Beers on tap, stale peanuts and hours of drunken covers from the 90s with you and your friends. Yes, the dreaded but also loved, Karaoke. Karaoke in all its glory has become one of our favorite past times here in the U.S. and doesn’t show signs of stopping.
There are television shows and even international competitions dedicated solely to people singing Karaoke. Although Karaoke originated in Japan, its popularity has spread to the world over. Whether you hate karaoke, love it or you’re somewhere in between, it’s a nostalgic past time that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
What exactly is Karaoke? Well, besides being a funny word that doesn’t sound the way it’s spelled, Karaoke does have an actual meaning. The word Karaoke is a Japanese term for “empty orchestra.”
The latter makes total sense considering the actual “orchestra” is not present, and you’re singing with pre-recorded music. Karaoke machines come in many shapes and sizes. A Karaoke machine is basically a system that plays a CD with “graphics” or lyrics. It also comes with speakers and a microphone in most cases.
How is Karaoke Music Made
Karaoke functions off of what is sometimes called a CD-G (CD+Graphics). A CD-G is a CD or compact disc that contains a musical score and lyrics. When it’s time for the user to sing, the machine will play the music with the song lyrics highlighted on the screen. How the Karaoke music is made, however, is a bit more technical.
The actual Karaoke music or track usually refers to “…any musical rendition of a song minus the vocals.” These tracks can be created by a number of ways. Karaoke music can be created by either taking the original song and removing the artist(s) vocals or by recreating the entire song without any vocals. Either way, both methods probably require some sort of knowledge of basic music production.
Removing the Vocals Vs. Recreating Karaoke Tracks
To create a Karaoke track by removing the vocals, you would first need some sort of music production software. There are many to choose from, however, a more affordable option would be to use Audacity. Audacity is music production software that can be downloaded online for free.
Once inside the software, there are several ways in which you can create a Karaoke track. The simplest method would probably be to just use the “vocal remover” feature and then make any necessary adjustments. However, keep in mind that when using this feature it is quite possible that some of the instrumentation may also get muted or deleted altogether.
Another method to try when removing the vocals in Audacity goes as follows:
- Open the MP3 file of the song of your choice.
- Split the stereo song into 2 tracks.
- Invert one of the tracks.
- Convert both tracks to mono.
This is just a quick summary of the process. However, there are several videos online that go into great detail of how to remove vocals this way. You should also keep in mind this process doesn’t always work perfectly for every song.
Now if you are more musically inclined and know your way around production software, then another option for a creating a Karaoke track would be to just recreate the entire song. This option, however, will take a bit more “know-how” than just watching a few youtube videos.
If you do take on this method just keep in mind that many recreated Karaoke songs don’t sound exactly like the original version. So if the latter ends up being the case, there’s no need to fret.
Karaoke Around the World
Here in the U.S. Karaoke is predominantly located in bars or pubs. In some cases, there is a Karaoke DJ who goes to different venues and supplies the bar with the machine in exchange for payment. In Asia however, the popularity of Karaoke more than surpasses what’s done in the U.S. In Japan, for instance, Karaoke is more like a part of life, rather than just a simple past time in a local bar or pub.
“Karaoke Machines” are all the rage in Japan. These boxes can be found at stores located on almost every street corner. It seems as though Karaoke in Japan is just as common as playing a video game or hanging out in a coffee shop for hours.
Due to the fact that Karaoke is so popular in many Asian countries, many recording artists often also create a karaoke track of their song when it’s released. However, in Europe and most of North America, Karaoke tracks are never really done by the actual artist(s). They’re usually always recreations of original songs.
The newest format of Karaoke that has been emerging is MIDI. A MIDI file is abbreviated for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface”. With the MIDI format, Karaoke tracks along with the lyrics are easily downloaded to the users’ device. This makes Karaoke much more accessible to everyone, and you never have to leave the comfort of your home.
Karaoke in Summary
Whether you love Karaoke, despise it or you’re caught somewhere in the middle, for what it’s worth, this past time has become somewhat of an art form. Since its arrival in the 1970s, Karaoke has taken the world by storm.
In America Karaoke seems to be just a casual, quirky way for friends to unwind after work. However, in many Asian countries Karaoke is as second nature as getting a cup of coffee in the morning. Not to mention the countless Karaoke singing competitions that are held around the world each year.
In addition to the latter, psychologists now believe that those “impromptu” Karaoke sessions that we have in our car, can improve your mood and reduce road rage.
So whether you’re a great singer or you’re just plain old awful, Karaoke doesn’t discriminate. If you’re a DIY kind of person, then you should try making your own karaoke tracks. All that is needed is a little patience and a time.
However, if you’re not exactly the creative type then that’s a perfect excuse to head down to your nearest Karaoke bar. After all, what’s better than a tipsy rendition of all your favorite hits from the 90s?
- Kevin Larsen “What is Karaoke?“
- Author unknown “Karaoke in Japan“
- Wikipedia MIDI
- Jay Malette- “How are Karaoke tracks made?“
- Emily Blakwood- “Psychologist Explains Why It Feels So Good To Sing In Your Car“