Getting a tune stuck in your head and not being able to identify it, or hearing the best song ever and not knowing who it is by, are two of the most annoying things that plague human kind.
To help you out of such musical dilemmas, we’ve pulled together a handy list of resources that can help you out, and all for gratis.
Read on to see how the services managed in identifying the tracks, and let us know any success stories you’ve had in the comments below.
Midomi offers a wicked service that is just perfect for those tune-stuck-in-your-head moments. It lets you sing into the microphone and — even with our tone-deaf renditions of tunes — managed to isolate the tracks we were attempting to sing.
Although not advised if you’re in an Internet cafe, using the site is simple. Just hit the “click and hum or sing” box and do your thing. We found we had to shout, rather than sing (which is perhaps more an indication of the quality of our mic than the service) but the results were great.
Humming (or “duh-duh-ing” as is perhaps more accurate), it identified Tom’s Diner right away (somewhat randomly Fear of the Dark by Iron maiden came up second, but heck, the first option is what counts). Likewise, 10 seconds of Squeeze’s Tempted was no challenge for the service. It returned the song soon after we blared out the first two lines or so.
When Midomi identifies the song, it also offers a clip for playback so you can check it against the song in your head, rather than take its word for it.
And though we’re rating this service as best for humming/singing a song, it also went two for two when we played clips of the actual recordings into the PC’s mic.
Best for: Hummers
Musipedia offers a wealth of ways to identify your music, from the super-simple keyboard tapping (which actually came up with squat for both our songs) to drawing the musical notes on a graph, to melodic contour search using the Parsons Code — in all, a good octave above our musical heads.
The other thing it offers, is a sweet Flash-based piano keyboard that lets you plunk out the music you’re trying to identify. After you hit the notes on the virtual keyboard, it will play them back to ensure it sounds roughly as you intended. Once the melody is set, you can ask the service to search.
While Musipedia seems to be focused more on classical music, it did correctly identify Tom’s Diner, albeit as the fifth suggestion down. Unfortunately, we could not get it to recognize Tempted.
We’re unsure if this is because Squeeze’s back catalog has not made it into the service’s database, but the site seemed to have no difficulty matching many “classical” tunes to the simple note pattern we’d laid down.
Best for: Musicians, Classical Music Fans
Tunatic is offered as free downloadable software for PCs and Macs, rather than as a web-based service, although it does need an Internet connection to access the database to find the track.
With a super-simple, thumbnail-size interface, you simply click and blast your mic with the tune you want identified.
The results were interesting. Tunatic got both of the songs within seconds, but attributed them to artists that were not quite correct.
Tom’s Diner was attributed to music group DNA, who did make the song popular with their dance remix, but the song itself belongs to Suzanne Vega. Additionally, Tempted was attributed to Paul Carrack, a member of Squeeze, rather than the group.
These answers aren’t incorrect per se, but it’s worth pointing out that you might want to do a bit more research on top of a Tunatic result, which is as easy as clicking an arrow next to the response that opens a web page that includes links to buy the track and a Google search box with the term already entered.
Best for: Freeware Fans
The Shazam music identifying service is available across a variety of mobile devices — some even come with the app pre-loaded. BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android, and Nokia apps are all offered, but we took a look at the free option available in the App Store for iPhones and iPod touches.
The free version offers you limited functionality compared to the full $4.99 per month version, but it does let you “tag” (i.e., record and hopefully identify) five songs a month.
It’s really easy to use. Just download the app, load it up, and hit “tag now,” at which point Shazam “listens” for about 10 seconds before analyzing the track, identifying it, and offering an iTunes link to buy it, the ability to share it on Facebook and Twitter, to look up YouTube videos, see tour dates, and more.
You can even add a location to a tag, and if you’re not in an area where there’s cell coverage or Wi-Fi, the app will save the musical snippet until you are.
It worked perfectly on an iPod touch using Apple’s headphone/microphone to identify both Tom’s Diner and Tempted on the first try. We think having this on your mobile could be really handy if you’re out and about and catch a song that you like the sound of.
Best for: Mobile Users, On the Go
5. Name My Tune
Name My Tune is not the best option if you want instant answers, but it does offers really neat functionality in that its answers are from a community that you can get involved with.
The site offers two options — record your 10-second clip for others to identify (with the answer e-mailed to you when someone does) — and listen to recordings others have made.
You can do this second option via genre, and via era. So if you’re a 1960s blues bluff, you can listen to a narrowed down set of results in order to try and help your fellow netizens. Once you’ve identified a tune (which we did — the fairly recognizable Little Green Bag by the George Baker Selection from Reservoir Dogs) you simply enter the artist and title.
As for anyone recognizing our out-of-tune warblings into the mic, we’ve had no e-mails from the service as yet (hence our reason for stating it’s not the best option for those looking for instant relief), but we will update this post when we do with how long it took for an answer to come through.