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Most of the content on Explora is “evergreen”—that is, applicable to any time of the year. But this article is “evergreen” in a different way: the situation we’re describing often revolves around an evergreen tree, decked out and mounted in someone’s living room. It also can involve any number of symbols, ecumenical or otherwise. Whatever your iconography, that time of year is upon us again, so say goodbye to crispy fall weather and hello to ugly sweater parties.
Now, you came to the pro-audio side of Explora for pro-audio reasons. With that in mind, I’m going to make the assumption that audio is an active part of your life, whether you’re editing, mixing, writing music, or working in post-production. I’m also going to assume you’re a human being, and one who shares similar interests with a community of likeminded people.
If my assumptions are correct—and if you’re anything like me—then your holiday party could probably include some live entertainment, with someone sitting down at a piano to play holiday classics for sing-alongs, or a karaoke device set up in the corner to gin up the jubilee.
With these suppositions in mind, let’s look at fourteen festive items that’ll keep your holiday party from becoming ho-ho-humdrum. And let’s dive right into it with the cheesiest, hokiest, most delightful holiday item we can think of.
Yes, my friends, we must face the music: A holiday party will be greatly bolstered by a karaoke system. Whether with irony or wholeheartedness, you’ll soon find people lining up to belt their best, especially as the libations flow.
You can easily piece together a karaoke setup with a PA system, a relatively budget-conscious tablet, the right app, and some appropriate cables. But for an all-in-one karaoke system, take a gander at the Singstrix Party Bundle Home Karaoke System.
This collection of products gives you a microphone, a mic-stand, a controller with 300 preset effects, all the cabling you need, and a 40W powered stereo speaker. The controller has onboard reverb, delay, and more; you even can use these effects to harmonize with yourself—or to hide the fact that you’re a horrible singer, with real-time pitch correction.
Using a corresponding app for tablets and smartphones, the Singstrix Bundle plays karaoke tracks and displays all the lyrics at the same time. The microphone has an On/Off switch for effects, and the controller comes with two microphone input jacks for adding another vocalist.
If the party will have a lot of musicians in attendance, why not keep a few instruments lying around to facilitate a jam session?
Consider, for instance, an acoustic guitar. Studies have shown that one in six people plays the guitar (and that 75% of statistics are made up on the spot), so an acoustic axe is a good place to start. In the article 5 Acoustic Guitars Perfect for the Quad, I threw my support behind the Takamine GD10CE and the Ovation Celebrity Elite. I fully endorse these guitars for your party, too.
The Takamine has great sound and plays quite smoothly for the price, and the Ovation, though a bit more expensive, is rather hard to destroy due to its Lyrachord body; this hardy construction will come in handy as the party gets, let’s say, rowdier. And its bright tone will help it cut through other instruments.
Also, you should look into picking up a digital keyboard, because if one out of six people can play the guitar, then surely one out of three people must play the piano (these are not real statistics). Indeed, there is nothing nicer at a holiday party than for everyone to gather around to sing that timeless holiday classic, [insert timeless holiday classic here]. Definitely consider a piano with onboard speakers and a microphone jack—this way, one tuneful person can sing with a little more volume to guide the rest.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly digital keyboard, I recommend the Casio WK-245, because it provides built-in speakers, a decent piano sound, and microphone inputs for the sing-along. It only has 76 keys, but this should be enough to get by. If you’re looking to invest in a home piano for more occasions than the winter solstice provides, check out the Yamaha DGX-660, a keyboard with 88 weighted keys, as well as a beautifully sampled piano sound, the appropriate microphone inputs, wireless streaming with compatible mics, and a music stand for propping up sheet music.
Be sure to buy some percussive toys for those who aren’t instrumentally inclined but don’t want to be left out. Cajon brushes or wire brushes will easily encourage your friends to bang on household items (like a cardboard box, or even the floor); that way, they’ll be part of the fun. You don’t have to be traditional with this—we have lots of interesting instruments for guests to try out, including the Mogees Vibration Sensor, which purports to turn anything in the world into a musical instrument.
Also, look into picking up a PA system if there’s a particularly quiet or electronic instrument in need of amplification. The Alesis TransActive Wireless is a suitable option for the price, giving you an XLR/TRS combination input, a 1/4" guitar input, a stereo 3.5mm input, and the ability to play back from Bluetooth Devices.
Okay, now that we’ve got the instruments out of the way, let’s take a moment to address the passive party people: maybe you’d rather leave the music to the previously recorded professionals. If that’s the case, we’ve got quite a few stereos for you, but let’s take a moment to consider lighting, for proper décor is an absolute necessity for a holiday party. Lighting plays a part in this, but it can also improve the musical experience. To that end, check out the Blizzard Lightning PAM PAR RGB – LED Wash Light.
When considering this item, forget the advanced capabilities (user-selectable 3/8 DMX channels, for instance) and concentrate instead on the automated programs, which respond to the music by means of a built-in microphone. With these programs, you can easily dictate the mood of your party by positioning these lights near the source of your music, and watching the lights change in rhythm with the music. RBG is an especially good color scheme for the holidays, I might add.
Alternatively, you can try a starter kit like the Philips Hue White and Color A19 and control multiple light fixtures in your house. The three bulbs in this kit can effect a wide range of white light, allowing you to dim them at will for ambiance lighting. More interestingly, they boast 16 million colors, all dimmable and programmable, and thus, quite useful for illuminating your home in many different ways. Best of all, the software that controls the lighting is compatible with iOS and Android platforms, so you can manipulate these lights over many different, disparate devices—and from anywhere in the world.
With these lighting options, you’re sure to keep the festive atmosphere alive and well.
So there you a have it: quite a few festive items to keep your holiday shindig in full swing. Have any ideas of your own? Post them in the Comment section, below!