For other uses see Karaoke (disambiguation)

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Karaoke (カラオケ?, a portmanteau of Japanese kara 空 "empty," and ōkesutora オーケストラ "orchestra")[1](English pronunciation: /ˌkæriːˈoʊkiː/; Japanese: [kaɽaoꜜke]  (13px listen)) is a form of interactive entertainment or video game in which amateur singers sing along with recorded music (and/or a music video) using a microphone and public address system. The music is typically a well-known pop song minus the lead vocal. Lyrics are usually displayed on a video screen, along with a moving symbol or changing color and/or music video images, to guide the singer. In some countries, a karaoke box is called a KTV. Due to its English pronunciation, it is sometimes incorrectly spelled "kareoke". It is also a term used by recording engineers translated as "empty track" meaning there is no vocal track.

File:Karaoke subtitle.jpg

Japanese karaoke display



A karaoke bar in Wuhan, People's Republic of China.

The concept of creating studio recordings that lack the lead vocal has been around for probably nearly as long as recording itself. Many artists, amateur and professional, perform in situations where a full band/orchestra is either logistically or financially impractical, so they use a "karaoke" recording; however, they are actually the original artists. (This is not to be confused with "lip synching," in which a performer mimes to a previously produced studio recording with the lead vocal intact.)

1960s: Development of audio-visual-recording devices

From 1961–1966, the American TV network NBC carried a karaoke-like series, Sing Along with Mitch, featuring host Mitch Miller and a chorus with the lyrics to their songs superimposed near the bottom of the TV screen for home audience participation.[2] The primary difference between Karaoke and sing-along songs is the absence of the lead vocalist. This renders most forms of sing-along songs as footnotes to Karaoke rather than precursors.

Sing-alongs (present since the beginning of singing) fundamentally changed with the introduction of new technology. In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, storage of audible materials began to dominate the music recording industry and revolutionized the portability and ease of use of band and instrumental music by musicians and entertainers as the demand for entertainers increased globally. This may have been attributable to the introduction of music cassette tapes, technology that arose from the need to customize music recordings and the desire for a "handy" format that would allow fast and convenient duplication of music and thereby meet the requirements of the entertainers' lifestyles and the 'footloose' character of the entertainment industry.

Filipino musicians and entertainers immigrating to Japan became a notable trend in 1967,[3] with streams of singers continuing to enter the country well into the 1970s and bringing with them their music. With a knack for improvising gadgets at minimal costs, Filipinos devised solutions that would generate greater revenue at a lesser cost than having a musical band, resulting in the development of 'minus-one music' - a sing-along musical accompaniment recorded on cassette tapes, a singing style that also became prevalent in the Philippines from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. It was also during the first half of this era that 'minus-one music' was popular in the Philippines, where it was synonymously termed 'multiplex music' and recorded on cassette tapes on which both a vocalized and non-vocalized instrumental-only version of the same song were available. 'Minus-one music' could have had an influence on the production of the more complex systems in Japan that we now call 'karaoke' machines. Indeed, 'minus-one music' was actually first recorded with the use of cassette tapes and not on the compact disc, which came into existence several years later according to the claims associated with Roberto del Rosario's work.[4]

1971: Development in Japan

There are various disputes about who first invented the name karaoke. One claim is that the karaoke styled machine was invented by Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue[5] in Kobe, Japan, in 1971.[6][7] After becoming popular in Japan, karaoke spread by Hideo to East and Southeast Asia during the 1980s and subsequently to other parts of the world.

In Japan, it has long been common to provide musical entertainment at a dinner or a party. Japanese drummer 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 giving his karaoke machines away, Inoue leased them out so that stores did not have to buy new songs on their own. Originally, it was considered a somewhat expensive fad, as it lacked the live atmosphere of a real performance and 100 yen in the 1970s was the price of two typical lunches, but it caught on as a popular entertainment. Karaoke machines were initially placed in restaurants and 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."[8]

1980s: Filipino patent

Inoue never bothered to patent his invention, possibly losing his chance to become one of Japan's richest men. Roberto del Rosario, a Filipino inventor who developed a sing along system in 1975 and patented it in the 1980s called his sing-along system "Minus-One", now holds the patent for the device now commonly known as the "karaoke machine". The spread of "Minus-One" music would have been attributed to a few Filipinos who brought with them their music, as mentioned above in the late 1960s through to the 1970s, wherever they go and within which period a few started going to Japan as entertainers. Following a court battle with a Japanese company which claimed to have invented the system, del Rosario's patents were issued in 1983 and 1986, a decade after the device was supposedly invented.[9]


File:Taipei KTV-Eingangshalle.jpg

Entrance Hall of a karaoke box in Taipei

Karaoke soon spread to the rest of Asia and other countries all over the world. In-home karaoke machines soon followed but lacked success in the US and Canadian markets. When creators became aware of this problem, karaoke machines were no longer being sold strictly for the purpose of karaoke but as home theater systems to enhance television watching to "movie theater like quality". Home theater systems took off, and karaoke went from being the main purpose of the stereo system, to a side feature.

