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Title: Karaoke  
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Subject: Kumyoung, Det gör ont, Pub, Daisuke Inoue, Japanese loanwords in Hawaii
Collection: 1970S Establishments, Japanese Entertainment Terms, Karaoke, Lyrics, Party Games, Singing
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Over a background image of Mount Fuji and a Shinkansen train two lines of Japanese text. The first half of the first line is colored red-violet, the rest white. The text reads
Japanese karaoke display

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


  • History 1
    • 1960s: Development of audio-visual-recording devices 1.1
    • 1970s: Development of the karaoke machine 1.2
    • 1990s 1.3
  • Technology 2
    • Early age 2.1
    • Karaoke video games 2.2
    • Karaoke VCDs 2.3
    • Karaoke on mobile phones 2.4
    • Karaoke on computers and the Internet 2.5
    • Karaoke in automobiles 2.6
    • Alternative playback devices 2.7
  • Karaoke terms 3
    • Hitokara 3.1
  • Karaoke in culture 4
    • Public places for karaoke 4.1
      • Asia 4.1.1
      • North America and Europe 4.1.2
    • Karaoke in Taiwan 4.2
    • Karaoke in The Philippines 4.3
    • Karaoke in Australia 4.4
    • Karaoke production methods 4.5
    • Karaoke contest 4.6
    • World records 4.7
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


A karaoke bar in Wuhan, China

The concept of creating studio recordings that lack the lead vocal has been around for 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; they are, however, 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, which superimposed the lyrics to their songs 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.

Sing-alongs (present since the beginning of singing) fundamentally changed with the introduction of new technology. In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, stored 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 started to influx Japan In 1967, influx of Filipino entertainers into Japan became notable with streams of singers coming into the country since then well into the 1970s bringing with them their 'minus-one' music on tapes. With the innate characteristic of improvising gadgets at the most minimal costs, Filipinos would resort to solutions that would give greater result to generate revenue at a lesser cost of having a musical band and at a greater ingenuity such as the use of tapes as 'minus-one music', a sing-along musical accompaniment stored on cassettes, that became very prevalent in the Philippines in the late 1960s to early 1980s.

It was during the late 1960s eary 1970s that 'minus-one music' was popular in the Philippines when it was synonymously termed 'multiplex music' recorded on cassette tapes where both vocalized and non-vocalized instrumental-only versions of the same song were available. 'Minus-one music' could well have an influence on the production of a more complicated system in Japan that we now call 'karaoke' machine. Indeed, 'minus-one music' was actually first recorded by the use of cassette tape and not on a compact disc that came into existence several years after if we are to evaluate the claims associated with Roberto del Rosario's work.

1970s: Development of the karaoke machine

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[3] in Kobe, Japan, in 1971.[4][5] Although the audio company Clarion was the first commercial producer of the machine they may have also invented the machine, but there is no existence of the patent.

In Japan, it has long been common to provide musical entertainment at a dinner or a party. Japanese drummer Daisuke Inoue was asked frequently by guests in the Utagoe Kissa, where he performed, to provide recordings of his performances so that they could sing along. Realizing the potential for the market, Inoue made a tape recorder-like machine that played songs for a 100-yen coin each.

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 kind of 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."[6]


Entrance Hall of a karaoke box in Taipei, Taiwan

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 American 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 high-end sound equipment superior to 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 television screens around the bar.


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 remove 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.[7] 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 choose a key that is appropriate for their vocal range, while maintaining the original tempo of the song. (Old systems which used cassettes 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, which participants attempt to sing. 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.

Many low-end entertainment systems have a karaoke mode that attempts to remove the vocal track from regular audio CDs, using an Out Of Phase Stereo (OOPS) technique. This is done by center channel extraction, which exploits the fact that in most stereo recordings 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.

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

This crude approach results in the often-poor performance of voice removal. Common effects are hearing the reverberation effects on the voice track (due to stereo reverb on the vocals not being in the center); also, other instruments (snare/bass drum, bass guitar and 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).

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. Karaoke machines which are connected via fiber-optic links enabling them to provide instant high-quality music and video are becoming increasingly popular.

