As more music services appear on the scene, it has become more and more difficult to keep your library from becoming a disjointed, cluttered mess split between 10 different apps. Tomahawk is a free, cross-platform music player that combines a wide variety of services and files into one place so you can have one giant mega-library of everything you want.
Photo by Lonely (Shutterstock)
At its core, Tomahawk is a simple, free, desktop music player. What makes Tomahawk interesting is its resolvers and extensions. Instead of just having access to a set of music files on your computer when you search for something, Tomahawk can also look for tracks on services such as Spotify, Soundcloud, YouTube, exfm, and plenty of others. This essentially turns the entire internet into your music library. From there, you can set up Pandora-style radio stations, share playlists, or search for tracks on half-a-dozen services at once.
What’s more, you can also set up Tomahawk to share your library with friends over Google Chat or Jabber. Provided both you and your friends have Tomahawk installed and running, you’ll always have access to their entire music library. This social aspect happens within Tomahawk, so you don’t need to worry about going through other services or signing up for something new. It might sound like a pain to set up, but it’s actually remarkably easy to do.
Step One: Install And Set Up Tomahawk
Firstly, we need to get Tomahawk installed. Head over to the download page and grab a copy of Tomahawk for Windows, Mac or Linux.
Once it has downloaded and installed, you’re asked to point Tomahawk to your current music folder on your hard drive. Do that, and wait a few minutes (or longer depending on the size of your library) for Tomahawk to scan everything you own.
After Tomahawk has finished scanning your local library, it’s time to set up the various external services you want to use. Click Tomahawk > Preferences > Services to find the services panel.
Here you’ll find a menu to install resolvers. Resolvers are the various external services you can add to extend your music library and search for music. When you install one of these, every time you search for a track within Tomahawk, it will search those services as well as your local library. For example, if you install Soundcloud, Tomahawk shows you search results both from your local library and from Soundcloud’s external library.
In most cases, it’s beneficial to install all of these. Just click the checkbox next to the service name, and Tomahawk does the rest. Some services, such as Spotify and Grooveshark, require a premium account to work, so don’t bother with those if you don’t have the right account types.
Step Two: Download Third Party Plugins
Not everything you need to get the most out of Tomahawk is built into the app. If you want to expand the source list to include the likes of YouTube, 8Tracks and other sites, you’ll need to seek out additional resolvers. You can find a list of additional resolvers here, but be warned, not all of them are ready for prime-time. That said, many of them work well enough, and they won’t mess anything else up if they don’t. Installation of these is simple:
- Download the the resolver you want from here.
- In Tomahawk, navigate to Tomahawk > Preferences > Services.
- Select “Install from File”, and navigate to the to the folder you just downloaded. Select the JS or AXE file inside the folder (usually located at > Content > Contents > Code). Click “Open” and that resolver will be installed.
That’s it! These resolvers will now work and every time you search for music the new sources will appear in your list. YouTube is arguably the handiest, but some of the others can extend your music library quite a bit as well.
Step Three: Get to Know Tomahawk’s Features
Tomahawk is more than just a socially connected music player. It has all sorts of little features hidden away that make it fun to use in a variety of ways. Here are just a few things we’ve found useful.
Create Insanely Specific Automatically Generated Playlists
One of the best things you can do with Tomahawk is create Pandora-style automatically generated playlists. You can keep this simple, or make it incredibly specific.
To create a playlist, just head to the Stations section, and select “Create new Station”. If you want to create something similar to what you might find on Pandora or Spotify Radio, just select the “Artist” and “Similar To” boxes, and enter the artist name. Tomahawk will pull from all your sources to create a playlist for you on the spot.
You can also get really specific with these playlists. Just select a setting from the drop-down menu, set the parameters, and then click the “+” button to add more. You can add as many as you want, and the end result is an incredibly specific playlist just for you. For example, as you can see in the image above we’ve made a playlist with the requirements: “Songs similar to Jeff Buckley about 96 BPM, wish a sad mood, a very low danceability, in C minor, and with very low energy.”
This might sound silly, but it’s pretty fun to dig really deep and make playlists for yourself based on specific moods. So, enjoy yourself and play around with these settings to come up with truly unique playlists.
Import Music From Almost Any Web Site
Searching for new music within Tomahawk is great, but it doesn’t really help when you’re just browsing the internet and find some music you like. Thankfully, the Tomahklet bookmarklet does just that.
With the bookmarklet installed, you can generate playlists from within web pages. So, if you’re browsing on a site such as NPR’s All Songs Considered, and find a song you like, just click the bookmarklet and Tomahawk automatically searches for all the songs listed on the page. The list of supported sites is fairly massive, and the Tomahklet ends up being a nice way to bookmark songs for later listening.
Integrate Tomahawk With External Apps
Tomahawk has a few different external plugins and apps that extend the experience beyond what’s listed above. There are a a bunch of options for this, but here are a few of our favourite external apps that integrate with Tomahawk:
- Global playlists: Want to integrate playlists from different services into one, easily playable format? Global playlists does it, and makes them instantly compatible with Tomahawk.
- Playlick: Playlick combines Last.fm with Tomahawk to create a huge library of content right in your browser. If you’re a big Last.fm user, Playlick is worth a look.
- John Peel’s Collection: Legendary DJ John Peel’s record collection is massive, and filled with all kind of gems. With this little app, you can browse his collection and play any of those songs in Tomahawk.
Step Four: Set Up Library Sharing and Social Features
Creating a massive library of music using both your local files and several services on the internet is great. Where Tomahawk really shines is in its ability to combine and share your library with friends. Thankfully, this is super easy to set up, and once you do you’ll be able to share your entire music collection easily with anyone you want.
Currently, Tomahawk has two ways to connect you to friends to share your music library: GChat and Jabber. With one of these accounts, you’ll invite and authorise friends to share libraries. Setup is super easy:
- Head to Tomahawk > Preferences > Services.
- Select Google or Jabber, and click the “Add Account” button.
- Add your account details and back out to the main Tomahawk screen.
- Click the Google Talk or Jabber logo in the top right-hand corner.
- Invite your friends to share your music library by entering their username and selecting “invite”.
Once they accept your invite, you share your entire music library as long as you’re online. Your friends will see what you’ve been listening to, what you’ve “liked,” currently playing tracks, and all your playlists. They’ll also automatically start sharing their library with you as well (You can always enter a private mode by navigating to Controls > Listen Privately).
To view a friend’s library, just click their name and then click “Collection”. Better still, to view a gigantic, mega-library, head up the Browse section in the left-side panel of Tomahawk, and click “SuperCollection.” This is a collection of tracks from your library, your friend’s library, and any tracks you’ve added or liked from additional sources.
With Tomahawk running, you’re also broadcasting everything you’re listening to so friends can listen along. To listen along to a friend, select their name from the Friends list, and click the headphone icon next to their currently playing track. You’ll start listening to what they’re listening to within a couple of seconds. This is a surprisingly fun way to discover new music, or to just keep up with what your friends are listening to without asking them to make playlists or mixtapes for you.
The one quirk with this setting is that you’ll need to have UPnP enabled on your router for this work, which, as we’ve pointed out before, isn’t the most secure setting. There are some workarounds for the security-conscious, but the basic UPnP setting is still the easiest way to make the library sharing function work.
As an open-source project, Tomahawk does have a few quirks. Some of the interface is a bit confusing, and occasionally it doesn’t work exactly as you’d expect it to. Still, it’s an app that makes browsing for music — whether it’s your next favourite song, or a classic — easier than ever. It also manages to turn your tiny little music library into a full-fledged collection in the matter of about five minutes.