commands to configure
accordance with our per-user requirements. Start by disabling the
systemd service, since we autostart
mpd from within the
sudo systemctl disable mpd
Now switch to the local config directory:
Create the directory where saved playlist data is stored:
Generate the files
mpd needs in order to run:
touch database log pid state sticker.sql
Configuration is done! You might need to reboot for changes to take effect.
Update the database
To update the
mpd database (assuming the presence of audio files at
~/Music) either run
mpc update in a terminal or type
u. If your music is in a different directory, edit the
relevant path in
Basics of ncmpcpp
The “Ncurses Console Media Player C++”. To start interfacing with this
excellent tool, simply type
ncmpcpp in a terminal, or use the key
super + x ; 5 (see the chapter about the basics of my
To play music, learn how to use
ncmpcpp by studying the corresponding
manpage. I typically switch to screen 4, by hitting
hit enter. This inserts an empty prompt which adds all available music
to the playlist. Then I toggle on repeat mode with
r, random playback
z, and a 5 second cross-fade with
If you do not like
ncmpcpp, I highly recommend
cantata, a graphical
MPD front end using the Qt toolkit which, however, does not integrate
well with my mostly GTK- and text- based environment (as such, Cantata
is not part of my custom desktop session).
Why we also need mpc
The comparatively simpler
mpc tool performs the role of a remote
control. We use it to assign key chords with which to control
even when no client is running. In a similar fashion,
a simple way of querying the status of the server for the sake of, say,
displaying information about the current song on the panel (see the
chapter about the top panel).
The MPRIS bridge
mpd does not behave like most up-to-date music players in
the GNU/Linux world. Put differently, it cannot be controlled by
dedicated media keys, nor interact with specialised tools that might be
offered by the desktop environment.
This kind of functionality is part of the MPRIS protocol. To make
a good citizen, we have fetched the
mpdris2 package as well as
a dedicated, console-based program for controlling MPRIS-aware
With these in place, the Music Player Daemon (and all other MPRIS-aware
media players, like the ever-popular
vlc) can be controlled using the
keyboard’s dedicated media keys. See
man playerctl for more demanding
types of interaction. The key chords are defined in my
explained in the chapter about the basics of my BSPWM.
Peace of mind
MPD is great because while it is powerful and can cater to the needs of the most avid audiophile, it also works seamlessly once you set it up. I prefer it over its alternatives because it is very much laissez faire, to the point you almost forget it is even there.
When you log back in to the custom BSPWM session,
mpd will be up and
running, waiting for your input in a paused state (or stopped, in case
that was the last interaction with it).
You do not need to keep any window open, nor run some resource-hungry
web app just for the sake of playing audio from your local collection.
Hit the keyboard’s dedicated key for
play or type
super + down
arrow: music will start playing, while you get on with your work (do
not forget to see my
sxhkdrc for the relevant key chords).