YouTube could soon let you search for songs just by humming

 Woman listening to music on smartphone
Woman listening to music on smartphone

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head so often you know how it goes but not its name? Well, YouTube may one day offer a solution as the platform is testing out a new search function that will be able to identify a song just from someone humming a tune.

While that sounds too good to be true, it does appear to be part of an ongoing project to introduce Shazam-like tech to YouTube. As seen on a Google support page, the feature would allow people to look up songs either by humming, as we just mentioned, or “recording a song that’s currently being played” into the voice search tool.

The company states the humming or recording must last at least three seconds “in order for the song to be identified.” Once found, the website will bring up relevant, official content from YouTube channels, “user-generated videos”, or Shorts featuring the track.

Because it’s experimental, the platform is rolling out the test to only a “small percentage of people across the globe who watch YouTube on Android devices.” It’s unknown if it’s possible to request to join the program. We reached out to Google for more information. This story will be updated at a later time.

Old tech made new

The technology behind analyzing humming to find specific music tracks is not new. Both Google Search and Google Assistant for mobile rolled out this functionality back in 2020. YouTube’s version could well be using the same tech although it sounds like it has been vastly improved. To search for tracks on Google Assistant, for example, requires you to hum for at least 10 seconds straight versus three on YouTube.

Considering that Google is expanding its music recognition software, we can’t help but wonder if Apple will follow suit with Shazam. For the 20 some-odd years it’s been around, Shazam has relied on analyzing recordings to look up songs, never expanding its tech to include humming or singing even when it was bought out.

Apple didn’t budge when smaller, third-party music recognition apps like MusixMatch began implementing this feature. But now that a major rival is jumping into the fray, we might see the long-awaited upgrade.

Quality-of-life update

Google is also experimenting with another YouTube feature although it’s more of a quality-of-life upgrade than anything super substantial. The tech giant calls it “channel shelf”, and it will bundle together multiple uploads from your Subscription feed. Presumably, everything can be put together into a playlist of sorts. Google doesn’t explain exactly how it works.

It does explain why the company is adding this. One: YouTube wants to “make it easier for users to find” and engage with content. Two: it wants to take some of the pressure off creators who feel the need to upload videos multiple times a day. Like the humming upgrade, this is only available to “a small percentage of viewers to start.”

Listening to music on YouTube isn't the greatest experience. The platform compresses the audio, resulting in a dip in quality. You're better off listening to tracks on a proper streaming service.

With that in mind, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best music streaming services for 2023. We recommend Tidal if you want truly lossless audio.