Name That Tune - Tips For When You Can't Remember The Song Title Or Artist


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For years, you have been searching for a song lodged in your brain that is driving you nuts. Unfortunately, you have forgotten both the song title and the artist and all you remember are a few words. Don’t you wish you could just name that tune once and for all so that you can get on with your life??

Below is a simple yet surprisingly effective procedure for naming that tune when all you have are a few song snippets and some hazy memories. Your search will draw from the voluminous Usenet archives which contain one of the largest repositories of searchable song fragments on the Internet.

  1. Write down the most unique words and phrases of whatever song fragments you can remember. Jog your memory by brainstorming on the following: Who? What? When? Where? Why?
    • The “who" could include the singer, the person(s) to whom the song is addressed, the subject of the song (e. g. , as in a ballad), or any other person, animal, fictional character, or even cartoon character. Tip: If you can remember any first names, surnames, nicknames, titles, and proper nouns, you may already have an important clue as to what the title of your “mystery song” could be.

    • The “what" could include any material objects, ideas, concepts, or events that may be central to the theme or otherwise contribute in some way to the story line. The possibilities here are endless, e. g. , relationships, phone numbers, first dates, current events, modes of transportation, symbolic objects, the supernatural, anatomy, flora and fauna, food and beverages, drugs and alcohol, etc. (you name it).
    • The “when" could be the time of day, a season, a day of the week, or a year.
    • The “where" could be a city, state, or country, a street address, a locale, or a direction (e. g. , East, West).
    • The “why" could be an expression of love, a social commentary, or a lament about a relationship gone sour.

  2. Try to remember other words and phrases that stand out in any way, e. g. , colors, descriptive adjectives, acronyms, numbers, greetings, foreign language words and phrases, sets of rhyming words, and incongruous, nonsensical, or bizarre phrases (e. g. , “Crystal Blue Persuasion").
  3. Pay special attention to any repeating words and phrases as may occur, e. g. , in a chorus or refrain, as they often point directly to the song title.
  4. Verify correct spellings (names can be especially tricky) and also allow for all possible alternate spellings and misspellings as often found in Usenet postings.

    Here are some alternate representations of some words often found in pop tunes: tonight/tonite; love/luv; going/gonna; want to/wanna; night/nite; out of/outa; you/ya, u; and/'n. Also, for words ending in “ing" an ending apostrophe (') is often substituted for the ending “g. " (To cover all bases, try searching on a word both with and without its ending “g. ")

  5. Right click here (to open in a new window) to access the Google Advanced Groups Search form. Enter the word “music" and up to 9 words in the “with all of the words" field.

    (Tip: To get as many search results on one page as possible select “100 messages" for number of results to display. )

  6. If your initial search results look hopeless, cut and paste your word set in the “with at least one of the words" field, leaving “music" in the “with all of the words" field.
  7. If you are getting too many hits and your song is not on the first page of search results, narrow your search using any of the following methods as appropriate.
    • Remove any unnecessary “OR"s in the search box at the top of the first page of search results.

      (To be systematic, shave off one “OR” at a time starting with the ones that are between those words about which you are most certain. )

    • If you find a group of words that occurs as a phrase in your song, enclose it in quotes.
    • Sometimes, certain common words such as “I, " “a, " “was, " and “in" may be ignored in a Google search, even when the entire phrase is enclosed in quotes. In case that happens, just repeat your search with a “+" sign in front of any word that was ignored the first time around.
  8. Repeat Step 7 as necessary. It is generally best to experiment with one permutation at a time. As you try different combinations, this will further jog your memory and you can weed out any words you discover to be incorrect.
  9. If your first word set does not pan out, try a new set or change one or more words in your original set (e. g. , see the tips above on alternate word spellings).
  10. Repeat Steps 5-9 until you find your song (hurray!). If you have no luck with Google Groups repeat your search on Google. Good luck in your song search!
Amy Gold
(c) Copyright 2005,

Amy Gold is the webmaster of . Visit her website where you can search and browse thousands of song titles from 1960-1975 with links to audio clips. Her website also has interviews, RSS feeds, and many tips and resources of interest to oldies music collectors and other music hobbyists.


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