How to Identify a Song with Cortana in Windows 10

Sherwin Coelho 05-04-2016

You don’t need any third-party apps to identify songs in Windows 10 because Cortana does a brilliant job at it.


Shazam has joined Google and Xerox in the elite category of companies that are also used as verbs. If you listen to a catchy song playing on the radio or at the gym, but don’t know what it is, you’ll “shazam” it.

Google and Apple were quick to follow suit and the mobile giants baked music identification into Google Now and Siri, respectively. On both Android and iOS, simply ask the personal assistant “What song is this?” to get the answer, with the option to purchase it from the respective app store.

We previously group-tested the best music identification apps The 3 Best Music Recognition Apps to Find Songs by Their Tune Shazam is the best-known music recognition app, but how does the competition compare? We put three song finder apps to the test. Read More  for your convenience.

Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now and she has some very clever tricks up her sleeve. For example, did you know that you can use Cortana to draft an email or even launch apps on your PC 6 Coolest Things You Can Control with Cortana in Windows 10 Cortana can help you go hands-free on Windows 10. You can let her search your files and the web, make calculations, or pull up the weather forecast. Here we cover some of her cooler skills. Read More ?

Ways to Launch Cortana

You can launch Cortana in several different ways. Either click the Windows Start button, the search field or icon right next to it, or the small microphone icon inside the search field. Alternatively, just press the Windows key on your keyboard.


You can also launch Cortana without touching your mouse or keyboard, but you first need to enable the “Hey Cortana” voice recognition feature. Open Cortana, click the notebook icon on the left, then click Settings. Now tap the Hey Cortana slider to turn it On.

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Identify Music Using Cortana

Like its mobile cousins Google Now and Siri, Cortana also does a brilliant job of identifying songs playing near you. Obviously, you’ll first need to ensure that you’ve connected a microphone to your PC (if it doesn’t have a built-in one). After doing this, there are two ways to use the feature:

1. Ask Cortana

After launching, Cortana says “Ask me anything.” Simply ask her any one of the following questions: What song is this?, What song is playing?What’s the name of this song?, or What’s playing right now?.


Identify Music Cortana 1

2. Use Cortana’s Music Shortcut

Alternatively, you can launch Cortana, then click the musical note icon in the top right (similar to tapping the musical note icon that appears in Google Now). Apart from identifying songs, this icon also saves a list of your previous musical searches.

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After Identifying the Song

Once Cortana identifies the song, which usually takes about three to six seconds, you’ll see its name, album, and artist. You can also click the Find another song link to do that. Click any of the results to open that album in the Windows Store.


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In the Windows Store, you’ll see the option to purchase the song or the entire album. Alternatively, if you’ve never used Windows 10’s Groove Music (which is similar to Spotify), you’ll see the option to start a free 30-day trial. Microsoft’s music service is $9.99 (£8.99) per month thereafter.

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If Cortana can’t identify your song, you’ll see a message saying “I’m sorry, I don’t recognise this song”, with the option to Try again. In most cases, increasing the music volume or moving your PC closer to the source of the sound remedies the problem and gets Cortana to identify it.


Find Artists Using Cortana

If Cortana doesn’t understand your voice command, it’ll open the Microsoft Edge browser and run your search query in Bing. While trying out some of the voice commands for this article, we stumbled upon an easy way to find song artists using Cortana.

Open Cortana and say Who sang “Kiss from a rose?” You’ll instantly see Bing’s search result of all the artists who sang that song as a carousel (in decreasing order of popularity).

If you use Bing as your search engine and are based in the US, then you should check out Bing Rewards to earn free gift cards and subscriptions What's Bing Rewards, How It Works, And What's New? The premise of Bing Rewards is that you can earn credits for searching with Bing. Read More .

When Cortana’s Music Identification Doesn’t Work

The primary reason for Cortana failing to identify a song is because your PC isn’t picking up the audio properly. If you’re using Cortana on a Windows 10 laptop with a built-in microphone, then you’ll need to ensure your laptop is facing the direction of the sound.

For example, Cortana didn’t recognize any songs, when the laptop lid was facing the TV (source of the sound). However, when we turned the laptop around, so that the screen was facing the TV, results were much better.

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Music identification wasn’t as much of an issue when we used a headset with a microphone. The reason for this is likely because the (built-in) laptop microphones are usually located above your screen (beside your camera), whereas most headset microphones can pick up sound from anywhere around you.

While you can always install the free Windows 10 Shazam app, we recommend you save valuable storage space and use Cortana — unless music identification is a feature you tend to use very often. While Window 10’s personal assistant doesn’t identify music as fast as Shazam, it gives you the info you’re looking for accurately. You can then easily search for and add the track to the playlist of your preferred music streaming service.

If you’re using an older version of Windows and are still contemplating whether or not to upgrade to Windows 10 Is It Time to Upgrade to Windows 10, Yet? Microsoft really wants to you upgrade to Windows 10. But should you? To help you make up your mind, we argue both the pro and the contra, and offer careful advice. How will you decide? Read More , we can help you make up your mind. If you’ve updated to Windows 10, then make sure you’ve checked these default settings 7 Default Windows 10 Settings You Should Check Immediately Microsoft made some questionable decisions with Windows 10. Some of its default settings should not be left alone. We show you how to improve privacy, conserve bandwidth, reduce distraction, and lots more. Read More .

What’s Your Favorite Music Identification App/Service?

Cortana performed flawlessly when we asked her to identify current and yesteryear English tracks. We tried a mixture of chart hits, rare tracks by popular artists, and even unknown tracks from lesser-known artists. That said, its music identification catalog is limited to what’s on the Microsoft Groove database. Being a (comparatively) new service, this doesn’t have as many songs as Shazam or Spotify.

Are there any tracks Cortana failed to recognize, but other music identification apps could? Let us know in the comments section below.

Related topics: Microsoft Cortana, Music Album, Speech Recognition.

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  1. Matthew
    January 23, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    This feature isn't working anymore... I was really looking forward to using it

  2. kutoo
    June 29, 2016 at 3:36 am


  3. Luis Alban
    May 10, 2016 at 2:22 am

    Hi. I can't find the musical note icon in the top right. I used to have it on windows 8.1 but after the upgrade it has disappeared. How can I get it back? I am using US regions and English US Language as always despite of leaving abroad.

  4. Tom
    April 6, 2016 at 12:13 am

    It appears the icons you reference in Cortana require you first to give Cortana access to unlimited information about you, your usage, and your location that are reported to Microsoft. Those are information items previous articles on this site have suggested as being rather invasive.

    • Sherwin
      April 26, 2016 at 9:59 am

      It's a matter of personal choice, Tom. Yes, it's ceding information to Cortana. However, if you don't do that, then it can't tailor the right information to provide you. It's based on the same fundamentals as Google or Facebook.

  5. Anonymous
    April 5, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    "Shazam has joined Google and Xerox in the elite category of companies that are also used as verbs."

    According to what source? I have not heard this usage from anyone I know in the tech industry. Perhaps you are attempting to establish the usage as such to later claim being the originator?

    • Sherwin
      April 26, 2016 at 10:05 am

      Not quoting any source there, Roger. Merely stating a general fact because all three companies are used in everyday conversations more for the services they provide, than the actually services themselves.