As more music became available for karaoke machines, more people within the industry saw karaoke as a 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 consumer versions. Dance floors and lighting effects are also becoming common sights in karaoke bars. Lyrics are often displayed on multiple TV screens around the bar.

Patent Issues Continued On

Yet again another battle on patent infringement continued on with another company.[10] Posthumously awarded in favour of Roberto del Rosario under G.R. No. 115106, March 15, 1996 of the Philippine Supreme Court filed on January 18, 1993, it was a final victory for his family members a couple of decades after the first patent was enforced.[citation needed]



Early karaoke machine

A basic karaoke machine consists of a music player, microphone inputs, a means of altering the pitch of the played 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. Most common machines are CD+G, Laser Disc, VCD or DVD players with microphone inputs and an audio mixer built in. CD+G players use a special track called subcode to encode the lyrics and pictures displayed on the screen while 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 type in a random number and call up a song, of which participants take turns 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 the participants can sing. This game has come to be called "Kamikaze Karaoke" or "Karaoke Roulette" in some parts of the United States and Canada.[citation needed]

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 Sega Saturn also has a "mute vocals" feature that is based on the same principle and is also able to adjust the pitch of the song to match the singer's vocal range.

File:Karaoke Booth.jpg

A row of 3 karaoke booths at a shopping center in Angeles City.

The crudeness of this approach is reflected in the often-poor performance of voice removal. Common effects are hearing the reverberation of the voice track (due to stereo reverb being put on the vocals); also, other instruments (snare/bass drum, solo instruments) that happen to be mixed into the center get removed, degrading this approach to hardly more than a gimmick in those devices. Recent years have seen the development of new techniques based on the Fast Fourier Transform. Although still not perfect, the results are usually much better than the old technique, because the stereo left-right comparison can be done on individual frequencies.

Early age

Early karaoke machines used cassette tapes, but technological advances replaced this with CDs, VCDs, laserdiscs and, currently, DVDs. In the late 1980s and 1990s, Pioneer Electronics dominated the international karaoke music video market, producing high quality karaoke music videos (inspired by the music videos such as those on MTV).[citation needed]

In 1992, Taito introduced the X2000, which fetched music via a dial-up telephone network. Its repertoire of music and graphics was limited, but its smaller size and the advantage of continuous updates saw it gradually replace traditional machines. Now, karaoke machines connected via fiber-optic links to provide instant high-quality music and video are becoming increasingly popular.[citation needed]

Karaoke direct are an Internet division established in 1997 and have been serving the public online since 1998. They released the first karaoke player that supports MP3+G and now[when?] the KDX2000 model supporting karaoke in DIVX Format.[citation needed]

Karaoke video games

The earliest karaoke-based music video game, called Karaoke Studio, was released for the Nintendo Famicom in 1985, 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.[citation needed]

Karaoke Revolution, created for the PlayStation 2 by Harmonix and released by Konami 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 several follow-ups including Karaoke Revolution Vol. 2, Karaoke Revolution Vol. 3, Karaoke Revolution Party Edition, CMT Presents Karaoke Revolution: Country and Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol. 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.[citation needed]

A similar series, SingStar, published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, is particularly popular in the European and Australasian markets. Other music video game titles that involve singing by the player include Boogie and its sequel Boogie SuperStar, Disney Sing It, Get On Da Mic, Guitar Hero World Tour, High School Musical: Sing It!, Lips, the Rock Band series, SingSong, UltraStar, and Xbox Music Mixer.[citation needed]

Karaoke VCDs

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.[citation needed]

Karaoke on mobile phones

In 2003, several companies started offering a karaoke service on mobile phones, using a Java MIDlet that runs with a text file containing the words and a MIDI file with the music. This is still a budding service, and it is unclear whether it will become popular; however, some mobile karaoke providers, such as Karaokini, have begun to achieve commercial success.

