Thursday, June 21, 2012

Karaoke Queen, Revisited

It's hard to believe that I first wrote about my karaoke mania almost four years ago, when I was still just a noob falling in love with the thrill of performing to a crowd (while reading yellow text floating in front of a blue background). 

I was always a singer, mind you, but until my thirties I saved all solo performances for myself, sleepy babies, fellow car passengers, and livestock (see this old post, if you are all "WTF?" about that last one). Other, more public, performing was limited to a choir, where I could hide myself among the sopranos and altos and feel secure that if I made an error, no one would know but me and proximal choir members.

In retrospect, it kills me that I was so scared. Where was my confidence? Why did I care so much about looking silly, stupid—or maybe more to the point, looking like I cared too much (I'm going back to my teen years here, folks). Even though I knew I had a "nice" to "pretty good" voice, it petrified me that I might mess up and people would think that I sucked. 

Thankfully, I realized sometime in my thirties that messing up a little doesn't matter in the slightest—especially in karaoke—where anyone with the ability to carry a tune will sound better than 85%+ of the other people who get up to sing. (Beyond the life lessons of "Sometimes trying is just as important as succeeding" or something akin to that, the fact that I also started frequenting a local karaoke bar (The Karaoke Kid) in the early evenings, so I could sing with just a bartender and my husband looking on.

Some time before I discovered The Kid, maybe around the time I turned 30, I bought a little "Singing Machine" disc player and amplifier (much like this one) under the pretenses of needing it for an Eighties-themed party we were throwing for New Year's. If memory serves, it was $99.99 and I bought it at Target, along with a handful of special karaoke CD's—all Eighties songs. 

It was at this party that I learned one of life's fundamental truths: 

Karaoke makes every party an over-the-top hit sensation.

Yeah, THAT awesome. (FYI: It was a Seventies-themed party—no judging!)
Why?, you may ask, like the sceptic I know you are.


No, wait, there's more... 

1.) You are giving someone who would normally NEVER sing in public the chance to do it.
2.) Most people feel like they need to be bombed out of their minds to get up and sing (and everyone already knows the fundamental truth that parties where everyone gets hammered are more fun than parties where everyone is sober). 

Technology, thankfully, has allowed my love of karaoke to flourish and grow over the years and, if you are interested in adding karaoke to a party of your own in the future, you can do it pretty easily and on the cheap.  The best advancement in the home karaoke biz is that you can now pay for on-line streaming karaoke. I KNOW! It's fantastic, right?? 

I've tried a few different karaoke sites and my favorite, by far, is Sing To The World!. It's an outfit based in the UK, but they seem to have the best song catalog of the sites I've tried. It's about £6 a month, roughly $10usa, or £15 ($24) per quarter (this is the one I sign up for). You can browse their catalog before you commit and hear samples of the songs. The selection, though missing some pretty basic songs (where is "Brandy, You're a Fine Girl" by Looking Glass??) and sometimes a little finicky in its search methodology (always try the name of the band AND the song title before giving up on a song), is pretty stellar. Particularly if you are an ABBA fan—I think they have the entire ABBA catalog. (This is more important to Brits than Americans, by the by. See photo above for illustrated truth, that's ABBA we're singing.)

If there is a song that you are dying to perform, but it isn't available to stream, you can go to my other go-to source for backing tracks (i.e. just the music from a song)—Karaoke Version. This site offers backing tracks (with or without backing vocals) for almost any song that has made it onto the radio in the past 50 years and, with popular modern artists, sometimes even has a track ready to download before a song becomes popular (for example, they had all the best songs from Adele's 21 ready to download long before her album went quadruple-double platinum). 

Once you have the music sorted out, you have to get your audio set up. 

You have a couple options, the easiest way is to just connect your laptop and a microphone to your TV / receiver. You'll need an HDMI cable or a cable that goes from the headphone jack to RCA (that has two connectors, red and white) to connect your laptop to an RCA-in on your receiver and you'll need a microphone (you can get a cheap one for $10 to $20 at Target, Radio Shack, or wherever, if you're feeling fancy, you can spend more (I have one like this), but for drunken party karaoke, these cheap ones are the best—trust me, you want to not feel so invested in your mic that seeing someone throw the mic on the ground for their "dramatic exit" would ruin your night). Microphones have a fat plug on the end, so you need to check that your receiver has a place to connect it to. My Onkyo receiver has one conveniently located on the front. With this set-up, you use your laptop as the karaoke video screen. 

A better set-up would involve borrowing an amp from a friend (c'mon, you know at least ONE person who fancies themselves an electric guitarist, right?), preferably one that has reverb and echo effects built in. For this set-up, you can use an HDMI cable connect your laptop to your TV / receiver, so you will hear the music through your TV or speakers (surround sound FTW!) and see the karaoke lyrics on your TV. Attach your mic (or multiple mics!) to the amp and use it just for the vocals.  Or plug everything into the amp and use the laptop or computer to see the lyrics. Just work with what you have. 

Since I figured out how easy it is to set up a home karaoke system, I've done it for most of my own parties and have even been know to walk my laptop, audio cable, and a microphone over to a neighbor's all-impromptu-like after telling them how easy it was to set it up. I hope you have fun setting up your own karaoke party, too! (I swear NOBODY will think you are dorky for doing it.) (Well, I can swear it, but I can't actually prove it.)

One of the best parties of all time. Obviously.


  1. I just love you, party girl. SING OUT!

  2. I love Karaoke! I'm in the UK and I've never heard of online karaoke streaming. I'm a convert!

  3. Hampers has a point, we're well behind the USA and Japan in terms of our karaoke technology. We're restricted to fairly small home systems and only really get to try out the big systems at dedicated karaoke bars, of which there really aren't that many. I spent months hunting for something between the two that I could use to transform my dining room into a singer's paradise. Sing To The World probably has the widest variety for anybody living in the UK.


Thoughts appreciated. Advice welcome. Douche-baggery scoffed at then deleted.