Name That Tune

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - 02:48 PM

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.

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Comments [13]

Paul and M Cole,

It was Percy Grainger's Handel in the Strand. You can listen to it here:

Jun. 21 2011 04:36 PM
M Cole from Arizona

Hello Paul,

Did you ever find out what the piano piece was that Steve Post used as an intro to his Morning Music show?

Jun. 21 2011 12:15 AM

Can anyone tell me the name of the piano piece that Steve Post used to play at the start of his "Morning Music" program?

Jan. 19 2011 11:21 PM

For better or worse, the tunes I wind up humming are those I heard on WQXR. Thank god for the music log!

Dec. 16 2010 02:32 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Composers, like literary writers, worry sometimes that what they have written sounds too "pat," too stream of consciousness facile. "Is this my own invention, my own melodic sequence or harmonic progression, it came so easily to mind?" But, by consistent daily writing scheduling, a pattern gathers into focus considerable material. Especially in today's diverse media attractions, one need never be concerned about not having enough material for a novel, an opera, or a play or movie.

Nov. 22 2010 07:09 PM
Michael Meltzer

Irv Flynn:
Simone Dinnerstein, terrific pianist.
If you go to the playlist page, even though it's out-of-order, and look to the right, you'll see a calendar. Click on the back-date you want and it takes you to that day's playlist.

Nov. 20 2010 03:27 AM

Today, 11/19 at about 5 pm, WQXR played a performance of Bach's French Suites on the piano, but I don't believe that the pianist was identified. Can anybody tell me who it was? Thanks. Irv Flinn

Nov. 19 2010 11:23 PM
peter O'Malley

I tried the "Pilgrim's Chorus" from "Tannhauser" as my first try (on Flash Piano), and it got it!

Nov. 18 2010 03:06 PM
Z. Cholewinski

DOH! Hiding in plain view, but not in Texas!

Nov. 17 2010 11:01 PM
Z. Cholewinski

I'd appreciate someone disclosing the URL in question for those of us who missed the show.

Nov. 17 2010 10:51 PM

Fascinating. I'll try it. I know a tune from Carmina Burana that fits five or six other compositions.

Nov. 17 2010 12:46 AM
Talia from Bronx

i love how you have a "name that tune" section, it seems so fun! When beethoven comes on sometimes, i can easily name it!

Nov. 16 2010 06:37 PM
Michael Meltzer

Interesting. I used to be called on to do the identifying, several times a day, and the secret of being successful at it is that of the thousands of tunes, only a few hundred are really "catchy," and those requests are repeated over and over.
It sounds like someone has taken the old out-of-print Barlow & Morganstern "Dictionary of Musical Themes" and digitalized it.

Nov. 16 2010 03:23 PM

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