One of my visions is to see somebody DJ a karaoke night off turntables, mixing and scratching with synced video. It’s possible, I looked it up! The simplest way is with Serato Scratch and a $1500 Rane mixer. Ouch. But some clubs have these, so if I ever get a karaoke night at a clubby club… hmm…
Then there’s a $100 solution that doesn’t require any special hardware… Ms. Pinky / Max MSP.
Then there’s the free software / linux route: xwax. Which you can also use with Puredata using this thing. I fully expect to be in the company of tons of linux VJ nerds when I get to brazil. Maybe they can help me set it up. Woo!
(almost none of this stuff is necessary) photo by…
Running a karaoke night is cheap and easy. Here’s all you need:
- Karaoke Software
- Microphones and a PA
- Old computer monitor
5 & 6 barely count. You can get clunky 17″ monitors for free on craigslist or freecycle. Most venues have a PA w/ mics. Got friends who play in a band? They can help scrounge something together.
So that leaves us with a laptop, songs, karaoke software, and songbooks. I made simple guides to cover each step. Spend a little time now, and next week you’ll have a working karaoke setup.
If anything seems confusing, just find a computery friend to help. They’ll know how to do all of this stuff.
- What you need for a karaoke laptop
- How to download Karaoke songs
- The best free karaoke software for Mac, Windows, and Linux
- How to make karaoke songbooks
Next up… tips on running a karaoke night!
Why do I need a laptop?
To do a karaoke night you need a two-screen setup (one for your playlist, one for the lyrics). This is really easy to do on laptops, just plug in an old 17″ monitor or a projector. Many laptops will even let you plug into a TV. On desktops it’s more complicated.
Can it be a really old laptop?
Yes. A really old (say, 6 year-old) Windows laptop will work fine. An old Mac laptop will be more annoying, but probably workable.
Do I need anything else?
You’ll want between 20 and 50 gigs free for karaoke (10 minimum) so if you don’t have that space, you have two options:
1) Get an external USB hard drive. A portable one that works off USB power is best (like $70). If you have an old laptop without USB 2.0, get a USB 2.0 PC card. ($20).
2) Upgrade your laptop’s hard drive. If you have $100 and a computer-savvy friend, this is a much better option (more reasons here). On Macbooks (and new Macbook Pro’s) it’s really easy… other computers, a toss up.
Once you have your laptop, it’s time to download some karaoke music and install a karaoke player.
Sometimes you’ll get a big karaoke collection with a pre-made songbook. This is definitely the easiest way to get started.
But once you start downloading more songs, you’ll need a way to make your own books. Here are two quick guides to making songbooks.
On Windows, your book will be somewhat ugly and wasteful of paper without further fiddling. But this is definitely the best way to start.
The quick and dirty way to make a karaoke song book on Windows or Linux
The easiest way to make a karaoke song book on a Mac
This guide will show you how to download virtually any karaoke song for free, using MiRC and Omenserve/Autoget. I owe a huge thank you to all the folks on the #karaoke+mp3s channel for making kmp3s.com–that tutorial is the foundation for this one.
These tools are pretty old-school, and setting them up is a pain. But it’s worth the trouble to download karaoke tracks on demand. For KJs, this is a must.
MiRC is Windows only, but Mac users can run it in Parallels (that’s what I do) and this guide will cover that.
Continue reading ‘Free karaoke music (using mIRC)’
I’ve got three posts on the subject. But the winners are kJams (Mac), Winamp + CDG plugin (Windows), and PyKaraoke (Linux).
If you use both Mac and Windows, t’s a tough call between kJams and Winamp. If you’re going to be actively updating your library and your song books, kJams is it.
If you want to set things up once, never think about it again, and spend your karaoke night hitting on people, use Winamp.
Now, without further ado, the verdicts:
The best karaoke software for Mac OS X: kJams
The best karaoke software for Windows: Winamp
The best karaoke software for Linux: PyKaraoke
External hard drives are a pain. If you’re a laptop musician, or if you use your external HDD for anything other than automated backup, you should buy a huge internal hard drive as soon as you have $120 in your pocket.
Seriously, first purchase.
Continue reading ‘The first thing every laptop musician should do with $120 (buy a big internal hard drive)’