What’s the song that goes like…?

What's the song that goes like
Mic drop: sing a song to SoundHound

“It goes mmhhm ooo ahhh mmmmhhhm ahh,” you repeat for the umpteenth time to your bored colleagues. Blank faces all round. “You know, by that band who were big a few years ago. It was everywhere.” Still nothing. In desperation you tap “song big band few years ago” into YouTube and get… Song of India by the BBC Big Band Orchestra.

Luckily, there’s a solution to this workplace embarrassment: SoundHound. The app, available on Android and iOS, may look identical to the more famous Shazam, but it has the unique ability to recognise live singing, humming, whistling and la-la-la-ing. To get started, take a deep breath, press the big orange button in the centre of the screen and perform snippets of the unknown song.

But just how good is SoundHound? Could it, for example, identify an obscure Tears for Fears B-side or the latest pop punk “banger”? I decided to put the app through its paces, beginning with a tune so famous that even Patagonian shepherds could hum it…


Okay, that was far too easy. SoundHound recognised the pub/club/football stadium/wedding/funeral staple almost immediately – despite me intentionally getting a couple of notes wrong. It even includes the lyrics, which is a nice touch. Let’s try something a little more recent and obscure.


It turns out even mid-noughties emo can’t outfox the recognition software. Humming current mega-hit Despacito (which has been viewed 2,681,120,588 times on YouTube), however, was less successful. Here’s what my beautiful rendition brought up:


In case you’re not familiar with ex-Disney starlet Ashley Tisdale’s So Much For You, I’ll save you the bother – it’s not great. More importantly, it doesn’t even vaguely sound like Despacito, making the test an anomaly in SoundHound’s otherwise high hit rate. In a hugely unscientific sample of three songs, that is.

Despite the downsides, such as giving classical music a digital shrug of the shoulders, SoundHound is an excellent tool for people with a musical memory like a sieve.

Main pic credit: Derek Gavey/Flickr

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Max Figgett

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