Music

We Tried The New Google Feature That Lets You Hum or Whistle a Song You Can’t Fully Remember

We tested out some earworms we've been stuck with lately to pretty hilarious results.
October 19, 2020, 9:14am
google phone song search
Left: Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash. Right: Screenshot of Google's new feature

Most of us can relate to that annoying moment when a tune gets stuck in our head but we just cannot remember it enough to look up the lyrics and being subpar singers, no one around can guess the song name either. A new Google feature though sounds like quite a solution to those earworms-that-cannot-be-named.

Google’s new “hum to search” feature lets users search for songs by humming, singing or even whistling the tune.

The feature is now a part of Google Assistant and Google’s mobile app. You can say “Hey Google! What’s this song” and then hum, whistle or sing whatever part of the song you do remember. The results will include several probable songs along with an estimated percentage for each. Also included in the results are accompanying music videos, some hit covers to the song, and song analyses.

This software, like many other features, is based on machine learning. According to Google, its machine learning algorithms transform the audio input into a number-based sequence which tries to match the closest music to it.

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Google announced this feature along with several other new search related functions in an online event on October 15. The feature will be available first in English on Apple’s iOS and in over 20 languages on Google’s Android mobile platform. According to the company, users don’t need to have the perfect pitch or tone to get the feature to work.

This feature isn’t a brand new idea—apps like Shazam offered it before as well. This feature is built on the work of Google’s AI Research team’s music recognition technology. Google launched Now Playing on the Pixel 2 in 2017 which uses deep neural networks to bring low-power recognition of music to mobile devices. In 2018, Google brought the same technology to the SoundSearch feature in the Google app and expanded the reach to a catalogue of millions of songs. This new feature takes it a step further, because now Google can recognise songs without the lyrics or original song.

To know how well this works, I tried humming some songs into my phone.

I started off with one of my most favourite songs, holding up my phone and humming a couple of lines from “Loving is Easy.” The AI picked up fairly efficiently, though the hilarious bit was how its second suggestion to my humming was a Bollywood number that does not sound anything like the song I had in mind. While “Loving is Easy” got a 16 percent match, “Tujhe Aksa Beach Ghuma Du” was not far behind at 12 percent. Maybe it was just me being so very off-key that I even confused the AI?

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I then whistled a bit of the iconic Hindi song “Lag Ja Gale”. The search results were correct again, and the supplementary information wasn’t too bad either.

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And finally, there’s one song that gets stuck in my head each morning. It comes from the garbage truck that comes to pick up trash at a slum I can see from my place. The relative peace of mornings means the song they blare from the truck to get residents to come out to transfer their trash to the truck, easily travels to my house. With a frustratingly catchy hook, “Ghadiwala Aaya Ghar se Kachra Nikal (roughly: The vehicle driver is here, remove the trash from your house)” has gone quite viral, picked by municipal corporations around the country as they go about collecting their garbage, memed liberally, and has been playing in my mind throughout writing this piece.

I hum it into the phone. “Couldn’t find a close match,” they say. I sing it, having perfected it over several bathroom singing sessions. No match again. I even whistle it.

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The song with over 12 million views on YouTube is no match for this AI.

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