If you’re looking for a fun way to entertain friends at home, then consider hosting a karaoke party. Forget hauling out a clunky karaoke machine and changing CDs: today’s karaoke is online and easy to do with just some mics and a connector. Here’s everything you need to get started with a home karaoke system.
Choose an App
Gone are the days of buying CD-Gs or single tracks on iTunes – today there are dozens of great apps you can buy for the weekend or subscribe to longer-term for an ever-changing list of songs that mean everybody will find something to sing. A few to check out include Karafun, Smule, and The Karaoke Channel. Don’t want to subscribe to anything? You can find thousands of songs on Youtube – just with no options to add vocals, etc.
|Catalog||Short Pass?||Record?||Community?||Audio Effects||Best For|
|Karafun||35,000||$5.99/2 days||No||No||Yes||Group Fun|
|Smule||Millions||$7.99/week||Yes||Yes||Yes||Singing With Online Friends|
|The Voice||Millions||$6.99/week||Yes||Yes||Yes||Trying to Get
Choose A Mic
First, decide if you want wired or wireless. Wired mics are much cheaper and you’ll never be stuck because you ran out of batteries at midnight. Wireless mics encourage your singers to dance a little too, and that can take a party up a notch. And they’re easier to store.
At a minimum, you’ll want two microphones, and if your budget will stretch to three or four mics you’ll always have backup singers at the ready, too.
The specs you want to look for here are cardioid (meaning that it picks up sound from whatever is directly in front of it, not a lot of background noise.) Though there are a lot of inexpensive wireless mics available, be careful, inexpensive wireless mics are notorious for distortion, background noise, and dropout. If you want to save money go wired. Here are a few very good wireless mics we recommend:
Sennheiser XSW 1-825
If you hate it when things go wrong, and if you’re more likely to shooo-wap side to side than to bust-a-move when you dance, then a wired mic is an inexpensive bulletproof option. Even an inexpensive wired mic is likely to work great. You will want a Dynamic wired mic that does not require Phantom Power, this is almost all Dynamic mics. Some brands that provide good quality include:
Audio-Technica – AE6100
Sennheiser – e945
Shure – SM58
Connect to Your TV
Next step is to connect to your tv. If you have a Smart TV, you can call the app up directly on the screen. If you don’t, your phone or tablet should have an option for casting to your TV. For example, we like to have the song list showing with the Karafun app on our tablet. Then we mirror the tablet on the TV using Apple TV, giving our guests the lyrics-only view from the app. This allows us to manage the song queue in the background while people are singing.
Adjust the Mix
Either using a Karaoke Mixer or the AxiomAir App if you have an AxiomAir, adjust the balance between the vocals (the mics) and the music. This is key to a fun party: cheaper mics may not sound as good and you might want to bring the music up to make up for that. Great mics sound amazing and you’ll want to bring them forward. Adding some echo will go a long way to making everyone sound more professional.
It probably goes without saying, but this is a good step to do before your guests arrive, so you’re ready to get right to it when they come in. Once you have some settings that work you will likely never change them again, only the master volume will be used.
Pre-set the Music
One thing we’ve found makes a big difference is having a song queue at the ready. The best karaoke apps will let you slide songs up and down the play queue so as soon as someone thinks of a song they would like to try, you can add it to the list. If everyone is stumped, the songs you have in the queue will likely inspire one brave soul or another to join in. It’s a matter of keeping the music going.
- Start with Group Songs
Try some classic songs that everyone will want to sing along with. Depending on the age of your guests, here are some ideas:
The Weight – The Band
Stuck In the Middle – Stealers Wheel
Dancing Queen – Abba
Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
Living on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
Celebration – Kool and the Gang
I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys
Man! I Feel Like a Woman – Shania Twain
Friends in Low Places – Garth Brooks
I Got a Feeling – Black Eyed Peas
Bye, Bye, Bye – NSYNC
Chicken Fried – Zac Brown Band
Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars
Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker
Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
- Move to Duets
Ease into the night with some duets if your singers are still feeling shy. A few to try:
Just Give Me a Reason – Pink and Nate Ruess
I Got You Babe – Sunny and Cher
Love Shack – The B52s
Remember to explain to newbies how they’ll know it’s their turn to sing (some apps use colors to differentiate, others use on-screen position.)
- Lead the Charge
Now you’re ready for the solos! By this time your guests are warmed up and confident, so hopefully someone steps forward and starts. If not, have a song or two ready for yourself to sing.
Create A Theme
A lot of people are shy and won’t know what songs they will be able to sing in their range. Rather than giving them your entire songbook and telling them to pick one, why not narrow down their choices by selecting a theme? Get your guests to dress up and pre-select some songs – they’ll have time to practice them in the car or in the shower, and they’ll feel more confident singing at your place.
Here are some theme ideas we’ve found were big hits:
From The Gambler to Knocking Boots, from Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton to Carrie Underwood and Blake Shelton, there is something for every skill level in country music.
Set the Stage:
A few country tidbits here and there will set the stage for your guests. Consider Bandana Napkins, Cowboy Hat snacks, and checkered tablecloths. Encourage your guests to dress up – you have no idea how a pair of cowboy boots will empower them to find their inner country singer!
Showtunes / Musicals
This is another category crosses generations and can make for a really fun night. Look at classics from musicals like Hair or Hamilton, songs from Disney classics like Frozen or Beauty and the Beast, or go Broadway tunes from Mama Mia. Beware, though – a song that is too slow can kill the party. Avoid overly emotional love songs or Jean Valjean's solo from Les Misérables.
Set the Stage:
Costumes, costumes, costumes! Have your guests dress up as the main character from one of the songs they’re going to cover. Encourage props too!
Have some family joining you? Why not try a family theme? Choose songs that have a family moniker in the title or band: The Mamas and the Papas, The Everly Brothers, Twisted Sister, I’m My Own Grandpa, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, We Are Family – you’ll be amazed at the variety that comes up with this theme.
Set the Stage:
Have some classic family photos printed and blown up to have scattered around the room. Make a few classic snack recipes (Ruffled Chips and French Onion Dip might take everyone back to their childhood, or some other classic.)
Road Trip Theme
If you ever took a family trip across the country, you’ll know that having a good playlist was key and singing along was mandatory. Recreate that feeling of freedom by selecting songs about places, about travel, and about being together in the car. Fast Car,New York, New York, Austin, This is How We Roll, Roll Me Away, and Drive My Car will get things going.
Set the Stage:
This one is fast – Route 66 posters, street signs, and classic diner menus will do the trick.
Of course, determining if something is retro depends on how old you are. However, this is another fun theme to choose – 60s tunes, 50s tunes or just anything by someone you’d consider a crooner.
Set the Stage:
Serve retro snacks like devilled eggs, angels on horseback, or fondue, and have everyone dress up in costume. A selection of fedoras, wigs that mimic old fashioned hairstyles, or a pair of Elton John sunglasses will inspire songs too.
Have you hosted a home karaoke party? What did you find the biggest hit with your guests? Let us know in the comments below!