Digital Digging: Tools for Sonic Exploration
While vinyl digging feeds the more active and social form of music exploration, a majority of us are now neck-deep in the digital music game. And for the hungry, the accessibility and bottomlessness of the internet opens up infinite rabbit holes to uncharted musical worlds. Below are a few tools that took me on many a voyage and I thought I would share to set others on their way. Please feel free to throw up any other sonic knowledge dropping tools in the comments section. This is all for the love of learning.
SoundHound changed the whole exploration game for me. This app is able to identify songs through the microphone on your smartphone. A tap captures a snippet of audio and pulls the label of the song, artist, & album. The tags are accurate and it’s rare for SoundHound to be stumped by the track you are attempting to identify. Once identified, you can check lyrics, music videos, or explore further with integrated online radio services (Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, Beats, etc). My SoundHound tagged songs get automatically added to their own Spotify playlist in my account. This has brought so many new songs, artists, genres into my life while making it easy to dig deeper through Spotify.
This more popular song identifying app shares many features with SoundHound. I find SoundHound has a higher return rate and tends to be ahead of the curve in adding useful features. However, it still serves as a capable pinch hitter when SoundHound doesn’t get the job done.
Who Sampled is an online database dedicated to identifying sampled music within songs. Both a website and an app, this site gives you the full run down on samples. Specifically detailing all the samples within the song, what time they appear, the original artists, others tracks that sample the same song, etc. For any hip-hop head inspired by sample flips, this is the ultimate gateway to the originals.
Second Hand Songs: Covers as WhoSampled: Samples. This site puts to bed those questions about who performed a song first. It provides the original release, writing credits, and all subsequent releases listed by year. The site still seems like it has a while to go before it gets to the levels of WhoSampled and Discogs, but it still can solve many a mystery in the meantime.
The ultimate in mad world knowledge is Discogs. While a big piece of this site is dedicated to serving as an online marketplace for vinyl, cd’s, etc, Discogs also serves as the web’s best music encyclopedia. It has a massive database providing fully detailed breakdowns of artists’ discography, release years, track listings, record labels, and such. Nothing has advanced my knowledge of music more than this site. If you’re after hard-to-find vinyl or any piece of information about any piece of music, Discogs has got you.
Both Soundcloud & Mixcloud are both dope spots to broaden your musical horizons. Music heads have created communities pumping out a ton of podcasts, radio shows, curated mixes and other avenues for exploration. A couple of my favorite podcasts live there including Voyage Funktastique, a weekly podcast dedicated to boogie & modern funk, and Simple Harmonic Motion, a monthly podcast curating the finest of recent releases from soulful music movements. Soundcloud though has more of a focus on original content by musicians. So that coupled with the social features, make Soundcloud a great source for upcoming artists and underground music.