A while back, I stumbled across another blogger’s (Henry Poon) post on how to set up Karaoke at home. I have tried many software out there and this was the best free set up that I can find on the internet so far. If you have a spare computer/laptop lying around and enjoy Karaoke, here’s my guide on how to set up Karaoke at home (of course with reference to Henry’s blog but also with a few hints and tips that I’ve used to resolve issues I’ve had during the set up process.) My process is also simplified and custom to my set up. As I do not have a permanent set up, I only hook up the laptop when I want to sing.
If you’ve been to a Karaoke place before, you will usually see a screen where people can use a remote to select songs. That screen is usually hooked up to a hidden computer system and from there, the software will queue up the songs and play them to the TV one after another.
The set up I have can be summarised by the following diagram.
When I want to sing, I hook my laptop to the TV via HDMI cable. I play the Karaoke songs through the tv and 5.1 sound system. Separately, I have an amp with 2 extra speakers for the microphones. I only put the laptop there when I want to sing Karaoke.
The software recommended is called JetKTV2010 (link). I have tried a newer version of JetKTV and although it seems to be more stable, I could not get the video to successfully play full screen on the TV. I have tried tweaking the .ini file but all I could do was move the video around. So I reverted back to JetKTV2010, the good news is, the database file is compatible across both, so after you set the songs up, you can use the DB file in both software.
After you install the software, when you run it, you should see the song picker GUI on your screen. If you have a secondary monitor and have extended your desktop, the software will automatically play the picked song on your secondary monitor just like what you would see at a Karaoke place. All the features such as turning vocal on and off/playing/pausing/skipping songs can be found in the GUI menu. The only button that is hidden, is the close button and that can be done by clicking the top left corner of the application.
Inserting a new song
The initial database is empty, you will need to populate it with entries to songs that you have. There’s a way you can do it with an application called SongMgr but I did not use it as my PC locale is English so I had problems with the fonts. I manually added songs to the songs.mdb file in the JetKTV program directory. (Using Microsoft Access).
Before I list the steps to link the database to your songs, the first thing I did was organise my song files in a nice folder structure, down to language, male/female/group, then the folder for each singer. As your database grows, without this organisation, you will find it extremely hard to maintain it. This is quite a manual process unfortunately but when it’s done, it will result a great Karaoke experience not dissimilar to going out.
- Open Song.mdb in the JetKTV program directory
- When prompted for a password, input “tmwcmgumbonqd” without quotes
- Navigate to the table Tbl_Song. This is the table that records all the song entries.
Below is an explanation of each column:
- Song_ID: numerical identifier for each song (the program lists them as 5 digit numbers starting at 10000)
- Song_Title: song title
- Song_Singer: each singer has a unique number associated with them (see next section)
- Song_Singer (2nd one): the name of the artist in text
- Song_Word: number of characters in the song name
- Song_Type: a number representing a language (Mandarin,Taiwanese,Cantonese,Hakka Chinese,English,Japanese,Movies,Cartoons,Other in that order starting from 1)
- Song_Volume: song volume, but not sure what units they are in. Default value is 70.
- Song_Channel: the audio channel that does not have the vocal track. (1-Left, 2-Right, 3-Both)
- Song_FileName: filename of the video without the directory
- Song_Path: the directory to the file (could use absolute pathing only, but unsure of whether relative paths work)
- Song_Create: the time that the song was added in
- Song_Count: the play count of a song
- Song_Juyin: the Zhuyin characters representing the song title
- Song_Stroke: number of strokes in the first character of the song name
Some of the columns can be left out, but that means that it will not be possible to find a particular song using the omitted information. For example, Song_Juyin can be left out for those who dont use the Zhuyin system, and that feature won’t be used for song searching anyway.
To add a song, fill out the following information at the minimum on one row:
- Song_ID (must be a unique number and should have five digits)
- Song_Volume (70 is the default)
Inserting a new artist
Artist information is stored on a different table called Tbl_Singer
- Open the table called Tbl_Singer
- Fill out an entire row to add a new singer (see below for the reference for each information column)
Below is an explanation of each column:
- Singer_ID: unique identifier for each singer (this is the unique ID that is to put inserted in the Song_Singer column in Tbl_Song)
- Singer_Sex: singer gender (0-Female, 1-Male, 2-Group/Band)
- Singer_Name: artist name in text
- Singer_Juyin: the Zhuyin characters representing the artist name
- Singer_Stroke: number of strokes in the first character of the artist’s name
Where to find songs?
- Forums – Not as readily available these days but some forums are still quite good with many people sharing good quality KTVs.
- Youtube – Quality may not be as high as the ones shared on forums but if you can find a good sound quality clip, you can use browser tools such as keepvid to download the youtube as an mp4.
- Do-It-Yourself – You can make your own. I haven’t done this before, but there’s a lot of DIY karaoke clips out there so I’m sure there’s another blog floating around that will teach you how to do this.
Helpful hints and notes
- Before you go ahead and put in all your songs, it’s best to do some testing with a few songs. First try it locally on your laptop/computer, then try hooking it up to your Entertainment set up. Make sure it works to your liking before spending time populating the database.
- Even when it’s worked fine, make sure regular testing is done. If one row is put in incorrectly, it could result in other songs subsequent to that song failing. Always test the last song, if that works, chances are, everything is in working order.
- Best to do testing using an external screen with extended desktop. I’ve noticed, sometimes things seem to work when just in the song picker GUI but once it tries to load it full screen, the software will fail unexpectedly. Problems happen intermittently, usually a restart of the software will fix the problem. If problems occur on the same song every time, then there is something wrong with that entry. You might have to also check the format of the clip, with problematic clips, I usually convert them to MP4 using a software called Handbrake.
- A bug that I’ve found in JetKTV2010 is, the audio does not switch correctly with clips that have the audio channel with no vocals on the right channel. (Majority of the time, the no vocal track is on the left for most clips). In this situation, I used the following applications to switch the tracks around. Doing that will resolve the issue.
- Audacity – I use this to create tracks so that I can have a vocal track file and a non vocal track file.
- Avidemux – This application allows you to add the tracks you’ve created with audacity against the video clip and save it as an AVI.
- Handbrake – I use this app to convert the AVI into an MP4. JetKTV does not like the AVIs created from Avidemux that much.
Anyway, hope that helps you on your way to setting up KTV. Feel free to drop me a comment if you have any questions.
Henry Poon’s karaoke set up – http://henrypoon.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/setting-up-karaoke-ktv-like-an-actual-karaoke-place-at-home-using-jetktv/
Audacity – http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Avidemux – http://avidemux.sourceforge.net/
HandBrake – http://handbrake.fr/