We’ve published quite a few tutorials showing how to play audio from Excel. For example, our VBA Beep Sound on Error tutorial described adding VBA’s Beep statement in a macro to provide an audible signal when an On Error error-handler is activated. Another tutorial discussed Excel’s Application.Speech.Speak to make Excel talk. We even published a tutorial showing how to use VBA to control your computer’s volume with the Windows’ keybd_event for volume control.

This tutorial will discuss Windows’ PlaySound function, which is introduced in this Microsoft article. PlaySound can be used to play standard system sounds such as the Exclamation sound or the Question sound; it will also play any waveform-audio (WAV) file such as Tada.wav. We will develop an Excel user-defined function (UDF) named BeepThis2 to enable these sounds based on spreadsheet results. If you’re new to custom functions, I encourage you to read our VBA User-Defined Functions tutorial to help you get starting with your own UDFs.

Basic BeepThis1 UDF

Previous tutorials have used VBA’s Beep statement in a macro or Sub procedure. Here is a simple user-defined function named BeepThis1 that will make the Beep sound whenever it is part of a cell’s formula that requires calculation. The Beep sound is referred to as “Default Beep” in the Windows’ Control Panel > Sound menu.

Public Function BeepThis1(Optional ByVal ThisSound As String = "Beep" _
                        , Optional ByVal ThisValue As Variant) As Variant
    If IsMissing(ThisValue) Then ThisValue = ThisSound
    BeepThis1 = ThisValue
End Function

The BeepThis1 function has two arguments, but both arguments are declared Optional which means they do not have to be expressed when the function is called from a VBA procedure or used in a cell formula. Both arguments are also declared ByVal which means only their value is passed to the function; reassignment of ByVal arguments within a function will have no effect outside of the function. If ByVal was not included, the default ByRef would apply; changes made to a ByRef argument within the function are duplicated in the procedure that called the function. Choosing ByVal or ByRef does not usually matter when the function is used in a cell formula, but it could be important if the function is called from a VBA procedure.

The ThisSound argument is a String indicating the sound to play; the default value is “Beep”. (BeepThis1 actually ignores ThisSound, but it will be used later in this tutorial, so we kept the argument.) The ThisValue argument is a Variant (text, numeric, logical, etc.) value to be returned by BeepThis1. If ThisValue is not expressed, the text value of ThisSound will be returned. VBA’s IsMissing function determines whether an Optional argument (which must be Variant) was passed to the function. Since BeepThis1 is declared as a Variant it can return a variety of results. Here are some cell formula examples illustrating use of the BeepThis1 UDF.

="Day #"&BeepThis1(,WEEKDAY(TODAY(),2))

Notice the first argument is never entered in any of these examples. Again, that’s because we plan on using the first argument in our BeepThis2 example, below.

BeepThis2 UDF With System Sounds and WAV Files

The Windows’ PlaySound function can play system sounds (also known as “Program Events”) presented in the table below.

The table’s first column identifies the first argument of our BeepThis2 function. Each sound corresponds to a WAV file normally located in the Windows\Media folder.

All these sounds (plus others) can be modified by navigating to Control Panel > Sound and editing the sound corresponding to the table’s second column. (The Sound control panel applet is also opened by Settings > Personalization > Themes > Sounds or by right-clicking the Taskbar’s speaker icon and picking Sounds.)

The sound data is stored in Registry keys that begin with HKCU\AppEvents\Schemes\Apps\.Default. Each key is identified by the table’s third column.

In addition to playing system sounds, the VBA PlaySound function can also play any WAV file when given a full filepath.

VBA UDF ThisSound Argument Program Event AppEvent
Beep Default Beep .Default
Asterisk Asterisk SystemAsterisk
Exclamation Exclamation SystemExclamation
Hand Critical Stop SystemHand
Notification System Notification SystemNotification
Question Question SystemQuestion
Connect Device Connect DeviceConnect
Disconnect Device Disconnect DeviceDisconnect
Fail Device Failed DeviceFail
Mail New Mail Notification.Mail
Reminder Calendar Reminder Notification.Reminder
Text New Text Message Notification.SMS
Message Instant Message Notification.IM
Fax New Fax FaxBeep
Select Select CCSelect
Error Program Error AppGPFault
Close Close Program Close
Maximize Maximize Maximize
Minimize Minimize Minimize
Open Open Program Open
Default Default Beep .Default

The PlaySound function is available in a dynamic-link library (DLL); therefore, we must use VBA’s Declare statement along with related global constants before any Sub or Function statement in our VBAProject’s module. Here’s our full UDF for playing sounds with VBA:

#If VBA7 Then
    Public Declare PtrSafe Function PlaySound Lib "winmm.dll" Alias "PlaySoundA" _
        (ByVal lpszName As String, ByVal hModule As LongPtr, ByVal dwFlags As Long) As Long
    Public Declare Function PlaySound Lib "winmm.dll" Alias "PlaySoundA" _
        (ByVal lpszName As String, ByVal hModule As Long, ByVal dwFlags As Long) As Long
#End If

Const SND_SYNC = &H0                ' wait for sound to play
Const SND_ASYNC = &H1               ' no wait
Const SND_NODEFAULT = &H2           ' no default sound on error
Const SND_NOSTOP = &H10             ' skip sound if another is playing
Const SND_ALIAS = &H10000           ' play system sound
Const SND_FILENAME = &H20000        ' play WAV file

