How to Make a MIDI Karaoke

By Brian Avey
MIDI karaoke can be used for entertainment and fun.

MIDI is a powerful technology for making music that is widely available and relatively easy to use. A MIDI karaoke is a song file that has instrumental music tracks and a special track for lyrics. MIDI songs—instrumental only—can be downloaded from the Internet from free archives or music vendors. If you don't already have MIDI songs, you can create your own by using virtual arranging software that composes the music automatically, setting up chords, rhythms, styles and instruments selected by you. For the final step, you need only to add the lyrics to make a MIDI karaoke.

Composing Music Tracks

Install software such as Jammer Professional or Band-in-a-Box on your computer (see "Resources"). This type of software does most of the work of arranging your music based on your choice of basic elements such as chord progressions, tempo, instrumentation and style. If you already have MIDI songs to which you only need add the lyrics, skip this step.

Configure MIDI software so output goes to your computer's sound card.

Start your music software and set up the MIDI devices. Usually, you do this in the "Preferences" or "Options" menu. Send the MIDI output to your computer's sound card. Enhance the sound by connecting your sound card to external speakers.

Chord progressions are basic building blocks of a song.

Lay out the basic building blocks or chord progressions in your song from beginning to end. Start by selecting a key and meter, then entering the chords you want in each measure. Sketch these details on paper first, especially if the song is long or complicated. If you already have MIDI songs to which you only need add the lyrics, skip the remainder of this section.

Drum fills enhance the rhythmic energy of a song.

Enter the drum fills. Usually there is a choice between long and short fills. Think through your song carefully before setting up the drum fills. Many software programs add drum fills for you if you check that option before beginning to arrange the music.

Music composing software offers a broad range of music styles.

Select a style from the varied list of band styles. Work section by section, starting with an introduction, and add other sections until you reach the end of the song. Each musical style offers variations for sections such as the main groove, stops, preparation for the ending and ending.

Export your song to a MIDI file. If offered a choice of MIDI Type 0 or 1, select Type 1.

Adding Melody

Open your instrumental MIDI file in a sequencer—a software program for editing MIDI files—such as Power Tracks Pro or Anvil Studio.

Open in your sequencer a standard MIDI file with music tracks--Type 1 MIDI. The file extension should be MID or SMF. If you are working with a MIDI song that already has a clearly defined melody track, you can skip the remainder of this section.

Create a dedicated melody track by inserting a blank track in the "track edit" window.

Open an edit window that allows you to enter notes in the melody track, either as music notation, or in piano roll manner--usually called a "step editor". Follow the instructions for entering notes provided in your sequencer's user guide or help page.

Keep the melody simple and linear.

Enter the melody of your song. You must enter each note of the melody with correct pitch and on the right beats so as to synchronize with the accompanying instrumental parts. Stop and review your work every few measures. The melody should be a simple linear progression of notes.

Save your updated MIDI song file. If offered a choice of MIDI Type 0 or 1, select Type 1.

Adding Lyrics

Open a Type 1 MIDI file with music tracks, including one track dedicated to the melody, in your sequencer.

Click on the melody track and open a window that allows adding lyrics to the notes. Usually this is the same window that you would use to add or edit the melody notes. In most sequencers, you must enable lyrics entry—usually by clicking on a button. See your sequencer's help file for more information.

Note editor synchronizes lyrics with melody.

Click on the first note of the melody and begin adding the lyrics. This is usually done note by note. Hit the space bar when finished entering the text for a note to advance to the next note. Continue adding lyrics until the song is complete. Lyrics are synchonized with the melody.

Extract the lyrics only from the melody track and paste them into a new blank track. To select only lyrics, use a data filter—standard on most sequencers—to ensure only the lyrics are extracted.

Rearrange the music tracks according to standard karaoke MIDI order. Some sequencers have a track mapping function that does this for you. The most important track is track No. 2, which should have the lyrics only. Melody should go in track No. 3. Track No. 1 is reserved for non-musical information such as song title, artist, composer and copyright. Everything else may follow from track No. 4 on.

Save your converted karaoke MIDI file, using the file extension KAR. Power Tracks Pro has a function for mapping MIDI to MIDI karaoke. Access this function by clicking "Save as .KAR..." in the File toolbar menu.

Review your MIDI karaoke song by playing the song in a sequencer or karaoke player. The lyrics should be highlighted in sync with the music as the song plays.

Tip

MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Interface) is a popular standard for music software and hardware. Most electronic music instruments are compatible with MIDI and can send and receive data from other MIDI-compatible instruments or computers. This standard mode of communication between software and hardware makes composing and arranging music easier. Many products are available for MIDI musicians.

The software used here is a combination of two programs: Jammer Professional, a composition and arrangement program, and Power Tracks Pro, a MIDI sequencer and audio editor. Other products exist that perform similar functions, such as Band-in-a-Box and Cakewalk Professional.

For playing back your finished karaoke songs, you may use Power Tracks Pro Audio. However, you might wish to try out other players that specialize in karaoke. The most basic player is Van Basco's karaoke player (link to http://www.softspecialist.com/vanBasco-Karaoke-Player-476/vanBasco-Karaoke-Player.htm). Karafun (link to http://www.karafun.com/karaokeplayer/) has nicer graphics and includes a sophisticated karaoke editor. Both are free.

About the Author

Brian Avey began writing in 1978 and has published articles on Japanese music and culture in the "Hokubei Mainichi," and coauthored technical articles for professional journals such as the "Handbook for Terminology Management." Avey graduated college with a bachelor's degree in music.