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How Does Hum to Search on YouTube Music Work? All About It

Photo by Alvaro Reyes / Unsplash

Before, remembering or finding a song without knowing its lyrics took a long time. Now, YouTube, owned by Google, makes finding songs much quicker. The company recently launched a new feature on YouTube that lets people look for a song by humming or recording a part of it.

This isn’t entirely new for Google, as it rolled out a similar feature in the Google app and Google Assistant in 2020. The YouTube version uses the same technology but it's faster. It only takes a few seconds to figure out what song it is compared to the 10-15 seconds needed by the Google app and Assistant.

Let’s take a look at how this feature works and how you can use it.

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On YouTube, there will soon be a feature called Hum to Search which allows you to find songs by humming, singing, or recording a short snippet of the melody (minimum three seconds). The technology behind it matches the user’s input to the unique melody of the song and presents related videos. The music content can be either official music videos or content created by users.

As of now, this feature is in the testing phase and is accessible to several Android users.

How Does It Work?

When you hum or sing a melody into the engine, it uses advanced machine learning models to analyze the audio. These models are trained to convert the melody into a unique number-based sequence, like a fingerprint for that specific song. This sequence captures the essence of the melody while removing other details like instruments and the voice’s characteristics.

Next, this number-based sequence is compared against a massive database of song fingerprints from all around the world. This comparison happens in real-time and allows the system to identify potential matches for the hummed melody. For example, if you hum a part of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, the system can identify that distinctive melody pattern, even if your hum isn’t an identical match to the original recording.

This technology builds on previous work like Google’s Now Playing feature on Pixel phones. Those devices used deep neural networks to recognize music with low power consumption. Over time, the technology has evolved to recognize songs based solely on their melody.

How to Use the Hum to Search Feature

After extensive testing by Android users, here’s how you’ll be able to use Hum to Search feature:

  1. Open YouTube Music, tap the search bar, then click on the microphone icon.
  2. You’ll see two options: Voice and Song. Choose Song.
  3. Sing or hum the choices you’re looking for. The feature will quickly analyze your audio and compare it to the millions of tracks in its database, finding the exact or a closely matching song.

You’ll need to grant microphone access for this feature to work. If you’ve denied microphone permissions before, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Android Settings from your phone’s menu.
  2. In settings, navigate to Apps and Notifications.
  3. Find the YouTube app and click on its settings.
  4. Go to Permissions.
  5. Turn on the microphone permission.
  6. Return to the YouTube app, and you can now search using your voice.

If it’s your first time trying to use the microphone on the YouTube app, you’ll just receive a prompt to allow microphone permissions.

Are There Similar Search Apps?

Services like Shazam and Siri can’t identify tunes from your humming or singing. They need you to play a recorded part of the song for them to recognize it.

Google’s Hum to Search’ feature, which powers the one on YouTube, is a great way to find songs by humming. You can use it by tapping the microphone in Google’s app and saying “What’s this song?” or by selecting “Search a Song.” Just hum for about 10-15 seconds. Android users can search in many languages, and iPhone users can only search in English. It might not always get it right away, but it’s pretty good otherwise.

SoundHound has a similar feature, too, which gives you another option to find songs with your voice.

Are There Any Other New Services Coming on YouTube?

Yes, there is a whole page about YouTube test features and experiments. For example, they are testing generative AI features:

  • Comment topics summarized by AI — Helping users see themes in large comment sections more easily.
  • Conversational AI tool — Allowing users to ask questions about videos they watch. This tool is designed to provide more interactive and informative experiences for viewers.

Other experiments are a vertical live feed, Playables (games on YouTube), automatic ‘key concepts’ in learning videos, and Shorts with viewer-created comments, among many others.

Accessible Voice Search Features on YouTube

While many of us wait for the widespread rollout of Hum to Search on YouTube, everyone can already use voice commands. Of course, you’ll need to know the name of the song because it functions as a normal search tool where you speak instead of typing the exact query.

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For Android:

  1. Open the search function.
  2. Press the microphone icon. Grant permission for the microphone to be used.
  3. Your device will start recording your voice immediately.
  4. Tap to stop the recording when you’re finished.
  5. Use the X button to cancel or go back.

For iOS:

  1. Go to the search bar.
  2. Tap on the microphone icon.
  3. The recording will start as soon as you tap the icon.
  4. To end the recording, tap the pulsing red microphone.
  5. Use the X button to go back if needed.

Final Words

It’s difficult to predict how widely accepted this feature will become. It’s been hyped up for a while now, so hopefully, it won’t be long before everyone can hum to find a song directly on YouTube. Fortunately, there are other options to explore in the meantime.