HOWTO: Make Karaoke on your Ubuntu Box!

Update: If you enjoy Karaoke, you might want to try I tried it out once, and simply loved it.

Last week I searched the internet for a way to “make” karaoke – strip out the vocals from my songs.
This way, I get songs without the vocals – only instrumentals – so I can sing along instead of the real singer. Turns out this is called karaoke 🙂

So, my hunt led me to two things:

PyKaraoke (#fail)

This is a software that can be installed with a simple “sudo apt-get install pykaraoke“. But, this somehow did not do what it is supposed to do. 😦
So I figured out a new way to do this (after a LOT of googling).

Mplayer, your friend (#yay)

So here’s a DIY for how-to-make-your-own-karaoke:

1. Install the required software

You need mplayer and lame encoder. Installation is pretty simple: sudo apt-get install mplayer lame shntool

2. Remove the vocals from the song

Here’s how to do that: mplayer -ao pcm:file=<output file> -af karaoke <input file (song)>
This command will (try to) strip the vocals from the input song (audio, video, whatever) and will dump the output as “PCM Wav” encoded audio. Relax, this just means that the output song is NOT in mp3 format. And its size is huge.

3. Convert the wav output to mp3

Here’s how: lame -V2 <input wav file> <output mp3 file>
Make sure that there are no spaces in the file names during this “lame” operation. (I don’t know what happens if there are).

So far, so good.

And here’s the catch: not all songs respond equally well to this “procedure”. Some pointers:

  1. This procedure is meant to “attenuate” the voice, not remove it, like, completely. (#ref:
  2. Songs with male voice repond better than ones with female voice.
  3. Sometimes, drum beats are also badly attenuated along with the vocals. In any case, the “boom” of the beat gets killed.

So much for being a killjoy. But all said and done, I still use this method. It works on some songs, and it doesn’t on others.

Q: So what do you do if this method doesn’t work?

A: Search for a better method, and if you find it, post it in here!

15 thoughts on “HOWTO: Make Karaoke on your Ubuntu Box!

  1. Interesting, I didn’t realise there was an existing way to do this with mplayer.

    In case you’re wondering about PyKaraoke, it is an application for playing back pre-prepared karaoke files (music+lyrics) in CDG, KAR/MID and MPG format. It’s not used for stripping the audio from regular tracks.

  2. OMG! Amazing! I could NEVER find something like this on windows. This works like hell! THANKS A LOT! You’re amazing! Hats off to your effort!

    • For Windows there’s a free plugin for any audio program called Vocal Remover that you can get from Also,Audacity is free, does vocal removal and is available in both Linux and Windows distros.

  3. OH BTW. Very important. People copy pasting your code will not be able to run it. karaoke is spelt “karakoe”. Pls make that correction. thanks!

  4. Anyone know of a way to “make Karaoke CD+G files with Ubuntu?

    In windows I used karaoke CDG Creator (from

    It adds lyrics to a backing track (song with no vocals) and saves as CDG or BIN files to create a CD with.

    I want something like this for Ubuntu!

  5. I get the following error upon executing the command

    lame -V2 baamaleyeba.wav baamaleyebaa.mp3

    Unsupported data format: 0x0003

    I tried with and without the .wav extension at both mplayer command and lame command. Same error. Anything?

    I am using Ubuntu Lucid Lynx with KDE.

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