- Apple Music Sing is karaoke for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV 4K.
- A slider reduces the volume of the singers so you can belt out tunes unimpeded.
- The volume reduction isn’t perfect, but it’s more than good enough.
Apple Music gets a karaoke mode, just in time for those holiday parties!
Called Apple Music Sing, it combines the existing, excellent lyrics feature of Apple Music with a slider that reduces the volume of the singers, so you can bludgeon listeners with your voice instead. In other words, it’s karaoke, and it’s in your pocket. Or—and this is where the shared discordance opportunities really get going—on the Apple TV 4K. Apple Music Sing will be available in the forthcoming iOS 16.2. Anyone beta testing it can try the feature right now.
“I’ve always wanted this in a music streaming service, and Apple Music has the best real-time lyrics experience of all. I absolutely cannot wait for this,” says Apple-centric journalist and Apple Music lyrics superfan Federico Viticci on Twitter.
Apple Music Sing, which will just be called "karaoke" by everybody except Apple, is simple and great. To use it, you just switch to the existing lyrics view when listening to a song and look for the new Sing button, the one that looks like a volume slider with a sparkly microphone on it. As soon as you tap it, the karaoke mode kicks in, and you can reduce the volume of the singer using the slider.
The new mode seems to use the same trick used by most karaoke apps. Because the lead vocals of most songs are mixed to be at the center of the stereo field (and not on the left or the right), you can often eliminate them just by reducing the volume of the center channel, i.e., any sound that shows up equally in left and right channels.
This is not a precision tool, though. Kick drums and bass are also often set in the center, and you don't want to lose those, so Apple is possibly applying some other fancy sound-processing magic. Perhaps it's a nice side benefit of Spatial Audio, which manages a very complex separation of sounds from a stereo field.
“Karaoke will definitely be one of the most popular attractions as families come together for holidays,” music producer Nikhil Koparde told Lifewire via email. “The only disadvantage that I see with this technology is getting a substandard mix of the original song when the vocals are taken out. This is because most of the songs are stereo files, meaning the vocals are already mixed with the other instrument. Reducing just the vocals will definitely affect the other frequencies around it, and this may not result in a clean mix.”
And in fact, in my short testing, I noticed that the vocals still remain at low levels.
Apple Music already has synchronized lyrics, so in a sense, you've always been able to do karaoke, as long as you don't mind sharing the spotlight with the original singers. For Apple Music Sing, the lyrics feature has been enhanced. Now, it can differentiate the parts for lead and backing singers, so you'll be able to get your "Ooohs," "Aaahs," and "Shoo-be-doos" in on time.
And finally, while this is fun on the iPhone or iPad, its natural habitat is the big screen, and if you have the latest Apple TV 4K, you can do just that.
This has more uses than just letting you embarrass yourself with maximum efficiency at Christmas parties. It seems almost inevitable that TikTokkers will use this for backing tracks. Musicians may also get in on the act, too. This could be a handy tool to remove vocals, making it easier to sample that sweet piano hook or breakbeat.
"Musicians will definitely have a huge advantage as they can now use these backing tracks for sampling purposes," says Koparde. "The only thing that needs to be seen now is copyright issues if and when they arise. But getting hands on some of the biggest tracks is going to be huge for artists going forward."
The only disadvantage that I see with this technology is getting a substandard mix of the original song when the vocals are taken out.
For home use, you won’t have to worry about copyright, although recording the audio might prove tricky on the iPhone and iPad. Perhaps this is why Apple Music Sing isn’t available on the Mac, where ripping audio is easy. On the other hand, there are already plenty of other ways to disassemble tracks, some of which can separate the vocals, drums, bass, melody line, etc., into separate “stems.”
But we're missing the point here. Apple Music Sing is great. Any time you want to sing along to a song, all you have to do is adjust a slider to remove the original vocals right there in the app you're already using. It's going to be huge.