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Karaoke is from the Japanese for kara, "empty" or "void", and ōkesutora, (orchestra) is a form of entertainment in which amateur singers sing along with recorded music using a microphone and a PA system. The music is typically a well-known pop song in which the voice of the original singer is removed or reduced in volume. Lyrics are usually displayed on a video screen, along with a moving symbol or changing color, to guide the singer. In some countries, karaoke with video lyrics display capabilities is called KTV.


Karaoke today was popularized by the Japanese singer Daisuke Inoue in Kobe, Japan in the early 1970s <ref>Time 100:Daisuke Inoue, August 23-30, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 7/8</ref>. After becoming popular in Japan, karaoke spread to East and Southeast Asia during the 1980s and subsequently to other parts of the world.

File:Taipei KTV-Eingangshalle.jpg
Entrance Hall of a K-TV in Taipei

In Japan it has long been common to provide musical entertainment at a dinner or a party. Japanese singer Daisuke Inoue was asked by frequent guests in the Utagoe Kissa, where he performed, to provide a recording of his performance so that they could sing along on a company-sponsored vacation. Realizing the potential for the market, Inoue made a tape recorder that played a song for a 100-yen coin.

Instead of selling his karaoke machines, he leased them out, so that stores did not have to buy new songs on their own. Originally it was considered a fad which was lacking the "live atmosphere" of a real performance. It was also regarded as somewhat expensive since 100 yen in the 1970s was the price of two typical lunches. However, it caught on as a popular entertainment. Karaoke machines were initially placed in restaurants or hotel rooms; soon, new businesses called karaoke boxes, with compartmented rooms, became popular. In 2004, Daisuke Inoue was awarded the tongue-in-cheek Ig Nobel Peace Prize for inventing karaoke, "thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other."

Inoue never bothered to patent his invention, losing his chance to become one of Japan's richest men. Roberto del Rosario, a Filipino inventor who called his sing-along system Minus-One, now holds the patent for the device now commonly known as the karaoke machine. Following a court battle with a Chinese company which claimed to have invented the system, del Rosario's patents were issued in 1983 and 1986, more than a decade after Inoue's original unpatented invention of the device in 1971.<ref>About:Inventors, Roberto del Rosario Accessed January 6, 2007</ref>

Early karaoke machines used cassette tapes but technological advances replaced this with CDs, VCDs, laserdiscs and, currently, DVDs. In 1992, Taito introduced the X2000 that fetched music via a dial-up telephone network. Its repertoire of music and graphics was limited, but the advantage of continuous updates and the smaller machine size saw it gradually replace traditional machines. Karaoke machines connected via fiber-optic links to provide instant high-quality music and video are becoming increasingly popular.

File:Karaoke Khan.jpg
A karaoke-box that occupies a high-rise building in Shinjuku, Tokyo, this location was featured in the movie Lost In Translation.

Karaoke soon spread to the rest of Asia and then to the United States in the 1990s. Facilities such as karaoke bars or "KTV boxes" provided the venue, equipment and software for amateur singers to entertain each other.

Karaoke has also spread to the United States, Canada and other Western countries. As the available selection of music has increased, more and more people within the industry see it as a very profitable form of lounge and nightclub entertainment. It is not uncommon for some bars to have karaoke performances seven nights a week, commonly with much more high-end sound equipment than the small, stand-alone machines noted above. Dance floors and lighting effects are also becoming common sights in karaoke bars. Lyrics are often displayed on multiple TV sets around the bar, including big screens.


A basic karaoke machine consists of a microphone, a means of altering the pitch of the recorded music, and an audio output. Some low-end machines attempt to provide vocal suppression so that one can feed regular songs into the machine and suppress the voice of the original singer, however this is rarely effective (see below). Most common machines are audio mixers with microphone input built-in with CD+G, Video CD, Laser Disc, or DVD players. CD+G players use a special track called subcode to encode the lyrics and pictures displayed on the screen, while the other formats natively display both audio and video.

Most karaoke machines have technology that electronically changes the pitch of the music so that amateur singers can sing along to any music source by choosing a key that is appropriate for their vocal range, while maintaining the original tempo of the song. (There were some very old systems that used cassettes, and these changed the pitch by altering playback speed, but none are still on the market, and their commercial use is virtually nonexistent.)

