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Japanese karaoke display

( ;  ) 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.


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 and so they use a "karaoke" recording, but they are actually the original artists. (This is not to be confused with "lip syncing" 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.

In fact, the concept of 'sing along' music should have been considered the precursor of the karaoke music. Remember that in the late 1960s well into the 1970s, storage of audible materials started to dominate the music recording era 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, something that resulted from the demand of customizing one's music recording and the 'handiness' and 'duplicability' of one's music in a faster, convenient way to match entertainers' lifestyle and 'footlooseness' nature of the entertainment industry.

Filipino musicians and entertainers started to influx Japan and becoming increasingly notable in 1967 with streams of singers coming into the country since then well into the 1970s bringing with them their music. 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 'minus-one music', a sing-along musical accompaniment recorded on cassette tapes, that became very prevalent in the Philippines in the late 1960s to early 1980s. It was also during the first half of this era that 'minus-one music' was popular in the Philippines when it was synonymously termed 'multiplex music' recorded on cassette tapes where both a 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 discthat came into existence several years after if we are to evaluate the claims associated with Roberto del Rosario's work.

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 in Kobe, Japanmarker, in 1971. After becoming popular in Japan, karaoke spread 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 500 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 box, 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."

1980s: Filipino patent

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 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 wherever they go and a few went to Japan as entertainers during the early part of this decade. 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.


Karaoke soon spread to the rest of Asia and then to the United States in the 1990s, as well as to Canadamarker, Australia and other Western countries. 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. Posthumously awarded in favour of Roberto del Rosario under G.R. No. 115106, March 15, 1996 of the 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.


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.

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.
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 CD, VCD, 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. Now, karaoke machines connected via fiber-optic links to provide instant high-quality music and video are becoming increasingly popular.

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 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 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.

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.

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 Kongmarker.

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 such as

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.

Karaoke in automobiles

Chinesemarker 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 Breakfastmarker 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, Lancashiremarker 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 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 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.

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

Lobby of a karaoke box in Japan


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.

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 Torontomarker, Los Angelesmarker and San Franciscomarker.

Karaoke in Korean culture

In July 2007, the nation of North Koreamarker 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."

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

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

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

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

  • Television shows:
    • 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.
    • 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

Finlandmarker 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.

People's Republic of Chinamarker holds the record for the longest non-stop rally of karaoke, for 456 hours, two minutes, and five seconds between February 20, 2009 and March 11, 2009.

See also


  1. 'karaoke'
  2. Who Invented the Karaoke Machine?
  3. 井上大祐【カラオケ発明者】 J-ONE/INOUE
  4. Time 100:Daisuke Inoue, August 23-30, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 7/8
  5. About:Inventors, Roberto del Rosario Accessed January 6, 2007
  6. Japanese songs enter South Korea by karaoke. [1]
  7. Angel Episode "That Old Gang of Mine"
  8. Angel Episode "Offspring"
  9. Bones Episode "Wannabe in the Weeds"
  11. Longest karaoke marathon by multiple participants

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