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Hanging Christmas lights is a treasured part of many holiday traditions. For some families, it’s the simple joy of having a pleasant string of lights along the house or in a tree that brings a sense of magic and wonder to the holiday, while others go truly all out in their decorations, covering surfaces of their home and yard with patterns and bright colors of lights. If you really want to make your holiday decorations pop this year, one way to stand out from the crowd and draw crowds to your neighborhood is with synchronized Christmas light displays, synchronized to music.

Read more below to learn about how to sync lights to music in your display of Christmas lights and decorations!

What kind of equipment do I need to sync Christmas lights to music?

When you’re setting up DIY outdoor Christmas lights, or even if someone else is helping you, what equipment will you need to get this all working?

The first thing you’ll need is some way of either programming the lights to follow along with the music, or a program that can do this automatically. Some “smart” applications will be able to help with this, as long as your lights are connected to them; the bare minimum that you’d need would be some smart plugs (plugs that can be remotely turned on and off) with Christmas lights plugged into them

This will allow an entire string of lights to flash on and off on command, as long as the smart plug is linked to a program that can sync these actions with music. However, the most you can do with this method is choose “on” or “off” for an entire string of lights all at once, meaning that large portions of your display will be winking on and off with the music once it’s synched. With enough separate sections of lights, and enough smart plugs that they’re attached to, you can have creative light shows and displays for your home and yard.

Some homeowners will set up their lighting in this way so that different parts of their home will turn on or off simultaneously, linked to the beat of the music. Maybe some trees or bushes out front will all flash together, or maybe each window or doorway could be surrounded by a separate string of lights, each coordinated with certain notes. You could even put multiple strings of lights in the same place, so that one could be on at a time, giving the illusion that a tree is flashing different colors as different strings activate and go off in turn. Christmas window lights can also be part of these displays, and can be set to turn on and off in time with the music.

Other ways to set up Christmas Light Shows

If you have any smart lights (not just smart plugs, but smart lighting), many of these lights will have a built-in function in their app or control program that allows them to sync with music. For example, some smart lightbulb brands will allow you to sync directly with Spotify, Apple Music, or similar programs. These have the added benefit of not just flashing on and off, but also changing in color and intensity along with the music’s beat or tone.

Of course, these kinds of smart light bulbs usually aren’t exactly Christmas lights; they’re more the kind of light that would be on your front porch or inside a room. These kinds of lights can still add a lot to a synchronized Christmas music light display, but if you’re looking for a more traditional Christmas light look, the kind that outline your roof, windows, trees, and so on, you’ll probably want to look for smart string lighting.

Some of these are available for DIY installation, while others come from companies that can help with outdoor Christmas lights of many different kinds. Many string lights can be set to turn on and off, change color and intensity, or even change or “move” in patterns, with one color starting on one end of the string and “bouncing” back and forth, or colors moving in waves or jumps–really, your imagination is the limit.

Most setups for smart homes and automated lights cost anywhere from one to several thousand dollars, with outliers and exceptions depending on what exactly you’re having done on your home. Only setting up outdoor lights, for decoration, will likely cost less than automating your entire home, but can still be on the pricier side of things if you’re looking for a large installation.

How can Jellyfish Lighting help me automate my yard display?

Jellyfish Lighting is a professional lighting installation company that can help you outfit your home with decorative smart lights. These lights can be controlled and programmed remotely, and can change colors depending on the holiday or your mood, making them a great option for not only Christmas, but other holidays as well. What’s more, they’re intended as a permanent lighting display, which means that the installation and setup should be a one-time thing, after which the lights are yours to control however you want…and we’re working hard on getting it to sync up with music. (Stay tuned!)

How can I sync outdoor lights with music?

The actual synching process varies depending on your lights. As mentioned above, some smart lights will have systems already built in which allow them to sync with your music program of choice, all through an app, while others will require you to set up a program where you manually choose how the lights respond based on the music that’s playing. When you have smart lights you’re ready to use for this, try searching for that brand of light online along with terms like “sync Christmas lights to music” or even just “holiday light show” to see what others have done to make it work for your chosen brand.

Another consideration you might want to consider is how visitors will hear your music. Some places might not mind it if you have a speaker setup outside your house that plays the music as the lights react to it (as long as you don’t keep it on too late into the night, that is!) while that might not be allowed in other neighborhoods. At the very least, you might hear some noise complaints from neighbors who didn’t get to decide on the music themselves.

If you’re concerned about those kinds of issues, or if you want to have your light display only play music for people looking to hear it, there are ways to set up radio or Bluetooth/wireless broadcasting for the area around your home. This can allow visitors to listen to the songs you’re playing right then on their car radio, or by visiting a website, so they can use their own speakers to play music while watching the show.

Of course, maybe the lights are just for you and your family! In that case, you’ll need to ensure that whatever device is playing the music for the lights to respond to is also audible in whatever location you’re watching. Seeing a synchronized display from inside a house can be lots of fun, too!

Whatever you do and wherever you watch it from, synchronized lights and Christmas music can create a wonderful display that gets people into the holiday spirit.