A popular game using karaoke is to randomly type in a number and call up a song, which participants take a turn to try to sing as much as they can. In some machines, this game is pre-programmed and may be limited to a genre so that they cannot call up an obscure national anthem that none of them can sing. This game has come to be called "Kamikaze Karaoke" in some parts of the United States and Canada.Template:Fact

Many low-end entertainment systems have a "karaoke mode" that attempts to remove the vocal track from regular audio CDs. This is done by center removal, which exploits the fact that in most music the vocals are in the center. This means that the voice, as part of the music, has equal volume on both stereo channels and no phase difference. To get the quasi-karaoke (mono) track, the left channel of the original audio is subtracted from the right channel.

The crudeness of this approach is reflected in the often poor performance of voice removal. Common effects are hearing the echo of the voice track (due to stereo echo being put on the vocals), and also other instruments that happen to be mixed into the center get removed (snare/bass drum, solo instruments), degrading this approach to hardly more than a gimmick in those devices.

MIDI applications and *.kar files

Some computer programs that serve a similar purpose to the standard karaoke machine have been developed that use MIDI instrumentation to generate the accompaniment rather than a recorded track. This has the advantage of making transposition technically trivial and also shrinks the information needed to provide the accompaniment to the point where it is easy to transfer it across the Internet, even over slow connections. The standard file format used is *.KAR, which is an extension of the standard .MID MIDI disk format which includes embedded lyrics and can be played unaltered by MIDI player software.

Video game

A karaoke game was initially released for the NES but its limited computing ability made for a short catalog of songs, and therefore reduced replay value. As a result, karaoke games were considered little more than collector's items until they saw release in higher-capacity DVD formats. Karaoke Revolution, created for the PlayStation 2 by Konami and released in North America in 2003, is a console game in which a single player sings along with on-screen guidance, and receives a score based on his or her pitch, timing, and rhythm. The game soon spawned four more versions, Karaoke Revolution Vol. 2, Karaoke Revolution Vol. 3, Karaoke Revolution Party Edition, and CMT Presents Karaoke Revolution: Country. While the original Karaoke Revolution was also eventually released for the Microsoft Xbox console in late 2004, the new online-enabled version included the ability to download additional song packs through the console's exclusive Xbox Live service.

A similar game, SingStar, published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, is particularly popular in the European and Australasian markets. Other similar titles in the rhythm-based game genre include Bemani's Dance Dance Revolution, GuitarFreaks, Donkey Konga, and DrumMania.

Karaoke VCD

The takeoff of Video CDs in East and Southeast Asia is partly due to the popularity of karaoke. Many VCD players in Southeast Asia have a built-in karaoke function. On stereo recordings, one speaker will play the music with the vocal track, and the other speaker will play the music without the vocal track. So, to sing karaoke, users play the music-only track through both speakers. In the past, there were only pop-song karaoke VCDs. Nowadays, different types of karaoke VCDs are available. Cantonese opera karaoke VCD is now a big hit among the elderly in Hong Kong.Template:Fact

Karaoke on computers and Internet

Starting in 2003, much software has been released for hosting karaoke shows, and playing karaoke songs on a personal computer. Instead of having to carry around hundreds of CD-G's or laserdiscs, a KJ can 'rip' their entire library onto a hard drive, and play the songs and lyrics from that.

Additionally, new software permits singers to sing and listen to one another over the Internet with collaborators/audiences from all around the world.

Various online karaoke websites provide the opportunity for karaoke enthusiasts to participate and share in a worldwide karaoke community. Users can create personal, online karaoke profiles, which store their individual recordings and even allow video syncing. Some examples of free sites are the UK-based, Yahoo's, Electronic Arts' and Fox Interactive's

As of 2007, companies such as Sound Choice and Stellar Records are taking legal action against computer-run karaoke systems on the grounds that they violate fair use laws and that "fair use" does not apply to commercial use. They also say that format-shifting for any use is also against fair use laws.

Karaoke in automobiles

Chinese automobile maker, Geely Automobile, received much press in 2003 for being the first to equip a car, their Beauty Leopard, with a karaoke machine as standard equipment. Karaoke is often also found as a feature in aftermarket in-car DVD players.

Alternative playback devices

The CD+G format of a karaoke disc, which contains the lyrics on a specially encoded subcode track, has heretofore required special—and expensive—equipment to play. Commercial players have come down in price, though, and some unexpected devices (including the Sega Saturn videogame console and XBMC on the Xbox 1 can decode the graphics; in fact, karaoke machines, including video and sometimes recording capability, are often popular electronics items for sale in toy stores and electronics stores.