Researchers have also developed karaoke games for cell phones in order to boost music database training. In 2006, the Interactive Audio Lab at Northwestern University released a game called Karaoke Callout for the Nokia Series 60 phone. The project has since then expanded into a web-based game and will be released soon as an iPhone application.

Karaoke is now available for the iPhone and other playback devices at many internet storefronts.

Karaoke on computers and the Internet

Since 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-Gs or laserdiscs, KJs can "rip" their entire libraries onto their hard drives and play the songs and lyrics from there.

Additionally, new software permits singers to sing and listen to one another over the Internet.

There are many sites that offer Karaoke on the internet.

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. Europe's first commercial "karaokecab" which was a London TX4 taxi with a karaoke machine inside for occupants of the cab to sing whilst in the cab. The idea and installation was made by Richard Harfield of and was featured on Channel 4's Big Breakfast and several German TV stations featured the karaokecab. Granada TV also featured the cab, which is now in its 4th vehicle and operates in Bolton, Lancashire as Clint's Karaoke Cab. 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 video game console and XBMC Media Center 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 support 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 is 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.

Karaoke terms

(十八番. also ohako). 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 Kabuki Jūhachiban, the 18 best kabuki plays.
Karamovie or Movioke
Main article: Movieoke
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.

A common myth about the etymology of the word "karaoke" claims that the word means "tone deaf" in Japanese. This is not true.


Singing karaoke alone is called hitokara (ヒトカラ, ヒト hito, "one person" or "alone" and カラ kara, "karaoke") in Japan. Recently this trend has become very popular amongst amateur singers in Japan, also India and China.

Karaoke in culture

Public places for karaoke

File:Karaoke-Big echo-P5262150.jpg

Lobby of a karaoke box in Japan


Entrance to a karaoke box in China


Karaoke in an Irish public house in Hamburg


In Asia, a karaoke box 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 a more intimate 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.

In some traditional Chinese restaurants, there are so-called "mahjong-karaoke rooms" where the elderly play mahjong while teenagers sing karaoke. The result is fewer complaints about boredom but more noise. Noise regulations can be an issue, especially when karaoke is brought into residential areas.

In the Philippines, karaoke machines are available for rent for use in occasions such as parties.

Violent reactions to karaoke singing have made headlines in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, with reports of killings by listeners disturbed by the singing. In the Philippines, at least a half dozen killings of people singing "My Way" caused newspapers there to label the phenomenon "My Way killings", and some bars refuse to allow the song, and some singers refrain from vocalizing it among strangers.[11]

North America and Europe

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. 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. Both are financially beneficial for the establishment by not having to pay a professional singer or a cabaret tax which is usually applied to any entertainment of more than 1 person.

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).

Private karaoke rooms, similar to Asia's "karaoke boxes", are commonplace in communities such as Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Karaoke in Korean culture

In July 2007, the nation of North Korea issued an edict banning, among other similar establishments, 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."[12]

Although extremely popular in South Korea, there have been expressions of dissatisfaction with respect to the circulation of Japanese music and songs via Karaoke.[13]

South Koreans generally use another term - "Norebang", which translates into "Song Room". Norebangs typically have a number of private rooms.

Karaoke in the Philippines

Filipinos are lovers of music and dance moves. Music and dancing have been popular among kids and teenagers and those young-at-hearts ever since the Spanish era when evening serenades were a common scene of the time especially in the provinces well into the late 70s. For a number of decades, young people would gather in groups at night singing songs usually with a guitar for fun and pasttime or with 'minus-one' music on a cassette player unit. Nowadays, a karaoke microphone sold as an OEM product has gained popularity. This gadget contained a few hundreds built-in songs and can be expanded with extra songchips installed. It is this love of music and dancing that makes Filipinos prone to singing, and in groups that they later on continued to engaged in evolving into what is now known as karaoke, one that is considered as one of the most loved activities there. In some TV shows, especially variety shows, song lyrics are projected on screen while songs are sung by artists.

Karaoke in Taiwan

In Taiwan, karaoke bars similar to those in Japan and Korea are called KTV, short for karaoke television. The biggest KTV chain in Taiwan is Cashbox KTV.

