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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Ever Marvel How the Shazam Algorithm Works? Specific Instances

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Your cellphone’s capacity to determine any music it listens to is pure technological magic. On this article, I am going to present you the way one of the crucial widespread apps, Shazam, does it. Now, curiously, the founders of Shazam launched a paper documenting the way it works in 2003, and I personally have been engaged on an open supply implementation of that paper, on a challenge I referred to as abracadabra.

The place the paper does not clarify one thing, I’ll fill within the gaps with how abracadabra approaches it. I’ve additionally included hyperlinks to the corresponding a part of the abracadabra codebase in related sections so you possibly can comply with alongside in Python in the event you choose.

Granted, the cutting-edge has moved on since this paper was revealed, and Shazam has in all probability advanced its algorithm because it was acquired by Apple in 2018. Nonetheless, the core ideas of audio identification methods haven’t modified, and the accuracy you possibly can get hold of utilizing the unique Shazam methodology is spectacular.

To get essentially the most out of this text, you need to perceive:

  • Frequency and pitch

    Frequency is “how typically” one thing occurs, or the variety of cycles a soundwave completes in a second, measured in hertz (Hz). Pitch is the human notion of the frequency of sound, with larger frequencies being heard as larger pitches and decrease frequencies as decrease pitches.

  • Waves

    Waveforms are just like the shapes or patterns that sound makes when you can see it. They present how the air strikes forwards and backwards when one thing makes a noise.

  • Graphs and axes

    Graphs are photos that present data utilizing strains, dots, or bars. Axes are the 2 strains on a graph that show you how to see the place the data belongs, with one line often going facet to facet (horizontal) and the opposite going up and down (vertical).

What’s Shazam?

Shazam is an app that may determine songs simply by listening to a brief pattern. Once you hear a music and surprise, “What’s that music?”, you need to use Shazam to rapidly discover out its title and artist. The app has confirmed widespread sufficient – with over 200 million world customers each month – that it caught Apple’s consideration and it was acquired in 2018.

You’ll be able to open Shazam whereas music is enjoying, and the app will file just a few seconds of audio which it makes use of to go looking its database. As soon as it identifies the music that is enjoying, it’ll show the end result on display screen.

Earlier than Shazam was an app, it was a cellphone quantity. To determine a music, you’ll ring up the quantity and maintain your cellphone’s microphone to the music. After 30 seconds, Shazam would grasp up after which textual content you particulars on the music you had been listening to. In case you had been utilizing a cell phone again in 2002, you will perceive that the standard of cellphone calls again then made this a difficult activity!

Why is music recognition exhausting?

If you have not achieved a lot sign processing earlier than, it is probably not apparent why it is a tough downside to unravel. To assist in giving you an thought, check out the next audio:

The above graph reveals what Chris Cornell’s “Like a Stone” seems to be like when saved in a pc. Now check out the next part of the observe:

2023 10 29 image 3

In case you wished to inform whether or not this part of audio got here from the observe above, you can use a brute-force methodology. For instance, you can slide the part of audio alongside the observe and see if it matches at any level:

This might be a bit sluggish, however it might work. Now think about that you simply did not know which observe this audio got here from, and also you had a database of 10 million songs to go looking. This might take rather a lot longer!

What’s worse, once you transfer from this toy instance to samples which can be recorded by way of a microphone you introduce background noise, frequency results, amplitude adjustments and extra. All of those can change the form of the audio considerably. The sliding methodology simply does not work that properly for this downside.

2023 10 29 image 3

Fortunately, Shazam’s strategy is rather a lot smarter than that. Within the subsequent part, you will see the high-level overview of how this works.

System overview

If Shazam does not take the sliding strategy we described above, what does it do?

Check out the next high-level diagram:

2023 10 29 image 2

The very first thing you’ll discover is that the diagram is cut up up into register and acknowledge flows. The register movement remembers a music to allow it to be acknowledged sooner or later. The acknowledge movement identifies a brief part of audio.

Registering a music and figuring out some audio share a number of commonality. The next sections will go into extra element, however each flows have the next steps:

  • Calculate the spectrogram of the music/audio. This can be a graph of frequency towards time. We’ll discuss extra about spectrograms later.
  • Discover peaks in that spectrogram. These symbolize the loudest frequencies within the audio and can assist us construct a fingerprint.
  • Hash these peaks. In brief, this implies pairing peaks as much as make a greater fingerprint.

