I would like to play a short sound file from the command line in Mac OS X, independent of any audio player application, in order to provide notification that a long job has finished.

3 Answers 3


There is a built-in tool: afplay <sound file>. The man page does not document all of its options, which can be found via afplay -h:

afplay [option...] audio_file

Options: (may appear before or after arguments)
  {-v | --volume} VOLUME
    set the volume for playback of the file
  {-h | --help}
    print help
  { --leaks}
    run leaks analysis
  {-t | --time} TIME
    play for TIME seconds
  {-r | --rate} RATE
    play at playback rate
  {-q | --rQuality} QUALITY
    set the quality used for rate-scaled playback (default is 0 - low quality, 1 - high quality)
  {-d | --debug}
    debug print output

It will not play more than one audio file.


One time, when the power went off at work, knowing that my firewall would return to that last state (powered on) when the electricty came back on, I wrote a script in bash that used the say command to wake me up when the power came back on.

  • 14
    I love abusing the say command.
    – NReilingh
    Jun 16, 2011 at 21:17
  • Indeed, say is relevant to this sort of problem and a good alternate solution. Have a vote! I was looking specifically for playing a short sound, though, as hearing a phrase would get tiresome for my use case.
    – Kevin Reid
    Jun 18, 2011 at 4:58
  • Interesting note: if you are remotely logged into a machine via ssh, say won't work unless you sudo it. (Much fun for making other people's computers talk to them.) Oct 29, 2016 at 17:59

Have you considered printf "\a\a\a" or echo -e "\a\a\a"?

  • For those that don't know this is the control sequence character for 'bell', which on most systems will make a 'bonking' sound
    – John Hunt
    Apr 19, 2018 at 14:11

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