HOWTO: Make Karaoke on your Ubuntu Box!

Update: If you enjoy Karaoke, you might want to try http://thesimsonstage.ea.com/. 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: http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/9787)
  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!