Karaoke direct is an Internet division established in 1997 been serving the public online since 1998. They released the first karaoke player that supports MP3+G and now the KDX2000 model supporting karaoke in DIVX Format.

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.

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 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.

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, the Guitar Hero series starting with World Tour, High School Musical: Sing It!, Lips, the Rock Band series, SingSong, UltraStar, and Xbox Music Mixer.

Karaoke VCDs

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.

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. More usual is to contain the lyrics within the same MIDI file. Often the file extension is then changed from .mid to .kar, both are compatible with the standard for MIDI files.

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 Android, 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 the computer.

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

Karaoke in automobiles

Taxicabs equipped with sound systems and a microphone appeared in South Korea in the 1990s.[8]

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 use to sing whilst in the cab. The idea and installation were 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, Greater Manchester as Clint's Karaoke Cab. Karaoke is often also found as a feature in aftermarket in-car DVD players.

In 2010, karaoke taxis were available in London, England in the 'Kabeoke' fleet of private hire vehicles.[9]

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 first Xbox) 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
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.


Singing karaoke alone is called hitokara (ヒトカラ, abbreviation for ひとりカラオケ; ひとり hitori, "one person" or "alone" + カラオケ 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

Lobby of a karaoke box in Japan
Entrance to a karaoke box in China
Karaoke in an Irish pub 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. 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"; some bars refuse to allow the song, and some singers refrain from vocalizing it among strangers.[10]

Asian karaoke establishments are often fronts for so-called gentlemen's clubs, where men pay for female hosts to drink, sing, and dance with them. Such a business is called an NRB in Korea, and a piano bar in Japan. In China, a karaoke establishment, whether or not it employs hostesses, is called a KTV.

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. Toronto's Koreatown is one example of an area where popularity is growing to the point that private karaoke rooms require reservations on the weekends.

Throughout much of North America, live band karaoke is also popular. With live band karaoke, singers sing with a live band instead of the prerecorded backing track.

Rock critic Rob Sheffield claims that the 1986 music video for the song "Wild Wild Life" by the Talking Heads was the first depiction of karaoke in American popular culture. The video features a variety of characters taking turns singing portions of the song to an audience at a bar.[11]

The karaoke box at Karaoke Kan (Tokyo) where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson sang in Lost In Translation.
Karaoke made a brief appearance in Sofia Coppola's 2003 movie Lost In Translation, and it was, three years before, the primary focus of Bruce Paltrow's 2000 film Duets, written by John Bynum and starring Paltrow's daughter Gwyneth and Huey Lewis, "anchor-man" of Huey Lewis and the News.

Also popular among the international performing arts community in Europe, a group of Finnish producers organized an international karaoke competition called KWC (Karaoke World Championships). Their 2011 international karaoke competition has attracted ABC producers to help host America's karaoke competition in Las Vegas Nevada called Karaoke Battle USA. The competition is promised to select 1 male and 1 female contestant to represent USA in the international arena. Largely supported by the Broadway community in Times Square, Pulse Karaoke Lounge sponsored 2011's NY state karaoke finals to select individuals representing NY in the eastern finals.

According to the New York Times, the dozens of karaoke bars in Portland, Oregon make it not just "the capital of karaoke" in the United States, but "one of the most exciting music scenes in America."[12]

Karaoke in Taiwan

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

Karaoke in The Philippines

Filipinos love singing and karaoke has become a past-time activity especially when entertaining friends at home. The 'minus-one' music on tapes during the late 1960s with prevailing songs such as the Beatles pop songs and Frank Sinatra's My Way had become favorite songs. Singing contests during town festivals would attract contestants that carry with them cassette tapes where instrumental versions of their songs were stored and played during their rendition.

Wherever Filipinos go, they bring with them their favorite music and devices. In the 1980s, Sharp Corporation produced a karaoke party system HK-Z20 with double cassette decks, one for synchronizing/recording and one for continuous playback. This model became a popular device and had been exported to other countries.