After calculating these hashes, the register movement will retailer them within the database. The acknowledge movement will examine them to hashes already within the database to determine which music is enjoying by way of the matching step. Within the subsequent few sections, you will study extra about every of those steps.

Calculating a spectrogram

Step one for each flows is to acquire a spectrogram of the audio being registered or acknowledged. To grasp spectrograms, you first have to know Fourier transforms.

The Fourier remodel

A Fourier remodel takes some audio and tells you which ones frequencies are current in that audio. For instance, in the event you took a 20 Hertz sine wave and used the Fourier remodel on it, you’ll see a giant spike round 20 Hertz (Hz):

2023 10 19 image 4

Within the above picture, you possibly can see a big spike round 20Hz and nothing at different frequencies. Sine waves are sometimes referred to as pure tones due to this property, since they solely include a single frequency.

The results of a Fourier remodel known as a frequency spectrum. We are saying that once you take the Fourier remodel of a sign, you progress it from the time area into the frequency area. These are fancy phrases for describing whether or not time or frequency is alongside the underside of a graph. In mathematical phrases, the area is kind of the X-axis of a graph.

The Y-axis of the frequency spectrum represents the power of every frequency element. If a frequency element is stronger, then it is going to be extra audible within the time-domain sign.

In case you had been so as to add a 50Hz sine wave at half the power to that 20Hz sine wave, the ensuing frequency spectrum would present a spike at 20Hz and a smaller spike at 50Hz:

2023 10 19 image 5

As you possibly can see, including a number of audio waves collectively combines the frequencies current in them. In reality, all audio alerts could be reconstructed from waves like this. For extra, check out this video on the Fourier remodel.

One nice property of the frequency area is that it typically helps us to see issues that are not clear within the time area. For instance, in the event you take the sign with two frequencies from earlier than and add noise to it, within the time area it seems to be visually very totally different. Nonetheless, within the frequency area, the 2 spikes are nonetheless very clear:

2023 10 19 image 6

Within the frequency area graph on the precise, you possibly can nonetheless clearly see the spikes for the principle element frequencies. It could be tougher within the time area to see what frequency sine waves went into the sign.

Up till now, our examples have solely contained one or two frequencies, however what occurs in the event you put a extra complicated sign by way of the Fourier remodel? Let’s check out our part of audio from Like a Stone:

2023 10 19 image 7

Actual audio recordsdata just like the one above include a lot of totally different frequencies. This can be a good factor, because it signifies that the frequencies current can uniquely determine songs.


In case you run a Fourier remodel over a whole music, then you will note the power of the frequencies current over the entire music (see the abracadabra implementation). Nonetheless, the frequencies which can be current change over time. To raised symbolize the frequencies altering over time, we have to cut up the music into small sections earlier than taking the Fourier remodel. That is referred to as taking a spectrogram.

This is a simplified animation of how spectrograms work:

Within the above animation, you possibly can see that the music is first cut up into small sections. Subsequent, we use the Fourier remodel to calculate the frequency spectrum of every of those sections. Once you put all these frequency spectrums collectively, you get a spectrogram.

To make this concrete, let’s check out the spectrogram of Like a Stone:

2023 10 19 image 8

Although the spectrogram seems to be 2-dimensional, it is truly a 3D graph with the next axes:

  • Time (X-axis)
  • Frequency (Y-axis)
  • Energy (Z-axis/colour)

The Z-axis is represented by colour within the spectrogram above. Vibrant inexperienced reveals a excessive magnitude for a specific frequency element and darkish blue reveals a low magnitude.

Trying on the spectrogram above, you possibly can see that the brightest spots (strongest frequencies) nearly solely happen beneath 5000Hz. That is fairly widespread with music, for instance most pianos have a frequency vary of 27Hz-4186Hz.

The frequencies current in a observe include a number of figuring out data, and calculating the spectrogram permits us entry to that data. Within the subsequent part, you will find out how we flip all that data into a singular fingerprint for the observe.


Simply as a fingerprint uniquely identifies an individual, we will extract a singular fingerprint for some audio from its spectrogram.

These audio fingerprints depend on discovering peaks within the spectrogram. These peaks are the loudest frequencies at a while within the music. As a result of they’re loud, it is seemingly they will survive when subjected to noise or different distortions.

