Reader Geoffrey Peters sent me a link to his recent project Song Search by Tapping. This is a java applet that allow you to tap out the rhythm of a song on your keyboard and the applet will try to identify the song based solely upon its rhythm. It's a neat little applet that worked well for me. It was even able to distinguish between the songs "London Bridge is Falling Down" and "Mary had a little lamb" which are practically identical. Right now the song database that is searched is very small (only 30 tunes), but Geoffrey says that they are interested in seeing how their system will scale up to much larger databases. There's a paper Song Search and Retrieval by Tapping that describes how the system works.

I've tried a number of music content query systems including systems that use query by humming and query by parsons code. The query-by-humming systems are often troublesome because getting the microphone configuration just right is hard. Parsons codes work well but are not very intuitive and can be difficult for the musically untrained to generate. I find the query-by-tapping interface to be the easiest way to query for music content.

There are some other folks who are looking at query-by-tapping systems. The BeatBank system described in this paper can identify the correct song about two-thirds of the time with a small (56 song database). The Super MBox system shows a 15% accuracy with an 11,000 song database. I'm looking forward to the day when I can use a query-by-tapping system to find that song I heard on the radio on my way to work, but given the current state of the art there's quite a ways to go before that happens.


A few months ago, I extended Melodyhound ( to also offer Query by Tapping. If you tap precisely, it works nicely. I can, for example, easily retrieve Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" (or pieces with exactly the same rhythm) among about 30,000 items.

Posted by Rainer Typke on July 12, 2006 at 09:46 PM EDT #

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