Hosting a karaoke party at your place is easy, but you’ll need some preparation and equipment. You could spend money on one of the best karaoke systems on the market, but that’s definitely a splurge if you don’t plan on singing along with your friends regularly.
You might be wondering, then, if you can somehow plug a microphone into your computer and use that instead. The good news is that you can, but it’s going to take a little bit of setup. Let’s get started.
Choose a microphone
You can’t use the microphone built into your laptop or phone for karaoke because of feedback—the mic will pick up your voice but also the music, creating an awful sound that will pierce your eardrums. And even if that worked, a karaoke party where you and your guests yell into a laptop isn’t any fun at all.
You’ll need an external microphone.
If you have a good USB microphone for online work meetings or recording podcasts, you can use that. But if you’re buying a new one, know that the occasional karaoke party doesn’t require an expensive mic. If you played Rock Band or Guitar Hero back in the day, dig through your closet and pull out your old console microphone—they’re pretty much designed for karaoke already and they’re usually plug-and-play, meaning you connect them to your computer and you’re ready to rock.
[Related: The psychology of karaoke, explained]
But if you have nothing at home that will work, you can always search for a handheld USB microphone online—you can find a decent one for around $20.
Set up your microphone
Plug your microphone into your computer and try singing—you most likely won’t hear anything. This is because you’ll need to set up your mic first. To do so, go to the Settings menu on your computer.
On Windows, head to System and choose Sound. There, click More sound settings, select your microphone, and click Properties.
Head to the Listen tab and check the Listen to this device checkbox.
You should now be able to hear yourself when talking into your microphone—finish the setup by heading to the Levels tab and adjusting the volume of the device. Your computer will remember your settings, meaning the next time you plug in your microphone it should work automatically to your liking.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to amplify your voice with a microphone and a Mac computer, but there’s an easy workaround. Open QuickTime player, go to File in the menu bar, and click on New Audio Recording.
This will open a simple recorder. Turn up the volume on the slider at the bottom and you should be able to hear yourself through your computer speakers when singing into the microphone. Feel free to minimize the window, but you will need to have this app open during your entire karaoke session.
Find karaoke tracks to sing over
Now that you have a microphone and you can hear yourself sing through it, it’s time to find some actual songs. I tested several apps for this and I’ve found that, for most people, YouTube is the best option. You can search for any song, add the word “karaoke”, and you’ll find it there.
I recommend you do some testing before the party, though—you might need to turn the volume down on the YouTube video to hear the microphone over the music, for example. It’s also a good idea to put together a playlist, but if you want to change things up on the go, searching for karaoke videos on YouTube doesn’t take long, so feel free to search for songs as requests come in.
Optional: connect your computer to your TV
Your home karaoke setup doesn’t need much more than a computer, especially if you connect it to some decent speakers. But things can get a lot more fun if you hook up your laptop to your TV using an HDMI cable.
The bigger screen makes it easy for everyone to see the lyrics and sing along with whoever is performing, but it also means the audio will come through your TV’s stereo system. As an added bonus, hooking up your TV to your laptop also makes it easy for one person to DJ the karaoke session without getting in the performers’ way.
Try a dedicated karaoke app
If you can’t be bothered to find karaoke videos on YouTube, you can use a dedicated app to get the party going.
Karafun has an extensive song catalog and even if some of the tunes on the app sound a little cheesy, they’re synced up well with the lyrics and you can browse everything in one interface. It’s also easy to make a queue so your guests don’t get into a fight every time you ask who’s next.
Karafun has a limited free version that allows you to play 30-second previews of all the songs in the catalog—not exactly enough to get to the bridge. So if you want to use this app for your karaoke party, you’re better off paying $9.99 per month to get unlimited access to all the tunes on the platform.
Karafun is available for Mac and Windows. Get full access to its song catalog for $9.99 a month.
If you want to skip YouTube, Singa is another option you can use in your browser. The platform offers multiple versions of most songs and the quality is generally pretty good. Singa is also the only service on this list that lets you adjust the pitch on any song, making it possible for any singer to finish even the most difficult Mariah Carey tunes.
You can get five free songs every day, which isn’t a bad deal but it’s not enough for your karaoke party. For $5.99 you can purchase a 2-day pass for full access to Singa’s catalog, and if karaoke becomes a hobby, you can splurge on a yearly subscription.
Singa is available on the web. Full access to its catalog starts at $5.99.
Karaoke Mugen is an open-source option built by anime enthusiasts. As you’d imagine, its catalog includes mainly songs from anime shows and video games, lots of them available in multiple languages. Maybe this sounds like a party to you, but it has one major drawback—it’s annoying to set up. To use Karaoke Mugen, you’ll need to create an account and set up a web server working on your host computer. But if you go through all that trouble, you’ll get one stand-out feature: the ability for anyone in the room to add songs to the queue using their phones.
Karaoke Mugen is available on the web for free.