Within the subsequent part, you will learn some extra in regards to the motivation behind utilizing spectrogram peaks to construct fingerprints.

Why is the fingerprint based mostly on spectrogram peaks?

A spectrogram peak is a frequency that’s loud in some unspecified time in the future in an audio sign. You’ll be able to acknowledge these on a spectrogram since they would be the brightest factors.

In music, these would symbolize the loudest notes. For instance, throughout a guitar solo, the notes that the guitar is enjoying may turn into spectrogram peaks since they’d seemingly be the loudest notes at the moment.

A spectrogram peak is the purpose least prone to be affected by noise. Noise must be louder than the spectrogram peak to make it unrecognizable and the spectrogram peaks are the loudest frequency parts within the observe.

To make this visible, check out our earlier instance of a Fourier remodeled sign that had noise added to it. When noise is added, the frequency peaks nonetheless retain their tough form.

2023 10 19 image 9

One other benefit of utilizing spectrogram peaks to fingerprint audio is that they lower down the quantity of information now we have to retailer. Storing solely the loudest frequency parts means we do not have to retailer all the pieces else. This hurries up looking out fingerprints since there’s much less information to look by way of.

Earlier than we will use frequency peaks in our fingerprint although, now we have to seek out them. Within the subsequent part, you will find out how.

Discovering peaks

As mentioned within the earlier part, the peaks of a spectrogram symbolize the strongest frequencies in a sign. For frequency peaks to be usable in an audio fingerprint, it is necessary that they’re evenly spaced by way of the spectrogram (see the abracadabra implementation).

It is necessary the peaks are evenly spaced in time, so the system can acknowledge any part of the music. For instance, if all of the peaks had been firstly of the music, then the fingerprint would not cowl later sections:

2023 10 19 image 2

Within the picture above, all of the peaks (white crosses) are clustered firstly of the music. Which means the system cannot acknowledge any pattern from the remainder of the music.

It is also necessary that the peaks are evenly spaced in frequency, so the system can take care of noise and frequency distortion. Generally noise shall be very loud and concentrated at a particular frequency vary, for instance a automobile horn within the background:

Within the above animation, the peaks are well-spaced in time, however are clustered right into a small frequency band. When a loud noise is launched, for instance a automobile horn, it may well make a whole part of music unrecognizable by altering which peaks are chosen.

To seek out spectrogram peaks whereas conserving them well-spaced, we will borrow a method from picture processing referred to as a most filter. The method seems to be one thing like the next:

  • Use the utmost filter to focus on peaks within the spectrogram.
  • Find the highlighted peaks by evaluating to our unique spectrogram.
  • (Optionally available) Discard some peaks.

Let’s run by way of these steps one-by-one. First, let’s check out how the utmost filter works:

Step 1: Most filter

A most filter emphasizes the peaks in a picture. It does this by trying in a neighborhood round every pixel for the utmost worth after which setting the pixel to that native most. The next animation reveals a most filter that appears at a 3×3 neighborhood round every pixel:

As you possibly can see within the above animation, the utmost filter takes every pixel of a picture in flip and finds the utmost in a area surrounding it. The filtered pixel is then set to that native most. This has the impact of increasing every native peak to its surrounding space.

Operating a most filter on Like a Stone’s spectrogram offers the next end result:

2023 10 19 image 10

The utmost-filtered spectrogram seems to be like a lower-resolution model of the unique spectrogram. It is because the peaks within the sign have expanded and brought over the opposite pixels. Every field with the identical colour within the filtered picture corresponds to an area peak within the unique picture.

The utmost filter has a parameter that controls the dimensions of the field to make use of when discovering the native maxima. Once you set this parameter to make a smaller field, you find yourself getting extra peaks. Equally, by setting this parameter bigger you get fewer peaks.

Step 2: Recuperate unique peaks

The utmost filter does not do all of the work for us. The filter has emphasised the native peaks, however it hasn’t discovered their areas. To seek out the height areas, we have to discover the factors which have equal values within the unique spectrogram and the filtered spectrogram.

The concept behind this trick is that each one the non-peak factors within the spectrogram have been changed by their native peaks, so their values have modified. The one factors whose values have not modified are the peaks.

