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How to Use Winamp to DJ & Karaoke

Updated July 19, 2017

Nullsoft's Winamp is a Windows-exclusive media player. Initially released in 1997 as a freeware product, Winamp has a large library of proprietary and community-produced plug-ins designed to extend its functionality. Plug-ins add features such as advanced Graphic Equalizers, visualisation effects, and Internet broadcasting tools. One such plug-in is CDG, which allows Winamp to read the lyric files from karaoke discs, and display them onscreen.

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  1. Install Winamp. Click the lightning bolt icon to open the Media Library. In the left-hand pane of the library, scroll down to "Winamp Add-Ons." This will open the browser view and access the Winamp plug-in directory. Search for CDG, and click "Download" under the screenshot of a desktop displaying some lyrics. Select the "Visualization" tab above the Media Library, and place a karaoke disc in the drive. Double-click a track in the playlist, and as the song plays, the lyrics will appear in the visualisation space.

  2. Click the "View" menu and select "Equalizer," causing the Graphic Equalizer to appear. Along its top edge, there is the Crossfade button, with an icon showing a tapered arrow. Clicking the Crossfade button will cause Winamp to fade the current song into the next song in the playlist. The number in the box beside it represents how many seconds the Crossfade will take; clicking the number and dragging up and down will raise or lower it.

  3. Drag your songs into the playlist window, in the order you want them played. Double-click the first song to start it playing. Pay attention to the beat of the song and approximate the number of seconds in a four-bar measure (one 'loop' of the song's main phrase.) Enter the number in the box by the Crossfade button. Choose an appropriate point in the song to fade out and click the Crossfade button on the "1" of that measure. The crossfade will probably not be entirely accurate at first, but with practice you will become better able to time it properly.

  4. Connect the audio out from your PC or audio interface to an amplifier and speakers, ensuring the amp is switched off, and the volume set to zero. Set the Winamp output volume to 100%, using the horizontal slider under the track names. Power on the amp and gradually increase the volume to an appropriate level.

  5. Tip

    You don't have to decide on your entire playlist in advance, you can add, delete or move songs as the list is playing. Once you learn how to read the room's reactions to your choices, you can make these alterations on the fly. If playing a party, be sure to tape any trailing cables down to the floor before the crowd arrives. If someone trips on a wire, it could drag your whole set-up onto the floor.


    If your CD drive cannot read sub-channel data, it will not be able to read .cdg files from karaoke discs, regardless of whether you have the Winamp plug-in.

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Things You'll Need

  • Winamp CDG plug-in
  • CD drive capable of reading Sub-Channel data
  • Amplifier
  • Speakers

About the Author

Matt Gerrard began writing in 2002, initially contributing articles about college student culture to "The Gateway" magazine, many of which were republished on the now-defunct Plinth blog. Since then, Gerrard has worked as a technician for musicians, educators, chemists and engineers. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in music technology from DeMontfort University.

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