Review of Shazam for iPhone

Written iPhone Music App Review

Shazam is a free application for the iPhone, available for download from the Apple App Store.

What Shazam aims to do is to identify music (song name, artist, album) that is playing around you – on the radio, on TV or at the cinema. Almost everyone has experienced that moment when you hear a great song for the first time but don’t know what it is, or how to find out. This is where Shazam comes in.

How does Shazam work?

Shazam records a 15 or so second sound-bite from the song and then sends that information to a large music database. This database will either “tag” the song, returning information on the title and artist, or it will return a “sorry, no match could be found” message. If the song is located, you have the option to save the “tag” for future reference, buy the song directly from iTunes, view related YouTube videos, take a picture to accompany the tag and also email the tagged song to friends.

In order for Shazam to work, the iPhone must have access to the internet – via 3G, edge or Wi-Fi. The downside to this application is that it doesn’t really have any functionality for those people on phone plans without a data package or 3G network access. Unfortunately Shazam does not have the facility to record the sound-bite to submit at a later point in time.

Does Shazam actually work?
In short, yes – most of the time.

I tested the following seven tracks at a medium noise level in a quiet room:

ACDC – Highway to Hell
Kings of Leon – Revelry
Eric Prydz – Pjanoo
John Coltrane – Giant Steps
British India – Run the Red Light
Tiesto – Lovestoned (Justin Timberlake) remix
Bach – Cello Suite

The Results:
Shazam correctly identified the first four songs, but couldn’t identify British India, the Tiesto remix or Bach. These songs may not be particularly mainstream, but they certainly aren’t completely obscure. After doing some further testing, it seems popular and contemporary music is much more readily identifiable. Although unable to identify all the tracks, I was quite impressed by the accuracy of Shazam, none of the songs were mis-identified.

I found that Shazam had issues identifying tracks when there was a lot of ambient noise in the room or if the volume was very low.

Worth the download?
Definitely – if you have 3G internet access on the go. Still worth a look if you don’t – it’s free, so you can’t really go wrong. It doesn’t work all the time, but I’d still highly recommend it for music fans.


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Ocarina App for iPhone

Written iPhone Music App Review

The Ocarina application by Smule is the first true native instrument designed specifically for the iPhone, and currently one of the most popular paid downloads in the Apple App store.

If you have never heard of an ocarina before, you’re probably not alone. It is the instrument made famous by the hugely popular Zelda game on Nintendo 64, The Ocarina of Time. It’s easiest to imagine the instrument as something resembling a small flute.

How does it work?

The Ocarina application essentially turns the iPhone into a digitized version of this instrument. When you open the Ocarina application you are presented with the ‘Ocarina’ screen which is the format in which you can generate music. The screen presents four circles or “holes” – placing your fingers over which, in different combination’s, create different tones and notes.

Blowing into the microphone generates sound, and this is how you produce a note. It is remarkably sensitive to how hard you blow. Blow softly or from further away, and you will get a quiet note. Blow hard and you will get a louder note. To play a song you simply hold down the touch-sensitive circles on the screen in different combination’s. As mentioned, there are four “holes” on this instrument – giving you a total range of 16 notes.

You can also tilt the iPhone forward or to the side to create a vibrato quality to the sound.

Features and Impressions:

I had a play around with the Ocarina for awhile, but trying to work out a song is rather difficult. Thankfully Smule’s website ( has a large collection of user-generated songs that have been tabbed specifically for the iPhone Ocarina app. You will find everything from the Star Wars theme to The Beatles. The Ocarina “sheet music” is very easy to read and simply shows the finger positions for each note in the song. Thrashing out the Imperial March was rather amusing, and not really as hard as I’d initially thought it would be. What’s hard is being able to play any of the tunes without the music in front of you!

You’ll find that many of the songs on the website are set in a different key, i.e in G or in E sharp – and also in a different modes, Ionian, Zeldarian etc. Both the key and mode of the Ocarina can be changed within the application, and it’s necessary to do so if you want to be able to play certain songs.

Another cool feature of the Ocarina app is the ability to view a virtual 3D map of the world, and hear in real-time what other users are playing. You can skip between users, and the globe will rotate to show the position of the person playing, with virtual notes emanating skyward from their location. You can, if you like the tune, show them some “love” by touching the heart shaped icon on the screen. Others can do the same for you – although I am sadly yet to receive any.

The Ocarina App by Smule is available in the Apple App store online, and is priced at $0.99c.

It’s more of a massive novelty than anything else, but at that price – I’m sold.

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