Audiophiles are using Google voice search to track down samples in songs

Even samples that have been ‘chopped and screwed’

Sure, you might be humming into voice search or using the handy Now Playing feature on your Pixel to dig up songs playing at the cafe or stuck inside your head. But it can do so much more than just that. Take sampling for instance: prevalent in hip-hop, but found in many genres heavy on post-production, samples can be used as tablesetters to new beats, homages to idols, and even the occasional adversarial callout. Curious legions of listeners have devoted themselves over the years to find where those samples came from. Nowadays, they’re taking advantage of a newly-supercharged weapon and that’s Google voice search.

To be clear, Shazam, SoundHound, and the other music ID apps have played big roles in helping people sniff out samples for a long time. But the story of how Google’s coming out on top here comes from TrackLib, a sampling database and clearance house, with a post on its blog chronicling how some sample nerds from the Discord server “Sample Hunting” have been able to harness the power of machine learning and the depths of an internet search engine to identify more and more samples.

“When Google Assistant helped me find ‘South City Midnight Lady’ by The Doobie Brothers as a guitar sample in [Daft Punk’s] ‘Face to Face’ in late 2021, I realized that this method could be huge,” said server founder lobelia. “Especially because, at that point, we didn’t even know that sound was a separate sample. We actually thought it was part of another sampled record.”

That raw power was already impressive enough, but a bit of refining really amped things up by several degrees. The method? Server member DJPizza fired up Bluestacks on a PC and used that instance of Android to feed clips directly to Google voice search — that’s clean sound with the option to clean it up even further with all the desktop programs available.

“I was mostly trying out a few Todd Edwards samples that I’d been looking for at the time. To my surprise, Google Assistant’s song recognition found most of them,” DJPizza said. “Google Assistant can even detect samples less than a second long, and is usually able to detect samples that have been chopped or time-stretched.”

Apparently, that’s far better than what Shazam can do.

In recent times, hunters had been coming up dry on new discoveries within the famously sample-laden “Face to Face.” Over the course of one night, however, with the help of voice search, the crew was able to find about a dozen samples, Lobelia recalls.

Google uses the exabytes of audio data it’s gathered over time along with its powerful machine-powered fingerprinting tools to do lots of things from helping people get in touch with songs they’re trying to remember to enforcing digital media rights on YouTube only seconds after an upload is ingested. Necessarily, the company has had to build a variety of licensing relationships with publishers, so it’s not as if sample discovery is going to rock boats in the corporate world. But it’s amazing nonetheless to see devoted listeners find new ways to connect with their favorite artists as well as the music that inspired them.

Thanks: Armando

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