Karaoke in Australia

In Australia, karaoke was somewhat popularised in late 1980s but in a gradual fashion. A number of Filipino migrants brought with them their own 'minus-one' music from cassette music tapes and video tapes purchased mainly in the Philippines. A number of Philippine-imported karaoke units with two cassette drives featured with a multiplex button that was used to trigger vocal and minus-one music was used in family households. Video TV tapes, mainly consisted of popular and contemporary songs rendered by Filipino artists, and with mix of English and Tagalog songs were soon used. These projected lyrics on TV screens became very common as the main source of karaoke renditions. These tapes were soon replaced by CD+Gs, but a plug-n-play karaoke microphone that housed a factory built-in songchip loaded with hundreds of karaoke songs quickly became a favourite. This unit would usually be purchased in the Philippines and brought into Australia, becoming a common household item and is popularly used during gatherings.

In mid 2000s, a number of karaoke bars sprouted in Sydney with karaoke boxes frequented by a number of Japanese students and tourists and a few locals especially on Thursday nights and weekends. A number of clubs such as RSL, League Clubs and restaurants and bars mainly feature karaoke nights to entice more customers and to entertain guests.

Karaoke production methods

Karaoke is very popular in Asia, and many artists distribute a karaoke track at the same time the song is released.

In Europe and North America, karaoke tracks are almost never done by the original artist, they are re-recorded by musicians. The world's largest creator of Karaoke tracks, Blank Productions USA, (since 1986), produces between 40 and 60 titles per month, adding to their 25,000 title library, which is licensed to manufacturers and content providers. Karaoke companies like Stingray Digital and Chartbuster select popular songs and release soundalike tracks with lyrics synchronized, most commonly in CD+G format.

Karaoke in film

File:Karaoke Khan.jpg

A karaoke box in a skyscraper in Shinjuku, Tokyo, featured in the movie Lost In Translation.

Karaoke has been depicted in numerous movies and television shows, including:

  • Television shows:
    • American television show How I Met Your Mother
    • American television show Desperate Housewives
    • Several episodes of American television series Angel feature the demonic karaoke bar Caritas, whose proprietor Lorne (Andy Hallett) can read the destiny of the person singing.
    • All of American actor David Boreanaz's major television roles have involved his character being assaulted (in particular, being shot at) in a karaoke bar.[14][15][16]
    • Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps featured Donna singing "Chick Chick Chicken", which was made for the BBC by Zoom Entertainments, a karaoke producer based in Hull, UK.
    • One episode of the American show Heroes.
    • Don't Forget the Lyrics, a game show in which contestants have to sing 10 songs correctly to win $1,000,000.
    • Mai HiME, the titular character Mai Tokiha is a huge fan and the series features an episode with some of the various characters singing as well.
    • Azumanga Daioh, during the episode where the characters celebrate Christmas, there is a part where they go to a karaoke club.
  • Music Videos:

World records

Finland holds the record for the largest number of people singing karaoke at one time, for over 80,000 people singing "Hard Rock Hallelujah" on 26 May 2006 in Helsinki after Lordi won the Eurovision Song Contest 2006.[17]

[The United Kingdom] holds the record for the longest Karaoke marathon multiple participants achieved in an event organised at The Castle Hotel Tamworth by Tim Wedgwood, it lasted for 781 hours, 31 minutes, between December 30, 2009, and February 1, 2010, Each song was over 3 minutes long and the gap between songs was no longer than 30 seconds No song was repeated in any 2 hour period.[18]

See also



  1. 'karaoke'
  2. Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (1992), The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, Ballentine Books, ISBN 0-345-37792-3 
  5. Who Invented the Karaoke Machine?
  6. 井上大祐【カラオケ発明者】 J-ONE/INOUE
  7. Time 100:Daisuke Inoue, August 23–30, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 7/8
  8. "The 2004 Ig Nobel Prize Winners". Winners of the Ig Nobel Prize. Improbable Research. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  9. About:Inventors, Roberto del Rosario Accessed January 6, 2007
  11. Onishi, Norimitsu, "Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord", February 7, 2010, The New York Times, retrieved same day
  12. "Nation bans karaoke bars, Internet cafes?". Yahoo! News (Yahoo!). 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2007-07-12.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help); |coauthors= requires |author= (help)
  13. Japanese songs enter South Korea by karaoke. [1] Template:Ko
  14. Angel Episode "That Old Gang of Mine"
  15. Angel Episode "Offspring"
  16. Bones Episode "Wannabe in the Weeds"
  17. "Star-studded 2007 edition of Guinness World Records released". CBC News. September 29, 2006. Archived from the original on February 19, 2007. 
  18. Longest karaoke marathon by multiple participants

External links

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