Beneath is a zoomed in part of the spectrogram above. The factors the place the values are equal within the filtered and unique spectrograms are highlighted:

2023 10 19 image 11

As you possibly can see within the pictures above, the highlighted factors the place the 2 spectrograms are equal correspond to the native peaks of that a part of the picture.

Plotting the entire peaks collectively produces one thing referred to as a constellation map. This is the constellation map for Like a Stone:

2023 10 19 image 12

These graphs are referred to as constellation maps since they give the impression of being a bit like a picture of the evening sky. Who mentioned laptop science could not be romantic?

Step 3: (Optionally available) Discard peaks

As soon as now we have a constellation map of peaks, the following step is to doubtlessly discard some. The scale of our fingerprint depends on the variety of peaks that we use in it. Maintaining fingerprints small issues when you find yourself storing tens of millions of songs in your database.

Nonetheless, by lowering the variety of peaks we use, we scale back the accuracy of our system. Fewer peaks in a fingerprint imply fewer possibilities to match a pattern to the right music.

There are a few choices for lowering the variety of peaks in our fingerprint:

  • Take the highest N peaks. N ought to be proportional to the size of audio that you’re fingerprinting to keep away from over-representing shorter songs.
  • Take all peaks above a sure threshold. This does not assure you a sure fingerprint dimension per time like the opposite methodology, however could give extra correct outcomes.

Now we have nearly completed setting up our fingerprint, the following step is to supply a set of hashes from our peaks.


To inspire hashing, think about that our fingerprint was only a assortment of spectrogram peaks. Every peak’s frequency could be represented by a sure variety of bits, for instance 10. With 10 bits of knowledge, we will symbolize 2^10=1024 particular person frequencies. With 1000’s of those factors per observe, we rapidly get a number of repeats (see the abracadabra implementation).

Uniqueness is necessary for a fingerprint, because it makes looking out rather a lot sooner and helps to acknowledge extra songs. Shazam’s answer to the issue of uniqueness is to create hashes from pairs of peaks:

2023 10 19 image 11

The diagram above reveals a zoomed in portion of a spectrogram. Every circle represents a peak and the dashed line field represents a hash. You’ll be able to see {that a} hash is shaped of two peaks. The knowledge that’s recorded for every hash is the frequency of every peak, fA and fB, and the time delta between them, ΔT.

The benefit of pairing factors up is that two paired factors are far more distinctive than a single level. Taking a look at it mathematically, if every level has 10 bits of frequency data, and the time delta between the 2 factors might be represented by 10 bits, then you’ve gotten 30 bits of knowledge. 2^30=1073741824 which is considerably bigger than 1024 prospects for a single level.

Shazam creates pairs utilizing the next algorithm:

  • Decide a degree. This shall be referred to as the anchor level.
  • Calculate a goal zone of the spectrogram for the anchor level.
  • For each level within the goal zone, create a pair with the anchor level.

You’ll be able to see this algorithm illustrated within the following animation:

Selecting a goal zone is not described within the Shazam paper, however the pictures the paper accommodates present it as beginning barely forward of time of the anchor level and being centered on the anchor level’s frequency.

As soon as a pair has been created, it’s saved as a hash within the database with the next data:

    Different data
Level A freq (fA)Level B freq (fB)Time delta (ΔT)Level A timeObserve ID

The primary three columns (fA, fB and ΔT) make up the hash. The “Different data” is used to find the hash at a particular time in a music. This shall be utilized in matching later.

All the hashes for a specific observe make up the fingerprint. Within the subsequent part, you will examine how Shazam matches these fingerprints.


Given a set of fingerprints in a database, how does Shazam work out which one a given audio pattern matches? That is the place the matching a part of the system is available in.

Recall the system diagram from earlier:

2023 10 29 image 2

The acknowledge and register flows each generate fingerprints. The distinction lies in what they do with them. Whereas the register movement shops fingerprints away for future matching, the acknowledge movement has to match its fingerprint with what’s already within the database.

The matching algorithm accommodates the next steps:

  • Retrieve all hashes from the database that match the pattern’s fingerprint.
  • Group these hashes by music.
  • For every music, work out if the hashes line up.
  • Select the observe with essentially the most lined up hashes.

We’ll take a look at every of those steps in flip.

Step 1: Retrieve matching hashes

Step one is to seek out each hash within the database that matches a hash within the fingerprint we simply created (abracadabra implementation). Although a hash is a 3-tuple of (fA, fB, ΔT), abracadabra shops this as hash(fA, fB, ΔT) the place hash() is a hash perform that returns a single worth.

