The Complete Guide to Rhythmbox

Get to know one of the top open source music players

Linux distribution is only as good as the sum of its parts, and beyond the installation and the desktop environment, it is ultimately the applications that matter.

Rhythmbox is one of the best audio players available for the Linux desktop and this guide shows you all of the features that it has to offer. Rhythmbox includes features from the obvious, like the ability to import music and create playlists, to the unique, like the ability to set Rhythmbox up as a digital audio server.

Importing Music Into Rhythmbox From a Folder on Your Computer

In order to use Rhythmbox, you will need to create a music library.

You may have music stored in various different formats. If you have already converted all of your CDs into MP3 format then the easiest way to get music to play in Rhythmbox is to import it from a folder on your computer.

  1. To do this, press the menu icon. It's usually three stacked lines located in the upper right of the window.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the More Settings menu highlighted
  2. A menu will open up. Choose Preferences from it.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Preferences option highlighted
  3. When the preferences window opens up, choose the Music tab from the top.

    The preferences window in Rhythmbox with the Music tab highlighted
  4. Under the music tab, locate the Library Location heading. Then, press Browse under the heading to open a window to browse to the location of your music library.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox Music preferences with the Browse button highlighted
  5. With the folder containing your library selected, press Open.

  6. Rhythmbox will begin scanning the folder containing your music library. Depending on the size of your music library, this may take some time. Back on the main screen, you can watch the progress by leaving Music under the Library heading in the left menu selected.

Importing Music Into Rhythmbox From a CD

Rhythmbox lets you import audio from CDs into your music folder.

  1. Insert a CD into the tray. Open up Rhythmbox. Then, the CD's title should appear in the left-hand menu. Select it.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with a CD highlighted
  2. A list of songs from the CD should be generated. Turn your attention to the top of the window. Press the three horizontal dot icon to reveal the CD menu.

    A screenshot of a CD in Rhythmbox with the preferences button highlighted
  3. Note that the default file format is OGG. To change the file format to MP3, FLAC, or another format, you need to open Preferences from the menu. Then, select the Music tab. Change the preferred format to whichever one you want.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox Music preferences with the Preferred Format heading highlighted
  4. Back at the CD, press Extract in the menu up top to start ripping the CD.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Extract button highlighted
  5. The first time you try and extract to MP3 you might receive an error stating that software needs to be installed to be able to convert to that format. Accept the install and when asked search for the MP3 plugin. Finally, follow the instructions to install the ​GStreamer Ugly package.

  6. The files will now be imported to your music folder and automatically made available to be played by Rhythmbox.

    Rhythmbox ripping a CD

How to Import Music From an FTP Site Into Rhythmbox

If you are running Rhythmbox in a communal place where there is an FTP server containing music, you can import that music from the FTP site into Rhythmbox.

  1. This guide assumes you are using GNOME as a desktop environment. Open Nautilus, and choose Other Locations at the bottom of the left side menu.

  2. Nautilus will shift to show you a list of network locations. At the bottom, you'll see a search. Enter the IP address of your FTP server along with ftp://. Altogether, it should look something like this:

    ftp://192.168.1.110/
    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with a server address highlighted
  3. Press Connect.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Connect button highlighted
  4. A window will pop open asking for you to log in to the FTP server. You can either log on or connect anonymously. This all depends on how the server is configured. When you're done, press Connect.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Connect button highlighted
  5. Your computer will take a minute or two to connect. Then, you'll see the available files on the FTP share.

    GNOME Nautilus FTP share
  6. Switch back to Rhythmbox, and press the menu icon. Then, choose Add Music from the list.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Add Music command highlighted
  7. Use the controls at the top of the window to select your FTP folder.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with an FTP location highlighted
  8. The files available on the share will populate a list in the body of the window. By default, they're all checked. Uncheck any you don't want.

    Rhythmbox import from FTP
  9. Then, check Copy files that are outside... in the top controls, just under the FTP share.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Copy Files checkbox highlighted
  10. When you're ready, press Import ## listed tracks. The number will reflect the actual number of songs you've selected.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Import Songs button highlighted
  11. Rhythmbox will get to work copying the files into your library directory. Depending on the connection to your FTP share and the number of files, this can take some time.

Using Rhythmbox as a DAAP Client

DAAP stands for Digital Audio Access Protocol, which basically provides a method for serving music to different devices.

For instance, you can set up one computer as a DAAP server and every other device on a network running a DAAP client will be able to play music from that server.

This means you can set up a computer as a DAAP server and play music from that server on an Android phone or tablet, a Windows PC, a Windows phone, a Chromebook, an iPad, iPhone, and a MacBook.

Rhythmbox can be used on Linux based computers as a DAAP client. All you need to do is select the plus icon in the bottom left corner of the screen and choose Connect to DAAP share.

A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Connect to DAAP Share command highlighted

Simply enter the IP address for the DAAP share and the folder will be listed under the "Shared" heading.

Rhythmbox connect to DAAP

You will now be able to play all of the songs on the DAAP server on your Linux computer.

iTunes can be used as a DAAP server so you can share music in iTunes with your Linux computer.

Creating Playlists With Rhythmbox

There are a number of ways to create and add music to playlists within Rhythmbox.

  1. The easiest way to create a playlist is to press the plus symbol and select New Playlist from the menu. You can then enter a name for the playlist.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the New Playlist command highlighted
  2. To add tracks to the playlist select Music within the "Library," and find the files you want to add to the playlist.

  3. Right-click on the files, and choose Add To Playlist. Then, select the playlist to add the files to. You can also choose to add a new playlist which is, of course, another way to create a new playlist.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Add to Playlist command highlighted

Create an Automatic Playlist in Rhythmbox

There is a second kind of playlist that you can create called an automatic playlist.

