Anyone who has performed karaoke shows with a disc based system knows how much of a nuisance discs can be. Loading discs in and out of the machine, storing them, keeping them clean, and hauling them around is not a lot of fun. The typical karaoke host may have hundreds of discs to deal with. Also, karaoke disc players have very limited features.
The solution to this dilemma is a computerized karaoke system. Do away with discs while storing all your karaoke songs on a hard drive that could fit in your back pocket. Just imagine having nothing discs to load, store, and maintain. But that is just the beginning. Karaoke hosting software offers features not possible with a disc player that can really add to the quality of your shows.
The process of switching to a computerized system is not difficult or complicated but it is time consuming at first. How time consuming depends on the number of discs you have as you must “rip” the song tracks from each one. Fortunately, professional disc ripping software can connect to free online karaoke song databases and automatically name the song files.
The laptop requirements for the most part will depend on the hosting software requirements. One of my favorite hosting applications, JustKaraoke , will run just fine on most laptops produced over the past six or seven years. One feature the laptop must have is the extended desktop feature. This allows for the workstation to be displayed on the laptop while the karaoke is displayed on a separate monitor or TV via the S-video or VGA connection. No special sound card is required.
The Karaoke Hosting Software
This is what really separates the computer users from the disc users. Imagine the scenario when a singer approaches you and requests if you remember what the song was they sang a few weeks earlier at one of your other gigs. Now imagine that with just a few mouse clicks or keystrokes you could tell them exactly what they sang that night or any other night. This is just one of the perks of a computerized system.
Some karaoke hosting software features:
- Singer rotation and playlist.
- Singer history including the venue and key control settings.
- Song search by artist, title, or disc ID.
- Quick sound effects.
- Customized backgrounds.
- Singer announcement.
- Next singer ticker
- Ambient music (automatically plays standard audio tracks between karaoke songs).
- Ability to purchase songs during a show (if connected to the internet).
The Song Files
The standard karaoke file format supported by all hosting software is MP3 + G. This is a compressed version of a karaoke CD + G song track. Each MP3 + G song consists of two files, one cdg and one mp3. These two files are typically zipped together to form a single file for each song. Virtually all karaoke hosting software supports karaoke zip files.
You are going to have to rip the song tracks from all of your CD + G discs to the zipped MP3 + G format. This is a time consuming space but there is no way around it. It will be well worth it in the end. There are several applications available for this task but the one used by many professionals, and the one I highly recommend, is Power CD + G Burner . This program produces high quality rips, automatically names the song files from free online databases (with an internet connection present), and works with most modern CD / DVD drives.
Putting It All Together
Now let's assume that you have the hosting software installed on the laptop, the CD + G discs have been ripped to MP3 + G files on an external hard drive, and you have imported the songs into the hosting software's database. All that's left is to connect the laptop to the PA system and external monitor (s).
Connecting the audio is very simple. You will use a 1/8 “stereo to dual RCA adapter cable to connect from the earphone jack of the laptop to the audio inputs of the laptop. player.
The video output from the laptop can be handled in several ways depending on the available connections. Ideally you will want to be prepared for the situations you are going to encounter at your various gigs. To this end I recommend that you convert the signal from the S-video or VGA out connections to a VHF (coaxial) signal that can be used by any television. This also allows you to use a coaxial splitter to connect to multiple TV's or into a main coaxial junction.
The video to VHF converters are available at virtually any electronics store or Radio Shack. Of course you can also connect the laptop directly to a computer monitor via the VGA or any TV that has an S-video input.
So there you have it. Now instead of hauling around, storing, and maintaining all those discs, you will walk into a gig carrying your player and complete music library in one hand.