Name That Tune

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The voice mails all start out the same: a rambling apology. And they all end the same – a listener singing or humming a tune that’s been driving him/her crazy, trying to identify it. Ever since I became a classical music host, I’ve been getting those messages, and it’s always fun trying to put people out of their musical misery.

But I just stumbled on a website that could put public radio announcers out of the “name that tune” biz: MusiPedia. Its Melodyhound search engine provides several ways to hunt down an earworm that’s been bugging you, including whistling it into your computer, and “playing” it on a piano keyboard with your mouse.

And it works! Even though I entered it in the wrong key, Melodyhound came up with Beethoven’s Für Elise. The other suggestions it spits out are also interesting, especially since some of them appear above the most obvious choice (you have to be careful with notes and rhythm when you’re entering the melody).

When I keyed in Happy Birthday, the first answer I got was William Walton’s Violin Concerto, followed by the Berlioz King Lear Overture; followed by a French folk tune called Pachpi (who knew?) … followed by Happy Birthday. There’s a snippet of score and sound for each example – useful not only for checking your answer, but also for seeing and hearing how familiar tunes might be embedded in larger works (never mind that Berlioz wrote King Lear well before Happy Birthday appeared on the scene).

Is there a piece you’ve been dying to identify? Have fun! Let me know how Melodyhound works for you – and any great howlers it comes up with.