You can identify just about any song you’ve heard using a smartphone, your computer, or a search engine like Google. It doesn’t need to be playing right now; if you can hum it or remember the lyrics you should be good. Here’s how.
Use Siri or Google Assistant to Identify a Song
If you have a modern smartphone you can use your device’s voice assistant to recognize the currently-playing song. This is the quickest way of identifying a song that’s playing, and doesn’t require that you download an app first (potentially missing the song).
This works virtually identically whether you have Google Assistant or Siri. Trigger the assistant by saying “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google” then ask “What’s this song?” or a similarly-phrased request. You can also trigger the assistant with a dedicated button on your smartphone or tablet.
You can use this trick anywhere you can make use of such an assistant, including on a Mac (Siri), in the car (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), on smart speakers (like Google’s Nest Mini or Apple’s HomePod mini) on wearables (like the Apple Watch or Google Pixel Watch) or even some smart TVs (like the LG OLED range with Google Assistant integration).
Identify a Song That’s Currently Playing with Shazam or SoundHound
Shazam can identify a song that’s currently playing using a dedicated app. You can grab the Shazam app for iPhone and iPad, Android, Chrome, or Samsung. Once installed launch the app and tap on the round Shazam icon in the middle of the screen to listen and identify the currently-playing song.
Identify a Song by Humming or Singing It
If the moment has already passed but the song is still stuck in your head, try humming it to Google instead. To do this, download the Google app for iPhone and iPad or Android. Open the app and tap on the “Microphone” icon in the search bar and select “Search a song” then hum or sing the tune. Thankfully, you don’t need to be pitch-perfect for this to work.
If this isn’t working, make sure you’ve granted Google access to your microphone within your device’s privacy settings. You can also try using SoundHound to identify a song by humming it.
Find a Song Title by Searching for its Lyrics
If you’re not much of a singer or are unable to hum or sing the song to Google (because you’re on a train or stuck in the office), you can try searching for lyrics instead. Simply append any standout phrases or words with “lyrics” to get relevant results.
If you’re not sure about certain lyrics you can leave words out and you should still get some relevant results.
Get Other People to Identify the Song for You
Most of the tricks here use your smartphone or browser to match audio with a title, but what happens if these methods fail you? WatZatSong is a “song naming community” that invites you to register, upload a sample, add a description that might help, and let others guide you in the right direction.
There’s a real range of music here, from music people have recorded live or from a source like a TV, to MIDI compositions, to people singing or humming into a microphone. The community works both ways so consider stopping by to listen to new samples and try and help other people out.
Identify Songs Featured in TV and Movies
WhatSong is a service that can help you identify songs that you have heard in movies or TV shows. Simply look up the show and episode, or find the movie, and get a full list of songs featured on the soundtrack. Each song will be listed alongside a description of when it plays.
Where possible there are links to the song on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, and YouTube plus a 30-second Apple Music preview.
Upload Music Files to AudioTag
Found some old music files? AudioTag is a music recognition service a lot like Shazam and SoundHound. Upload a song and wait for the robot to do its thing. It’s great for correctly identifying old MP3s that may have been incorrectly tagged the first time around.
You can also use AudioTag to recognize links from YouTube and other streaming services, see what others are tagging, and more.
Identify Songs Based on Samples Used
Sometimes a song is recognizable due to its use of a particularly famous sample. If you recognize a part of the song you can search for the original sample on Who Sampled? to see a list of connections with other songs. Some songs have been sampled hundreds or thousands of times, so you may have to scroll a fair bit to find what you’re looking for.
Luckily, WhoSampled features lots of music embeds, so you can listen as you search.
Add Recognized Music to your Streaming App
Once you’ve found out what the song is, add it to your streaming app of choice (or your YouTube favorites). You might even want to create a specific playlist for songs you’ve recognized in Apple Music or Spotify. If you use the Shazam app you should see a history of songs that you’ve identified too.
Not subscribed to a music streaming app yet? Check out our comparison between Apple Music and Spotify, as well as how YouTube Music stacks up to Spotify before you buy.