How to Identify a Song on Any Smartphone, PC, or Tablet

What’s that song playing right now? At one point, your best bet was to hope your friend knew—or try to listen to the lyrics and search for them. Now, you can just have your phone, tablet, or PC listen to it. This is all built into modern operating systems.

Shazam was the app that really brought song identification to the masses, and it’s still available on modern smartphones and tablets. But, you don’t really need Shazam any more. Although they don’t make it obvious, voice assistants like Siri, Google Now, and Cortana can all identify songs.

iPhone and iPad

On devices with iOS, Siri can identify most songs. This feature is powered by Shazam, although you don’t need the separate Shazam app installed to use it.

To get started, open Siri by long-pressing the Home button—or just say “Hey, Siri” if you have that feature enabled. Say something like “What song is playing?” or “Name that tune.” Siri will listen to the song and identify it for you.

Siri provides a “Buy” button that will let you buy the song in iTunes, but you can also just note the artist and name of the song, and then find it on another service.

ss_top

And if you want to find a list of songs you’ve already identified with Siri, just head to the iTunes Store.

Android

Google built song identification into the Google search app on Android. Arguably part of Google Now, identifying songs is one of the many “OK Google” voice commands you can use on Android.

To identify a song, you can just say “OK Google, what is this song?”—provided you have the OK Google feature enabled. If not, tap the microphone on the search bar at the top of your home screen and say “What is this song?”

Google also offers an “Okay Google, Shazam this song” shortcut if you have the Shazam app installed. That will immediately open the Shazam app instead of using Google’s own song-identification feature.

Windows 10

In Windows 10, you can use Cortana to identify songs. Open Cortana (or say “Hey Cortana” if you’ve got that enabled), and then say “What is this song?” Cortana will listen for music using your device’s microphone and then identify it for you.

You can even identify songs playing on your PC this way—just ensure you’re not listening on headphones and your device’s microphone will pick up the audio from its speakers.

This should work the same way on Windows Phone 8.1 phones and Windows 10 phones, which also incorporate Cortana. It will even work with the Cortana app for Android and iOS.

macOS X

Now that Siri isi part of macOS X, you can use her to identify songs just like you can on the iPhone and iPad.

Open Siri—or just say “Hey, Siri” if you have that feature enabled. Say something like “What song is playing?” or “Name that tune.” Siri will listen to the song and identify it for you.

Just like on iOS devices, Siri is powered by Shazam. If you have Shazam installed, you can jump right to the song in the Shazam app, but you don’t need to have the Shazam app to use Siri’s song identification.

Windows 7, Linux, Chrome OS, and Anything With a Web Browser

Midomi.com is a web-based tool provided by a SoundHound—a Shazam competitor. This is the closest thing there is a to a web-based version of Shazam.

This tool instructs you to “sing or hum” a particular song, but you don’t have to do that. Play the actual song for your computer’s microphone to hear and it will identify the song.

As with the above tools, Midomo can pick up audio coming from your computer’s speakers, so you can use it to identify a song playing on the computer itself.


Obviously, song identification relies on matching the song to which you’re listening to a fingerprint of that recorded song in a database somewhere. It generally won’t work with songs being played live, and it may not work on songs if there’s a lot of other noise around. If you can hear some of the lyrics, just plugging them into Google or another search engine often works wonders. Try enclosing the lyrics in quotes to find pages containing just those specific phrases. You’ll hopefully find lyrics pages associated with that particular song.

Image Credit: brett jordan on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.