Additionally, there is software for Windows, Pocket PC, Linux, and Macintosh PCs that can decode and display karaoke song tracks, though usually these must be ripped from the CD first, and possibly compressed.

In addition to CD+G and software-based karaoke, microphone-based karaoke players enjoy popularity mainly in North America and some Asian countries such as the Philippines. Microphone-based karaoke players only need to be connected to a TV - and in some cases to a power outlet, in other cases they run on batteries. These devices often sport advanced features, such as pitch correction and special sound effects. Some companies offer karaoke content for paid download to extend the song library in microphone-based karaoke systems.

CD+G, DVD, VCD and microphone-based players are most popular for home use. Due to song selection and quality of recordings, CD+G is the most popular format for English and Spanish. It's also important to note that CD+G has limited graphical capabilities, whereas VCD and DVD usually have a moving picture or video background. VCD and DVD are the most common format for Asian singers due to music availability and largely due to the moving picture/video background.

Public places for karaoke

In Asia, a Karaoke box (also called KTV or, in Korea, Noraebang) is the most popular type of karaoke venue. A karaoke box is a small or medium-sized room containing karaoke equipment rented by the hour or half-hour, providing for a more intimate and less public atmosphere. Karaoke venues of this type are often dedicated businesses, some with multiple floors and a variety of amenities including food service, but hotels and business facilities sometimes provide karaoke boxes as well.

A karaoke bar, restaurant, club or lounge is a bar or restaurant that provides karaoke equipment so that people can sing publicly, sometimes on a small stage. This is the most common arrangement in North America and Europe. Many establishments offer karaoke on a weekly schedule, while some have shows every night. Such establishments commonly invest more in both equipment and song discs, and are often extremely popular, with an hour or more wait between a singer's opportunities to take the stage (called the rotation). East Asian, North American and other Western karaoke arrangements are usually add-ons to an existing bar or social lounge. Most of these establishments allow patrons to sing for free, with the expectation that sufficient revenue will be made selling food and drink to the singers. Less commonly, the patron wishing to sing must pay a small fee for each song they sing.

In some traditional Chinese restaurants, there are so-called "mahjong-karaoke rooms" where the elderly can play mahjong and teenagers can enjoy karaoke. The result is fewer complaints about boredom but more noise.

Karaoke terms

(also ohako 十八番, literally, number 18). Many karaoke singers have one song which they are especially good at, and which they use to show off their singing abilities. In Japan, this is called jūhachiban in reference to the eighteen most popular kabuki plays. In Hong Kong, such a song is called a "banquet song" (飲歌).
Karamovie or Movioke
Template:Main Karaoke using scenes from movies. Amateur actors replace their favorite movie stars in popular movies. Usually facilitated by software or remote control muting and screen blanking/freezing. Karamovie originated in 2003.
Karaoke jockey or KJ
A karaoke jockey plays and manages the music for a venue. The role of the KJ often includes announcing song titles and whose turn it is to use the microphone.
Karaoke Music Video.


Some people go karaoke alone. It is called hitokara(ヒトカラ,ヒト hito, "one person" or "alone", and カラ kara "karaoke") in Japan.

Karaoke in Culture

Karaoke in World Culture

In July 2007, the nation of North Korea issued an edict banning among other similar etablishments, karaoke bars from operating in the country. The Ministry of Security officially stated that the ban was enacted to "crush enemy scheming and to squarely confront those who threaten the maintenance of the socialist system."<ref>Template:Cite news</ref>

Karaoke in film

Karaoke has been depicted in a variety of movies and television shows, including the 1996 comedy The Cable Guy, the 1997 romantic comedy My Best Friend's Wedding, the 2006 Disney film High School Musical, the 2003 film Lost in Translation, and the 1997 Korean gangster comedy No. 3. Rush Hour 2 includes a karaoke performance by Chris Tucker, where he upstages one of the tone-deaf locals by singing Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." Karaoke is central to the 2000 movie Duets, which features a father and daughter competing in karaoke contests. It is also integral to the 2001 film Jackpot, in which an aspiring singer tours karaoke bars hoping to catch his big break as a country star. Several episodes of Angel feature the demonic karaoke bar Caritas, whose proprietor Lorne (Andy Hallett) can tell fortunes based on the songs he hears. Karaoke is the central theme of The Karaoke King, an independent film released in 2006.

World record

Finland holds the record for the largest number of people singing karaoke at one time, for 80,000 people singing Hard Rock Hallelujah 26th May 2006 in Helsinki after Lordi won the Eurovision Song Contest.