Evaluation of a simple and effective music information retrieval method

Stephen Downie, Michael Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


We developed, and then evaluated, a music information retrieval (MIR) system based upon the intervals found within the melodies of a collection of 9354 folksongs. The songs were converted to an interval-only representation of monophonic melodies and then fragmented t into length-n subsections called n-grams. The length of these n-grams and the degree to which we precisely represent the intervals are variables analyzed in this paper. We constructed a collection of `musical word' databases using the text-based, SMART information retrieval system. A group of simulated queries, some of which contained simulated errors, was run against these databases. The results were evaluated using the normalized precision and normalized recall measures. Our concept of `musical words' shows great merit thus implying that useful MIR systems can be constructed simply and efficiently using pre-existing text-based information retrieval software. Second, this study is a formal and comprehensive evaluation of a MIR system using rigorous statistical analyses to determine retrieval effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-80
Number of pages8
JournalSIGIR Forum (ACM Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval)
StatePublished - 2000
EventProceedings of the 23rd International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval (SIGIR 2000) - Athens, Greece
Duration: Jul 24 2000Jul 28 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture


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