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Hum That Tune, Then Find It on the Web

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Hum That Tune, Then Find It on the Web

Digital Life

Hum That Tune, Then Find It on the Web

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(Soundbite of music)


What is that song? What is it? You know - (humming) - what's it - is it called "Chestnuts Roasting"? Well, now, through the never-ceasing wonders on the Internet, you can finally identify that tune, you know, that one tune that's been on the tip of your tongue all day. Jay Bose is the executive vice president at Nayio, a company that's developed what they're calling humming search technology. Mr. Bose joins us from member station KQED in San Francisco.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. JAY BOSE (Executive Vice President, Nayio Media): Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: So how does this technology work?

Mr. BOSE: Well, the technology itself is actually called muGene, musical gene. And what this muGene is all about is that we can take a song in any language and convert that song into a very small mathematical abstraction of the song. And what this file is, it's a series of translations. As opposed to looking at the notes and the silences, what we look at in a song is the transitions between the different melody and pitch lines of the song. Then we are able to compare 15 seconds of humming to that database and come up with the results very quickly.

You simply hum a song to the PC microphone, and out comes the result of the search of the humming, and then you can listen to the song or download it.

SIMON: All right. Well, talk me through this a bit. What's the site I log into?

Mr. BOSE: First you would go to, N-A-Y-I-O. And you will see something on the right hand side which says a new way to search, humming search.

SIMON: Humming search. Okay, so here it is. It says humming search. I've logged in, or I've pressed that button, and humming search - start, stop and search, right?

Mr. BOSE: Exactly.

SIMON: Okay. So what do I do now?

Mr. BOSE: So what you would do is, the system expects between 10 and 15 seconds of humming.

SIMON: It says here, just press start button and begin humming, right?

Mr. BOSE: That's it.

SIMON: Okay. Well, let me try it. Ready? (Humming) Okay, should we try it? Here's search.

Mr. BOSE: Yeah, let's hit the search button.

SIMON: It says "Goodbye" by Jessica or "For the First Time" by Kenny Loggins. Perhaps my pitch is off. Can we try something here?

Mr. BOSE: Sure.

SIMON: We're going to bring Monica Villavicencio in here. She's our Kroc Fellow. She's a much better hummer than I am. Monica.

Ms. MONICA VILLAVICENCIO (Fellow, Joan B. Kroc Fellowship for Public Radio Journalism): Hi.

SIMON: Now, she's learning broadcasting. Which raises the question, why is she with us if she's trying to learn broadcasting?

Mr. BOSE: Oh, well.

SIMON: But setting that aside, we're going to have Monica hum the song that I tried to hum. Okay?

Mr. BOSE: Fair enough.

SIMON: Monica?


SIMON: It's searching. It's searching. You get to read. What's showing up here?

Ms. VILLAVICENCIO: We have "Fly Me to the Moo," by Nat King Cole, and another version by Julie London.

SIMON: So why would it successfully pick up Monica's version and not mine?

Mr. BOSE: I think that you need to be of a certain minimum caliber to be able to hum. I don't think...


Mr. BOSE: met that criteria.


Mr. BOSE: And the only reason I say that is because if you are not good at humming, or singing, we actually have a tool available on the Web site, which accurately gives you your grade and teaches you how to sing as well.

SIMON: Jay Bose is the general manager in the United States for Nayio. Mr. Bose, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. BOSE: Thank you, Scott. (Humming)

Mr. BOSE: I think you might need Monica again.

(Soundbite of song, "Fly Me to the Moon")

Ms. ASTRUD GILBERTO (Singer): (Singing) Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars. In other words, hold my hand...

SIMON: The girl from Ipanema. And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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