One long-running popular device from the 1990s has been the Magic Sing, a plug and play microphone that houses about 2000+ songs and with extendable song chips in it and connected directly to a TV unit. This device also provides singing scores, and later models (some now known as WOW Magic Sing) have a recording feature.

Karaoke in Australia

In Australia, karaoke was gradually popularized in the late 1980s. 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 were used in private households. Video TV tapes, mainly consisted of popular and contemporary songs rendered by Filipino artists, and with a mix of English and Tagalog songs were soon used. 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.

Commercially, karaoke was first introduced into Australia in 1989 by Robin Hemmings who had seen karaoke operating in Fiji. Prior to this, karaoke was generally unknown to the broader population. Hemmings, of Adelaide, South Australia, offered systems manufactured by Pioneer which utilised 12in (30cm) double-sided laser discs containing a maximum of 24 songs with accompanying video track and subtitled lyrics.

Despite some initial resistance, Adelaide hoteliers The Booze Brothers offered limited access to their hotels and the karaoke phenomenon was born. Hemmings business, Karaoke Hire Systems, operated seven machines on a casual rental basis to numerous hotels, clubs and private parties in and around Adelaide with an additional machine on snow-season lease at Jindabyne, NSW. Each system came complete with up to 24 discs containing a maximum of 576 music video tracks. In Adelaide, karaoke reached its zenith in 1991 with virtually every hotel offering at least one karaoke night per week with many having undertaken alterations to their premises with the addition of purpose built stages and sound systems. Karaoke rental suppliers had proliferated during this period and Hemmings is known to have sold his business in late 1991 as a going concern.

Karaoke's popularity in Adelaide waned from mid 1992 and was virtually extinguished by early 1993. Despite periodic attempts by hoteliers and clubs to revitalise karaoke, it has never managed to re-establish its former popularity.

In the mid-2000s, a number of karaoke bars sprouted in Sydney with karaoke boxes frequented by 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 Asian countries, and many artists distribute a karaoke track at the same time the song is released. The most common form of karaoke nowadays is released in MIDI format with on-screen lyrics on a DVD background video.

In Europe and North America, karaoke tracks are almost never done by the original artist, but are re-recorded by other musicians.

TJ media and Kumyoung, 2 large firms based in South Korea produces digital music (MIDI) contents and manufacture computer music players for the Asian market.

Karaoke contest

Since the rise of karaoke around the world, karaoke contests have become a phenomenon of main stream culture, giving non-professional singers opportunity to showcase their talent, win prizes, and at times, travel the world. Contest participants are usually rated 50% by customer votes and 50% by judges' votes, but this may vary, depending on the venue and the level of competition.

Karaoke World Championship is one of the most popular karaoke contests and has been around since 2003. In September, 2011, Karaoke World Championships took place in Killarney, Ireland.

World records

Robbie Williams holds the record for the largest number of people singing karaoke at one time, for over 120,000 people singing "Strong" live at Knebworth 2003.

External links

  1. ^ 'karaoke'
  2. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (1992),  
  3. ^ Who Invented the Karaoke Machine?
  4. ^ 井上大祐【カラオケ発明者】 J-ONE/INOUE
  5. ^ Time 100:Daisuke Inoue, 23–30 August 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 7/8
  6. ^ "The 2004 Ig Nobel Prize Winners". Winners of the Ig Nobel Prize.  
  7. ^ "The History of Karaoke in America". Karaoke Cloud. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Shin, Paul (14 June 1992). Taxicabs Are Latest Fad for South Koreans Who Love to Belt Out a Song"Karoake" . Los Angeles Times. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Onishi, Norimitsu, "Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord", 7 February 2010, The New York Times, retrieved 7 February 2010
  11. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2013). Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke. New York: HarperCollins. p. 288.  
  12. ^ How Good Does Karaoke Have to Be to Qualify as Art?, Dan Kois, New York Times, 17 January 2013
  13. ^ Longest karaoke marathon by multiple participants


See also

The Jersey Shore Karaoke Idol(TM)competition is currently underway in the USA to beat the world record with this newest Karaoke Singing competition. The Jersey Shore Karaoke Idol(TM) Competition is open to anyone 11 years and older and anyone from all over the world can enter online.


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