This manner you solely need to seek for a single worth per hash as a substitute of three.

Step 2: Group hashes by music

Recall the format of a person hash within the database:

    Different data
Level A freq (fA)Level B freq (fB)Time delta (ΔT)Level A timeObserve ID

Due to the observe ID that we related to every hash, we will group the hashes by observe. This permits us to attain every doubtlessly matching observe.

Step 3: Work out if hashes line up

abracadabra implementation

If a pattern matches a music, then the hashes current in that pattern ought to line up properly with the hashes in some part of that music. The diagram beneath illustrates what this might appear to be:

2023 10 19 image 13

Within the above diagram, a pattern has been lined up with the part of the unique music that it got here from. The blue factors symbolize the anchor factors of the hashes.

Whereas the above diagram reveals the proper state of affairs, there’s a probability that the matching hashes from the database do not line up completely. For instance, noise may have launched peaks within the pattern that resemble peaks at a unique level within the music. This will result in the next state of affairs:

2023 10 19 image 14

Within the above diagram, the purple circles symbolize hashes that match to factors within the music outdoors the part the pattern got here from. On this state of affairs, it is tougher to see that the pattern is an ideal match for the music.

What’s worse, generally hashes can match to the fallacious music! That is the place checking that the hashes lineup is available in.

To clarify how we will verify whether or not the hashes line up in code, let us take a look at an instance. Lets say that we have got a listing of matching hashes from the database and grouped them by observe. For a given observe, we will then verify the time that the hash happens within the unique observe towards the time that the hash happens within the pattern.

Pattern timeObserve timeObserve time – Pattern time

Within the above desk, you possibly can see that each one the matches with a Observe time – Pattern time of 10 have been highlighted. These are the true matches, whereas the opposite two rows are false matches. To see that is the case, let us take a look at an identical diagram to those we noticed earlier than:

2023 10 19 image 15

The above diagram accommodates the identical hashes from the earlier desk. As you possibly can see, the true matches have a Observe time – Pattern time that is the same as how far into the observe time that the pattern begins.

To see how we flip this right into a rating for the observe, let’s make this information right into a histogram. A histogram is a flowery title for a bar chart. We will plot every Observe time – Pattern time towards the variety of instances it happens:

2023 10 19 image 13

Every bar within the histogram above is known as a bin. To attain a music on how good a match it’s for an audio pattern, we simply must take the biggest bin. Songs that are not good matches may have low values in all bins, whereas a music that is a great match may have a big spike in one of many bins.

This manner we will examine a pattern to all of the songs with matching hashes in our database and rating every of them. The music with the best rating is prone to be the right end result.

You may surprise why we do not simply go for the music that matches the biggest variety of hashes as it might be a lot easier to implement. The issue with this strategy is that not all songs are the identical size. Longer songs are prone to get extra matches than shorter songs and when some Spotify tracks are over 4 hours lengthy this will actually bias your outcomes.


Properly achieved for making it this far, that was an extended journey! Over the course of this text, you’ve got realized how Shazam extracts fingerprints from audio, and the way it matches these fingerprints to people who it has already registered in its database.

To summarize, Shazam does the next to register a music:

  • Calculates a spectrogram of a music
  • Extracts peaks from that spectrogram
  • Pairs these peaks up into hashes
  • Shops the gathering of hashes for a music as a fingerprint

Shazam does the next to acknowledge an audio pattern:

  • Calculates a fingerprint of the audio pattern
  • Finds the hashes that match that fingerprint within the database
  • For every potential music match:
    • Calculate Observe time – Pattern time for every matching hash
    • Group these values right into a histogram
    • Take the biggest bin on this histogram because the rating for the music
  • Return the music with the best rating

Enter abracadabra

I realized all the pieces written right here over the method of writing abracadabra, my implementation of this paper. In case you are fascinated by seeing what this may appear to be in code, please have a look!

Every part is open supply and I’ve achieved my finest to doc the challenge. abracadabra can be used as a library in different initiatives, so please be happy to remix and construct one thing cool. In case you do use it, I might love to listen to about it.

Additional studying

If you wish to discover out extra about something talked about on this article, have a look beneath. I’ve additionally scattered some useful hyperlinks all through the web page.

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