Public Function BeepThis2(Optional ByVal ThisSound As String = "Beep" _
                        , Optional ByVal ThisValue As Variant _
                        , Optional ByVal ThisCount As Integer = 1 _
                        , Optional ByVal Wait As Boolean = False) As Variant
    Dim sPath As String, flags As Long
    Const sMedia As String = "\Media\"
    If IsMissing(ThisValue) Then ThisValue = ThisSound
    BeepThis2 = ThisValue           ' return value
    If ThisCount > 1 Then Wait = True
    flags = SND_ALIAS
    sPath = StrConv(ThisSound, vbProperCase)
    Select Case sPath
    Case "Beep"
        Beep                        ' ignore ThisCount and Wait
        Exit Function
    Case "Asterisk", "Exclamation", "Hand", "Notification", "Question"
        sPath = "System" + sPath
    Case "Connect", "Disconnect", "Fail"
        sPath = "Device" + sPath
    Case "Mail", "Reminder"
        sPath = "Notification." + sPath
    Case "Text"
        sPath = "Notification.SMS"
    Case "Message"
        sPath = "Notification.IM"
    Case "Fax"
        sPath = "FaxBeep"
    Case "Select"
        sPath = "CCSelect"
    Case "Error"
        sPath = "AppGPFault"
    Case "Close", "Maximize", "Minimize", "Open"
        ' ok
    Case "Default"
        sPath = "." & sPath
    Case "Chimes", "Chord", "Ding", "Notify", "Recycle", "Ringout", "Tada"
        sPath = Environ("SystemRoot") & sMedia & sPath & ".wav"
        flags = SND_FILENAME
    Case Else
        If LCase(Right(ThisSound, 4)) <> ".wav" Then ThisSound = ThisSound & ".wav"
        sPath = ThisSound
        If Dir(sPath) = "" Then     ' file is not in working directory
            sPath = ActiveWorkbook.Path & "\" & ThisSound
            If Dir(sPath) = "" Then sPath = Environ("SystemRoot") & sMedia & ThisSound
        End If
        flags = SND_FILENAME
    End Select
    flags = flags + IIf(Wait, SND_SYNC, SND_ASYNC)
    Do While ThisCount > 0          ' skip if ThisCount < 1
        PlaySound sPath, 0, flags   ' if error, .Default sound will play
        ThisCount = ThisCount - 1
End Function

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Explaining the BeepThis2 Function

All four arguments are Optional in our BeepThis2 function. Just like our simplified BeepThis1 function from earlier, the first argument ThisSound is a String (with default value “Beep”) indicating the sound to play. The ThisValue argument is the Variant to be returned with default value ThisSound. The third argument ThisCount is the Integer number of times to play your chosen sound; its default value is 1.

When the Boolean fourth argument Wait is False (its default value), the BeepThis2 function will return as soon as PlaySound has started playing your sound. This is called asynchronous playing. Setting this argument to True will force the function to wait until PlaySound has finished playing the sound ThisCount times before continuing to process your macro.. Wait is forced to True whenever ThisCount>1, so be careful when using the ThisCount argument. It’s good to restrict the sound to repeat 3 or fewer times, because Excel will be unresponsive while your audio file is played. (Note: Press Esc or Ctrl+Break to interrupt a UDF or macro.) The PlaySound function will not play if ThisCount<1.

We made this UDF so the ThisSound argument is not case-sensitive. The argument will be converted to Proper case before use. When ThisSound is set to “Beep”, both the ThisCount and Wait arguments are ignored; in this case, VBA’s Beep function will make the Default Beep sound once, just like in our simplified BeepThis1 function from earlier.

The table above indicates ThisSound values corresponding to system sounds. If one of the valid system sounds isn’t provided, the ThisSound argument will be assumed to specify the full path to a WAV file. In particular, the following legacy WAV files are usually present in the Windows\Media folder: Chimes, Chord, Ding, Notify, Recycle, Ringout, and Tada. To play one of those 7 files, ThisSound should specify only the name (without its “.wav” type).

Any other WAV file can also be specified; in this case, “.wav” will automatically be appended if you forgot. If the file’s complete path is not defined by ThisSound and the file is not in Excel’s working directory, it will be hunted first in the active workbook’s path then in the Windows\Media folder. The VBA Dir function returns a null string if the file is not found. Environ("SystemRoot") returns the %SystemRoot% environment varaible, which is normally C:\Windows. (If necessary, the PlaySound function might also search for the file in the Windows directory, the Windows system directory, directories listed in the %PATH% environment variable, and the list of directories mapped in a network.)

Notice the second argument when calling the PlaySound function. This argument must be equal to zero. Its third argument flags must be SND_ALIAS for system sounds or SND_FILENAME for WAV files. VBA’s IIf function works like Excel’s IF function to add SND_SYNC for wait or SND_ASYNCH for no wait. If the ThisSound argument specifies a system sound set to None (no sound) or an invalid WAV file, then PlaySound will instead play the default system sound (Default Beep). You can avoid this behavior by adding SND_NODEFAULT to the flags variable. Feel free to give it a shot!

Using BeepThis2 to play sounds with VBA

Here are some cell formula examples illustrating how to use the BeepThis2 function to play sounds using VBA.

=BeepThis2("Windows Logon","Welcome",,TRUE)

No sound is played unless the cell’s formula is recalculated and ThisCount>0 or ThisSound is “Beep” (the default). Since Excel’s TODAY function is Volatile, the 5th example will be recalculated whenever any other cell is calculated. Also notice the last calculated BeepThis2 will interrupt any other call to the BeepThis2 function with ThisCount=1 and Wait=False (the default values); this can be prevented by adding SND_NOSTOP to the flags variable.

Final Thoughts

If you decide to include BeepThis2 in your Personal Macro Workbook (PERSONAL.XLSB) or in a Custom Excel Add-In (XLAM), consider adding details to Excel’s Insert Function dialog as described in our VBA MacroOptions tutorial. Some of the arguments may be hard to remember, so the visual cue that MacroOptions provides can certainly be helpful.

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