You’re waiting for a bus, or maybe in the shower, when you find yourself humming a part of a song that sounds familiar, but that you can’t name either by title or artist. You’re not sure where you heard it. You’re not even sure you have the right lyrics. And it doesn’t go away. It stays in your head, on repeat, for hours. Days even. No one you know can recall anything about it, either. The guy at the record store draws a blank. And all the while, you are slowly dying inside, your nerves frayed, cursing the very invention of music itself.
Finally, technology has put an answer to this hell on earth right on your iPhone.
Today I decided to test “Midomi,” a recent music search application from Melodis Corporation that lets you identify information about a song by entering what you know about it into a 15 million-song database, as well as hear and purchase the song itself (for the latter, a link sends you to the iTunes store). The app is free to download and use, and has features similar to the popular app Shazam, but with several exclusive functions, including one truly exceptional innovation.
According to Keyvan Mohajer, president and CEO of Melodis, "No other music search application available today comes close to providing the level of functionality that Midomi mobile can.” He adds that: "Midomi mobile is the only music search application that supports more than two search formats, and the only one that allows users to search for music by singing or humming.”
That’s right, you can hum or sing a half-remembered piece of a song in order to bring up its title, artist, and other information. I decided to test this function while standing in line at a coffee shop.
Once you open the app, you’re given four search options (five, if you count the “Bookmarks,” which you can create as you search). The first option is “Sing”: You hit the Tap Bar and sing or hum a portion of a song, ideally 10 seconds or more. My tune of choice was the very topical “Mamma Mia.” I tried singing it a few times, without any success, each time slightly louder. The barista was nice enough to ignore me. Others in line were not.
But I kept trying, using the phone on the Edge network. The app crashed several times, but when I switched to the Wi-Fi connection I had better luck. By this point, I had chosen another song: Rufus Wainwright’s “Cigarettes and Coffee and Milk.” If you’re one step ahead of me, you know this is not actually the title of the song. But Midomi was smarter than I. That’s right, even singing the wrong lyrics, I still got the right song, “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk,” at the top of a list that also included two lovely songs in Japanese and one by The Shins, all vaguely related to the information I’d inputted (in and of itself a fun use of this app).
After that, I tried several more songs, with different levels of success. My version of Beck’s “Qué Onda Güero” returned a strange list of matches including songs by Pavarotti, Justin Timberlake, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Something similar happened with Aimee Mann’s “One,” but I was much luckier with “Que Sera Sera” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (my apologies, but being from the South American country, I just had to try it). I found this feature pretty impressive, in spite of the few mismatches.
The other two options exclusive to Midomi allow you to “Type” or “Say” the name of the song or artist and access the same kind of list. Personally, I find these functions less useful than “Sing,” since the kind of secondary information this provides is easily available online.
The final option on Midomi is “Grab.” This is similar to Shazam’s “Tag” function; It lets you identify songs by pointing the iPhone toward a speaker, TV set, or anything reproducing an actual song. While Midomi was a bit of a hit or miss (only 40% accuracy with the songs I tried, which included some mainstream artists and a few more obscure tracks), Shazam had an impressive 75% average.
As with Shazam, you can find YouTube videos using any of the searches, and, as I mentioned before, buy the songs from iTunes with a simple click. In addition to this, Midomi allows you to share your findings by sending an email to anyone in your contacts, which includes a link to the song on Midomi’s site. The app has many more features worth exploring, such as “Artist Bio” (which I found to be well researched), “Find Similar Artists” (very useful), and “Find Fans from Midomi.com” (fun for people interested in being part of the Midomi community).
But Midomi’s strength is clearly the voice-recognition feature, which remarkably tracked down even a tango I sang in Spanish!
Bottom Line: Although it has some gains to be made in terms of recognition accuracy, Midomi is still an impressive application, thoughtfully designed, and may just keep you from suffering bouts of insanity while at the mercy of some half-remembered tune. A potential lifesaver.
And did I mention it’s free?