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How to find a song by using your phone
It has to be one of the most maddening experiences of all time. You hear a song that is absolutely rocking the house down, but you have no clue who’s singing it or what the name of the song is. Thankfully, your smartphone comes to the rescue again with music recognition. As well as smart assistants, there are a couple of apps you can use too to find out who’s responsible for that earworm in your head. Here’s how to find a song by using your phone.
To find a song using your phone, you can use a smart assistant such as Google Assistant or Siri. You can also use the Google search app, Shazam, Soundhound, or an Android-only feature called Now Playing.
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Google Assistant (Android and iOS)
Built into Android | iOS app
Google Assistant is the first smart assistant to recognize music lyrics, but it didn’t recognize my accent very well. In the end, it got the song correctly as Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but it gave me a few other outlandish suggestions first.
As with everything Google Assistant, just say “Hey Google” followed by some of the lyrics and “what is this song?”. If it recognizes it, it will give you the name and some web links. It’s supposed to also recognize humming, but I had no luck with that. Obviously, the best results will be with live background music that it can listen to.
Google app (Android)
Built into Android
This is a much better Android alternative to finding a song, but unfortunately, it doesn’t extend to the iOS Google app. By tapping on the microphone in the Google app search box, you get an option at the bottom of the screen to search a song. Play or sing the song, and within seconds, you get Google search results with the YouTube video, the lyrics, and much more.
Built into iOS
Apple users are naturally going to gravitate to Siri and it does a great job if the song is playing in the background. But if you’re singing or humming it, then forget it. Siri will tell you in her very polite diplomatic voice that your singing sucks and to try again.
When it does find the song, it will give you a direct link to open it up in Apple Music, if you have an active subscription. It would be nice if it also added Spotify support, but I guess they’re not going to promote their biggest rival.
Shazam (Android and iOS)
Shazam is the gold standard out there when it comes to music recognition, so it makes sense that Apple bought it and integrated it into Apple Music. It’s also built into the newer iOS devices, accessible via Control Center. However, you can also download the standalone app if you want, and if you have an active Apple Music subscription, everything you search for automatically gets added to a unique Shazam Apple playlist for you to listen to later.
It only recognizes actual music though — no humming — and I’ve had very limited success singing to it. Whether that’s a judgment on my singing or on Shazam’s limitations, I’ll leave for you to decide.
Soundhound (Android and iOS)
If you’re the humming kind of person and have no clue what the lyrics are to a song, you need to get Soundhound. It specializes in recognizing songs by humming, and it has a surprisingly high success rate. I hummed the first few lines of Frank Sinatra’s My Way (admittedly not an obscure song) and it got it right away. But then I did a Scottish folk song and it got that one too. To say I’m impressed would be putting it mildly.
Now Playing (Google Pixel phones only)
Built into Android Pixel
To enable it, just go to Settings–>Sound & Vibration–>Now Playing. Toggle on Identify songs playing nearby and a song database will be downloaded to your phone. Now whenever a song is playing in the background — even if your phone is locked — the song will be identified and the name of it put on your lock screen.
Some people may find this feature a bit intrusive as it will always be listening to every sound. So this may not be for everyone.