When I was a teenager, radio stations would often have “Name That Tune” contests – they would play a series of ten short song excerpts, and encourage their listeners to call the station and identify as many titles (and artists) as they could, in order to win concert tickets or some other prize. Although I listened to the radio as much as any other teenager, I found these sound clips to be frustratingly short – often less than a second each – and I had great difficulty identifying even one or two songs, much less the ten required to win a prize.
Recently, I started thinking about those contests and what exactly was triggering our memory. The sound clips were far too brief for us to recognize a melody, so we must have been memorizing the raw audio itself. If this is true, then I should be able to assemble a montage of drumbeats (from well-known pop songs), and an avid music fan should be able to identify them as easily as the snippets of music. This is why the Internet is so wonderful – I can now do this experiment right here on my blog; I don’t need my own radio station.
Some songs have a drum sequence so distinctive that you can identify them without even hearing the lyrics or instrumentation. This is the easiest Name That Drumbeat montage yet – each of the ten songs sampled in this montage has a unique percussion riff that practically gives it away. All ten drumbeat samples are from popular songs from the 1970s and 1980s. The drumbeat samples in each montage are exactly the same, except that there are no gaps between the samples in the first montage, which makes it slightly more challenging. The second montage has one second of silence inserted between each sample, so they should be easier to identify.
The Distinctive Drumbeat Montage:
The Distinctive Drumbeat Montage (with gaps):