The Best Apps and Services to Identify That Unknown Song

Woman dancing with headphones

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It can happen at any moment. You're going about your business when a snippet of music catches your ear. Maybe you've heard it before, maybe you haven't. But one thing's for certain: You have no idea who sings it or what the title is.

You try humming the melody to your friends, reciting some offbeat lyrics to your co-workers, and at the end of the day,​ you're still left wondering: What song is this?

It's an age-old question that can drive you crazy if you can't find the answer. The good news is that there are much simpler ways to determine song name, the artist and even song lyrics by using your smartphone, tablet, computer or another connected device.

We've listed some of the best media recognition and song lookup services below.


Shazam: Screenshot From iOS
Scott Orgera

Probably the most well-known discovery option on the list, Shazam's simple interface combined with its keen listening ability and massive database all but ensures that you'll find an answer to that nagging question. With well over a hundred million active users, Shazam served as the inspiration behind a TV game show hosted by actor Jamie Foxx on which contestants try to name a set number of songs before the app does.

For most titles, in addition to the name and artist, Shazam also provides the option to listen to a sample or even purchase the song from iTunes, Google Play Music or another vendor. You can also add the song to your Shazam playlist or if you have an Amazon Music, Deezer or Spotify account you can launch the tune from within the app itself.

When a song is playing within earshot all you have to do is open the app, tap on the Shazam logo and wait until the title and artist details are returned. You can also choose to long-press the logo to activate Auto Shazam, a feature that automatically looks up and stores information about any song that it hears – even while the app isn't running.

Each song found is saved as one of your personal 'Shazams', a compendium that can be accessed by signing up for a free account through Facebook or with a verified email address.

The Shazam app can be upgraded to remove advertisements for a one-time cost of $2.99.

Shazam offers a lot more beyond finding songs, however, including visual recognition using your device's camera and QR codes along with enhanced social interaction which allows you to discover and share songs through a variety of mediums including Snapchat. The Shazam Connect service even lets up-and-coming as well as established artists reach out and learn more about their fan base.

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Musixmatch: Screenshot From iOS
Scott Orgera

Using an app to actually listen to a song isn't the only way to find out its title or who sings it. Musixmatch attacks the problem from a different angle, utilizing its lyrics catalog and easy-to-use search engine to get the answer that you seek.

Simply download the app or visit the website in your favorite web browser and enter whatever lyrics you happen to know. Suggested results begin to display immediately as you type, allowing you to eventually locate what you need even if your recollection of the lyrics isn't exactly spot on. You can also use Musixmatch to search by artist, displaying a list of selectable tracks which provide each respective song's lyrics when clicked upon.

Thanks to a very active user community, many lyrics are translated into different languages and for popular songs dozens of dialects are available.

If you're not searching for a particular song but rather looking for some inspiration or just feel like browsing, thumbnails of the most talked-about lyrics taken from top songs (rated by other users) are shown on the home page or main app screen.

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Scott Orgera

The app on the list most compared to Shazam, SoundHound also provides a robust feature set including some unique functionality. While not as popular as its main competitor, SoundHound does boast a significantly large user base with many claiming it to be the better of the two when it comes to discovering more obscure titles.

It has also been known to outperform Shazam in busier, louder environments such as sporting events where the song in question may be drowned out a bit by other noise. Where SoundHound really stands out, though, is its ability to recognize a song that is not actually playing – but rather by you humming or singing whatever portion that you actually know.

Also coupled with Apple Music and Spotify, usable assuming you are a member of one or both of these services, SoundHound lets you play the full song or watch its corresponding video for free on YouTube. In some instances, you can also listen to a 30-second sample.

Below the song's main options are links and buttons to listen on Google Play Music, buy on Google Play, play on iHeartRadio (account required) or open in Pandora. Top songs from the same or similar artists are provided, along with thumbnails to YouTube videos that play right within the app.

Another area where SoundHound distinguishes itself is its activation method, which can be completely hands-free should you choose. Rather than having to tap on a button or logo, you can just say the words 'OK, Hound' to get started.

Your favorite song discoveries can be accessed at a later time across multiple devices with a free SoundHound account.

If you're not in the market for a particular tune and just want to browse around, the app also allows you to view and play popular songs categorized by genre and ranked by the number of searches and plays. Another neat addition shows all artists born on the current day, along with a link to their bio and song lists.

There's even a global map that contains 'music moments', which lets you see songs and artists being discovered by other SoundHound users throughout the world. Although the app is free to use, a version called SoundHound Infinity is available for $6.99 which offers added features and an ad-free experience.

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Watching TV With Headphones
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SongKong isn't exactly a song-discovery application but does provide a similar service when working with your existing music library. A self-titled intelligent music tagger, this software's main goal is to organize all of your songs by figuring out title and artist and then labeling and categorizing them accordingly, even adding album art where applicable.

The application utilizes a combination of intelligent acoustic matching along with comprehensive databases to identify each one of your digital tunes across multiple file formats, deleting duplicates along the way.

SongKong is not free, and its cost can vary depending on which level of license you need. There is a trial version, however, so you can get a feel for the software and see if it's a right fit for your music collection.

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Virtual Assistants

Woman singing with smartphone
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Many devices including desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets now come with their own integrated virtual assistant that allows you to speak or type a wide array of commands and questions.

Whether it's Siri on Apple's operating systems, Google Assistant on a litany of platforms such as Android, or Microsoft's Cortana on Windows, identifying songs is just one of the many things these sound-activated helpers can do.

With Shazam integration, you can use Siri to figure out a song's title and artist by saying 'Siri, what song is playing?' The same goes for Google Assistant and Cortana in terms of tune recognition, assuming that your device has a working microphone enabled.

While you may not get all of the bells and whistles that some of the other apps and services on this list offer, this talking technology can certainly get the job done in a pinch.


Midomi Website
Melodis Corporation

Brought to you by the same folks who created SoundHound and launched long before the app was even a concept, Midomi is a simple, browser-based tool that listens to you sing or hum a melody through your computer's microphone and returns (in most cases) its artist and title.

Be forewarned that the site has not been updated in a very long time, has become unreliable and is no longer secure. It should only be used as a last resort if none of the other options presented here are available to you for some reason.

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Additional Options

Headphones and smartphone
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Song discovery has become so popular, in fact, that companies like Facebook have gotten in on the act. Facebook's Music Identification, available only within the United States via its popular social media app, allows you to toggle the feature on and off with a simple button tap. Since it's Facebook, of course, you can also choose to post what you're listening to for all of your friends to see.

As far as lyrics engines go, Musixmatch isn't the only game in town. A quick Google search reveals a number of different sites that help you discover a song's title by entering some lyrics. In fact, the Google search engine itself can be used to perform a lyrics search – and it does a pretty good job of it, too. If you have a mic, ask, "Okay, Google, what song is this?"

Many voice-enabled services are also smart enough to conduct a lyrics-based search. For example, looking for a song on the Amazon Echo or a similar device is as simple as speaking the following words: Alexa, play the song that goes *lyrics here*'. You may need an active Amazon Music account for this particular feature to work correctly, however.