  1. To create an automatic playlist, select the plus symbol in the bottom left corner. Now, press New automatic playlist.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Add to Playlist command highlighted
  2. The automatic playlist lets you create a playlist by selecting basic criteria such as selecting all songs with a title with the word "love" in it or choosing all songs with a bitrate faster than 160 beats per minute.

  3. You can mix and match the criteria options to narrow down the criteria and choose just the songs you require.

    Rhythmbox create automatic playlist
  4. It is also possible to limit the number of songs that are created as part of the playlist or the length of time that the playlist will last.

Create an Audio CD From Within Rhythmbox

It is possible to create an audio CD from within Rhythmbox.

  1. If you don't already have it, install the Rhythmbox Audio CD Recorder plugin.

    sudo apt install rhythmbox-plugin-cdrecorder brasero
  2. Press the menu icon in the upper right of the screen. Then, choose Plugins from the menu.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Plugins option highlighted
  3. In the plugins window, make sure the Audio CD Recorder is selected. You will also need to make sure Brasero is installed on your system.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox plugins with Audio CD Recorder highlighted
  4. To create an audio CD, select a playlist. Then, press the three horizontal dot icon in the upper right.

  5. Press Playlist from the new top menu and choose Create Audio CD... from the drop-down.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Create Audio CD command highlighted
  6. A list of songs will appear in a window, and if the songs fit on the CD, you can burn the CD otherwise a message will appear stating that there isn't enough space. You can burn over multiple CDs though.

    Rhythmbox burn CD with Brasero
  7. If you want to just burn one CD and there are too many songs, select some songs for removal, and press the minus symbol to remove them.

    Rhythmbox remove tracks from burned CD
  8. When you are ready, press Burn to create the CD

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Burn button highlighted

A Look at Rhythmbox Plugins

  1. Select Plugins from the Rhythmbox menu, indicated by the three stacked line icon in the upper right of your screen.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Plugins option highlighted
  2. There are a number of plugins available, such as a context menu pane showing details of the artist, album and song.

  3. Other plugins include "cover art search" which looks for album covers to be displayed alongside the song being played, "DAAP music sharing" to turn Rhythmbox into a DAAP server, "FM Radio support", "Portable Players Support" to enable you to use MTP devices and iPods with Rhythmbox.

    Rhythmbox plugins
  4. Further plugins include "Song Lyrics" for displaying song lyrics for played songs and "send tracks" to let you send songs via email.

  5. To configure individual plugins, highlight them, and press the gear icon in the lower left corner of the plugins window.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox plugins with the gear icon highlighted

Show the Lyrics for Songs Within Rhythmbox

You can show the lyrics for the song that is being played by selecting plugins from the Rhythmbox menu.

  1. Press the three stacked line menu icon in the upper right.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the More Settings menu highlighted
  2. Next, choose Plugins from the main menu.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Plugins option highlighted
  3. Find Song Lyrics, and make sure the slider is in the "on" position.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox plugins with a slider switch highlighted
  4. Highlight Song Lyrics, and press the gear icon in the lower left of the plugins window.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox plugins with the settings gear highlighted
  5. Another window will pop up with a list of search providers. Check them all for the best chance at finding your song's lyrics.

    Rhythmbox lyrics options
  6. Close both windows to return to the main Rhythmbox screen.

  7. Select the main menu icon again. This time, choose View.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the View option highlighted
  8. The menu will switch to display the view options. Select Song Lyrics.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Song Lyrics view option highlighted
  9. A new window will pop open, and search for the lyrics for whichever song is currently playing. With any luck, the online search will turn up your song's lyrics and display them in the window.

    Rhythmbox song lyrics

Listen to Internet Radio Within Rhythmbox

  1. You can listen to online radio stations within Rhythmbox. To do so, select Radio within the Library pane.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Radio section highlighted
  2. A list of radio stations will appear in various categories from Ambient to Underground. Select the radio station you wish to listen to, and select the play icon.

  3. If the radio station you wish to listen to doesn't appear press Add, and enter the URL to the radio station's feed.

    Rhythmbox add radio station
  4. To change the genre, right-click on the radio station and choose properties. Choose the genre from the dropdown list.

Listen to Podcasts Within Rhythmbox

You can also listen to your favorite podcasts within Rhythmbox.

  1. To find a podcast, select the Podcasts within the library.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Podcasts section highlighted
  2. Press Add in the menu at the top of the podcasts window.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Add button in the Podcasts section highlighted
  3. A search will appear at the top of the window. Enter what you're looking for, and press Search.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox's podcast section with the search button highlighted
  4. When the list of podcasts are returned, select the ones you wish to subscribe to, and press Subscribe.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox's podcasts section with the Subscribe button highlighted
  5. Press Close to reveal the list of podcasts that you are subscribed to along with any episodes that are available.

    A screenshot of Rhythmbox's Podcasts section with the Close button highlighted

Turn Your Desktop Computer Into an Audio Server Using Rhythmbox

Earlier on in this guide, you were shown how to use Rhythmbox to connect to a DAAP server as a client.

Rhythmbox can also become the DAAP server.

Open the Rhythmbox menu and select plugins.

A screenshot of Rhythmbox with the Plugins option highlighted

Make sure the DAAP Music Sharing switch is on and press Close.

A screenshot of Rhythmbox's plugins screen with the switch next to DAAP Music Sharing highlighted

Now you will be able to connect to your music library from your Android tablets, iPods, iPads, other tablets, Windows computers and of course other Linux based computers including Google Chromebooks.