Query by humming with the vocalsearch system

William Birmingham*, Roger Dannenberg, Bryan A Pardo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Systems able to find a song based on a sung, hummed, or whistled melody are called query by humming (QBH), and are used by the VocalSearch systems. The system provides performance with the best current systems and involves a simple design and user interface. Queries are in the form of a user-supplied melody, theme, hook, instrumental riff, or some other memorable part of a piece. The typical QBH melody-comparison techniques, string alignment, n-grams, Markov models, dynamic time warping, compare monophonic melodies in the database to a monophonic query. Each song in VocalSearch's database is represented by a theme for the verse and a different theme for the chorus. The QBH system considers tens of thousands of themes. VocalSearch uses a probabilistic string-alignment algorithm to measure similarity between targets and queries. The melodic encoding used for queries and targets has a strong effect on the kinds of errors a QH system can handle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-52
Number of pages4
JournalCommunications of the ACM
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)


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