It’s a situation so frustrating that we’ve all experienced it at one time or another. You want to see a music video of that song you love – the one with that lyric about the girl and the guy – but you can’t remember the name of the song! If you had a recording of the song, even if you didn’t know its name, you could use an app like Shazam, a popular tool that lets you identify a song by playing it, or a similar app. But if you’re trying to find a music video, and you don’t have the song to play, and you can’t remember its name, it seems like you’re out of luck.
Have no fear, because help is on the way. All you need is Google and this article. I’m going to show you how to use unique search engine operators to find that music video and how to fine tune your search queries for any occassion.
Step One: Identify what you Know
The first step in narrowing down your search is to establish what it is that you do know. Do you know the name of the artist? Do you know the genre of music the song falls under? Do you know when the song first came out? Most critically, do you know any of the lyrics? If you know any of these things—even if you can only remember a few words of the song—you’re in a much better position to find it online.
You have two choices for conducting your search: one is to do a direct search on YouTube, and the other is to try to establish which song you’re looking for on Google and then switching to YouTube once you figure it out. Since YouTube’s search engine runs entirely on Google, these basically amount to the same thing. However, I do recommend searching on Google because it will be easier to find information about the song rather than just the song; for complicated searches, partial information is a good foundation.
Step Two: Try Some Basic Searches
Go to your search engine, whether YouTube or Google, and start trying some basic searches. Let’s say that the song we’re looking for is “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, but we don’t remember either the title or the artist. We only remember one phrase from the song: it has the words “an angel’s smile.” Let’s go to Google and type in “an angel’s smile” in the search box and see what we get.
Hey hey! Look at that, there are three songs with that title right at the top of the listings, along with (yikes) 203 million other hits. OK, this will be easy to check—hit those links and see if they’re our song!
Alas, we checked all three, and none of these songs—though they contain our lyric—are the song we’re looking for. We could go through the next few pages of Google results, but clearly, “an angel’s smile” matches too many songs. We’re going to have to dig deeper.
Step Three: Combine your Terms
By combining terms, you can tell Google that you have several related concepts that you want to consider while searching. The combine operator is the comma, the “,” character. For example, a search on “green tomato recipes Mississippi cookbook” will bring up about 921,000 results, each of which will have some or all of those keywords. If you enclose the whole search string in quotes, Google will give you only those results which have that exact string (zero, if you’re wondering). However, if you use “,” to combine your concepts, you can get a list of results that has connections to all three sets of concepts. Searching for “green tomato recipes, Mississippi, cookbook” tells Google more precisely what you’re looking for and gets you better results.
In our search for the angel’s smile song, let’s add some combined keywords that might help Google out. You know that the song you’re looking for is rock and roll. And you think it probably came out in the 1980s because you remember your dad singing it in the car all the time back then. Let’s add those keywords, and do a search on “an angel’s smile, rock, and roll, 1980s”.
And bam, there we go! It’s the first search result. Telling Google the general period and the genre really lets it focus in on what we’re looking for. (You can leave the comma out, and Google will do a pretty good job of guessing which words go with which other words, but it’s better to use the comma)
Step Four: Other Operators, Keywords, and Techniques
The combine operator isn’t the only powerful tool you can utilize.
Advanced YouTube Search
As YouTube is owned by Google, there are some advanced search operators you can use to find what you’re looking for. Here are just a few.
BAND or ARTIST, partner – Type the band or artist name and then partner to restrict the search to official videos and filter out fan videos.
ACTOR, movie – Type the actor’s name and movie to see clips, teasers, and even full movies on YouTube.
News, live – Type news, gaming, or whatever else you’re interested in, and then live to show live feeds of the subject in question.
SUBJECT, today – Type a subject, movie, actor, or whatever and then a time to filter by. For example, ‘Politics, this week’ might give a slightly more varied amount of footage than what you’ll find on the television, especially if anyone in your household is prone to only relying on one network.
SUBJECT, HD or 4K – Type a subject and then format to filter out non-HD or non-4K content. This works for 3D and will work for VR or 360 content, too.
ARTIST, playlist – Type the artist and then playlist to compile or find an existing playlist for that artist. You can save or copy them if you plan on using them often.
Advanced Google Search
Search operators allow you to refine your search to specifics and narrow down the results. They are surprisingly powerful when used correctly. Here are a few of them.
- Search a hashtag: #videosfromthe90s.
- Exclude words: Add a ‘-,‘ so ‘-female vocalists’ to filter out music videos with female singers.
- Exact match only: Use speech marks, “You give love a bad name” to specify those words only in search.
- Missing words/Wildcard: Add ‘*’ to search for a wildcard, For example, ‘The best * of all time.’
- OR: Use OR to apply multiple filters ‘Hairspray rock OR male singer OR band OR guitar OR give love a bad name’.
- AND: Use AND to tell Google to include things that match your whole list. “Bon Jovi AND angel’s smile AND 1980s.”
- Group: use parentheses to group operators. “(the 1980s AND Bon Jovi) angel’s smile.”
- Use relations: Use ‘related’ to find supplemental information, ‘related: Bon Jovi.’
You should be able to find a music video without knowing the name with those!
Got any other ways to identify a music video without knowing the name? Any apps or services that can do it? Tell us about them below if you do!
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