How to Sync Your Christmas Lights to Music

Impress the neighbors with your holiday display

Christmas is a season for giving, cheer, and gratitude, and also for impressing guests with your incredible light display. With the help of smart light bulbs such as the Philips Hue Smart Bulbs, or a Christmas light controller, take your Christmas light display to the next level. Here's how to create a Christmas light display synchronized to music using Philips Hue Smart Bulbs or a Christmas light controller.

The first part of this tutorial uses Philips Hue Smart Bulbs and a smartphone with the Philips Hue app for either iOS or Android devices.

Sync Christmas Lights to Music With Philips Smart Bulbs

Before you begin playing music, you'll need to set up an Entertainment area via the Philips Hue app.

a robust Christmas light display
 Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Set Up an Entertainment Area

An Entertainment area tells the Hue Bridge how many lights you have and where they are located. This is also the source of information for syncing your holiday lights. To set up an Entertainment area follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the Philips Hue Bridge is connected and the main power is turned on to each bulb.

  2. Open the Philips Hue app on your smartphone.

  3. Go to Settings.

    An image of Philips Hue app settings menu.
  4. Tap Entertainment areas

  5. Tap Create entertainment area.

  6. Select the room (or rooms) you want to include in the entertainment area, then tap Continue.

  7. Choose the lights you want to include.

    Only color-capable Hue lights will be listed.

  8. Follow the on-screen steps to position the lights according to their physical location in the room.

  9. Once you've completed this step, the entertainment area will be ready to use.

Sync Philips Hue Lights With Music From Your Computer

Once your Entertainment area has been created, there are a few more steps before the lights sync properly.

  1. Download the Hue Sync app for iOS or Android.

  2. Make sure you're on the same Wi-Fi network as your Philips Hue Bridge.

  3. Launch the Hue Sync app, then tap the Entertainment area at the top of the screen. 

  4. Tap Start light sync. When you do this, your Philips Hue lights will dim to almost nothing.

    An image of the Hue Sync menu.
  5. Tap Music.

  6. Select the level of intensity you want the lights to follow: Subtle, Moderate, High, or Intense. This setting controls how rapidly the lights change with the beat.

  7. Select the color palette you want to use.

  8. Open your music program of choice and play a song. The lights will pulse in time with the melody based on your previous settings.

Philips has introduced an array of new holiday lighting options, including holiday dinner lighting, smart outdoor lighting, festive mood lighting, dramatic Christmas tree lighting, and more. A third-party app, Hue Christmas, for iOS and Android, works as a sound and light effects board that syncs with your Hue smart lighting.

Sync Lights to Music With a Christmas Light Controller

A Christmas light controller will allow you to build elaborate, flashy displays, but it can be expensive or complicated, depending on your budget and technical know-how. A fully built light controller will be the easiest to set up, but also the most expensive option. A controller kit is less expensive but requires minor electrical work. A DIY controller is the least expensive option, but leaves the assembly and setup in your hands.

The step-by-step instructions for each controller and software will vary. These are some popular Christmas light controller software options.

  • Light-O-Rama's controller software includes dozens of songs and pre-built sequences to choose from. Setting your lights to pulse with the music is as simple as pressing a few buttons on your computer screen, but these options aren't cheap. 
  • Vixen is the lighting software for the do-it-yourself decorator. While the cost is negligible, you'll need to set up the entire show on your own, including the timing sequences and song choices. Vixen lays the foundation for you to work in, but doesn't hold your hand in the process.
  • xLights is a free light sequencer. If you're trying to save as much money as possible, this is the way to go. The software has an active forum community you can direct questions to and numerous video tutorials to help overcome roadblocks you may encounter along the way. 

There are "smart Christmas lights" from outlets such as Home Depot, but the lights are on relatively short strands and are expensive. Investing in a Christmas light controller and using traditional strands of lights may be more cost-effective.