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Fix 3 common Google Home music glitches before they happen

Skip error messages and get straight to playing the music you love with these workarounds.

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Whether you have the Mini, the Max or the OG Google Home, nothing is more frustrating than asking for your favorite music and getting an error. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

You bought a Google Home smart speaker or display because you wanted to do fun stuff using just your voice. And, if you're like 74% of smart speaker owners, that means playing music -- right? So did I. That's why nothing frustrates me more than when I ask Google Home ($84 at Walmart) to play something and instead of, you know, just playing it, Google Assistant spits back an error message or -- even worse -- does nothing, or the wrong thing.

For example, have you ever heard Google Assistant utter this gem? "To get help with that, you'll need to give me some more information. You can do that in the Google Home app." Once I asked for a Matchbox Twenty playlist, but that's what Google Assistant fired back at me instead. If that's happened to you too, keep reading for the solution.

The fact of the matter is, for Google Home to get music requests right the first time, there are a handful of settings or commands that absolutely must be dialed in perfectly, lest abrupt chaos ensue. Here are a few ways to do that.

Hey, Google, can you be a little more specific?

The worst part about the "...you'll need to give me some more information" message is how vague it is. Thankfully, however, the solution is a cinch. It all boils down to a little privacy setting in your Google account called Web & App Activity. To get there:

1. Open your Google Home app, then tap your personal icon in the upper right.

2. Tap Assistant settings then tap Your data in the Assistant.

3. Scroll down until you see Web & App Activity and turn the toggle On.

Basically, in order for Google Home to play any music at all, Web & App Activity has to be enabled. That means so long as you're logged into the same Google account as your Google Home, Google will have your permission to record everything you do on Google sites (like Google Search) and with Google apps (like Google Chrome), including, using Google's own words, "associated info like location."

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Chvrches ("churches") is a synth-pop band from Scotland, but Google Home might play you church music if you don't say the exact right thing.

Screenshot by CNET

A song by any other name

Asking Google Home to play music by the band Chvrches (pronounced just like the word "churches") seems straightforward enough, but unless you're in the mood for Mozart's Requiem (i.e. "church music") you can't just ask for "Chvrches music." You also can't just say, "Hey, Google, play Bad Company" and expect Google Home to know whether you're talking about the band, their debut album, or the hit single -- all of which are called "Bad Company."

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So, how do you get Google Home to play music by Chvrches or Bad Company's debut album in its entirety?  Same way you get it to play tunes by Haim or Bon Iver, or any album that shares its name with either the band or one of its singles:

  • Make sure you're saying it right: Haim is pronounced more like "high-uhm." Bon Iver is "boney-vair." MSTRKRFT is "mastercraft." Google it if you're not sure. There's even a YouTube channel that can help.
  • Add a specific descriptor: Asking Google Home to play music by Chvrches gets you Mozart -- but asking it to play "music by the band Chvrches" gets you Scottish synth-pop. "OK, Google, play the album Bad Company" will get you rocking to the entire 1974 release. "Play the song Like a Virgin" will queue up the Madonna single, not the whole LP.
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Google puts its Google Home devices through a battery of tests to wring out the very best sound quality from such small speakers.

James Martin/CNET

Band names that are anything but routine

Prince wasn't the only musician to use an unpronounceable or hard-to-pronounce symbol as a stage name. I happen to be a fan of Brooklyn-based dance-punk outfit !!! (pronounced "chk chk chk"), but unfortunately Google Home expects there to be vowels in your words. To get around this limitation, I created a routine. Here's how:

1. Open the Google Home app and tap Routines (purple moon/sun icon) then tap Manage routines at the bottom.

2. Tap the blue + icon in the lower right corner.

3. Under When I say... tap Add commands (required) and enter the trigger phrase you want to use (for example, "Play chick chick chick") then tap Save in the upper right corner.

4. Under The Google Assistant should... tap Add Action and enter what you want to happen, for example, "Play !!! (chk chk chk) Radio on Pandora" then tap Add in the upper right corner.

5. Now when you say the trigger phrase, Google Home should respond correctly.

Of course, asking your Google Home to play music won't work the way you want if you haven't synced your Spotify, Pandora or YouTube Music with the Google Home app -- here's how to set up music services the right way. Also, it's not just what you play, but where you play it that matters. Here's how to organize your Google Home household into speaker groups. Follow these separate instructions for creating stereo pairs from two identical Google Home or Nest speakers.