karaoke iPhone

One of the subtler improvements in the reworked Music app on iOS and iPadOS 13, tvOS 13 and macOS Catalina 10.15.4 is time-synced lyrics, a fun feature that lets you do karaoke on your iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, no additional app needed, and iDB shows you how.

Time-synced lyrics: Table of contents

Use these links to quickly jump to a specific section of this tutorial.

Introducing time-synced lyrics

To be able to deliver lyrics to your favorite songs in sync with the music, Apple actually created them from scratch. In a June 2019 interview with The Times newspaper in London, Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, acknowledged as much:

A particularly ambitious under-the-radar project, meanwhile, is currently seeing Apple input song lyrics for every track on Apple Music and sync it so the lines will pop up with the music if you so choose, like karaoke. And it’s doing so itself, manually, rather than relying on an outside lyrics service such as Genius.

Yup, Apple is no longer using third -party services for lyrics.

‘It just takes an inordinate amount of money to try to do this and to try to figure out how to do this the right way,’ says Cue. And while Apple is naturally starting with the most popular tracks, Cue says it doesn’t intend to stop there. The plan is to add synced-up lyrics to every song in the Apple Music library.

Sounds like a complex undertaking. How many people does Apple have on the project?

I honestly don’t know the exact number of people who are working on it. In our ideal world it would be zero because we’d get them all from the labels. But we discovered that it wasn’t going to work. In general it takes hundreds of people to do.

And you could call it an opportunity, a problem, however you want to phrase it, but it’s a never-ending thing. It does never end. But that’s what makes it awesome too. We have 50 million songs. So I’m not sure we’ll ever get done. If you ever have a job where the end date is infinity, that’s probably a good thing.

This cool capability was first demonstrated by Apple CEO Tim Cook and Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, during the June 3 keynote at the Worldwide Developers Conference that took place June 3-7 in in San Jose, California.

System requirements for time-synced lyrics

Time-synced lyrics work on songs from Apple Music and iTunes.

For songs without time-synced lyrics, you’ll see static ones (if they’re embedded) or nothing (i.e. your MP3s uploaded to iCloud via iTunes Match). Animated lyrics are compatible with the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch devices running iOS 13.0 or later, iPads with iPadOS 13.0 or later, Apple TVs with tvOS 13.0 or later and Macs with macOS Catalina 10.15.4 or later.

Time-synced lyrics are currently unsupported in the Music app on Apple Watch.

time-synced lyrics iPhone

Apple’s making it easy and fun to karaoke at home.

This is a fun feature and it’s available right out of the box, no third-party needed. All you need to do is invite some friends over to your house and have them sing along to your favorite tunes for some great night of karaoke fun.

Now Playing: time-synced lyrics

Synchronized lyrics are a part of the Now Playing experience of the Music app. Just turn time-synced lyrics on to follow along with your favorite music as it plays.

The Music app has supported lyrics for years, but this is the first time lyrics are animated and perfectly in sync with the song. Not only does the Music app present you with the correct line of the lyrics in step with the music, but also scrolls each line as it ends so you always know where you are and what’s coming next.

time-synced lyrics iPhone

Animated lyrics are just a tap away in the redesigned Music app.

You can also scroll the lines of lyrics manually. Plus—and this is über-cool no matter how you look at it—you can tap any line to instantly jump to your favorite verse.

TUTORIAL: How to get real-time song lyrics with Shazam and sing along

Follow along with us as we show you how to sing along to your favorite music on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV with time-synced lyrics in the built-in Music app.

How to view time-synced lyrics

Enjoying animated lyrics in step with your music requires an Apple Music subscription or trial, plus one of the following devices listed below:

  • iPhone or iPod touch with iOS 13.0 or newer
  • iPad with iPadOS 13.0 or newer
  • Apple TV with tvOS 13.0 or newer
  • Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15.4

Seeing time-synced lyrics on iPhone and iPad

To see lyrics while you’re listening, do the following:

1) Open the built-in Music app on your iPhone with iOS 13+ or iPad with iPadOS.

2) Select an Apple Music song you’d like to use for your karaoke session.

3) With the song playing, tap the mini player sitting near the screen bottom to enlarge it.

4) Tap the dedicated Lyrics icon near the bottom-left corner of the Now Playing screen.

karaoke iPad

The dedicated Lyrics icon is highlighted in yellow.

You will now see song lyrics in big typeface crawling across the Now Playing screen, with lyric lines highlighted automatically in sync with your music. You can tap any line to jump to the corresponding spot in the song or scroll the lyrics with your finger to see what you want.

time-synced lyrics iPad

The lyric animation on top of a dynamic background based on predominant cover artwork color.

To turn time-synced lyrics back off, repeat the steps above.

Seeing time-synced lyrics on Mac

Animated time-synced lyrics in Music for Mac are only available with macOS Catalina 10.15.4+. To bring them up at any time, follow the step-by-step tutorial that’s included ahead.

1) Open the built-in Music app on your Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15.4 or newer.

2) Select an Apple Music song you’d like to use for your karaoke session.

3) With the song playing, click the icon near the top-right corner of the window that looks like small equitation marks inside a speech bubble.

Time-synced lyrics should now appear in the righthand column.

karaoke Mac

Animated lyrics scroll automatically to keep up with the song

To enjoy the lyrics in the mini-player, click the small album cover displayed near the top-center of the window. You can even open the lyrics in fullscreen mode, like on your Apple TV.

time-synced lyrics Mac

Screenshot via @mike_xu_

To do that, first click the small album cover to bring up the mini-player. Then, click the green circle in the window’s top-left corner to take the mini-player full screen.

Time-synced lyrics Mac

Animated lyrics on macOS in fullscreen mode

As I underscored before, not every Apple Music song has embedded lyrics so if you don’t see lyrics for a specific song, you know why,

Static lyrics on older macOS versions

Crawling lyrics are unsupported on macOS editions earlier than macOS Catalina 10.15.4.

If your Mac doesn’t use the macOS Catalina 10.15.4 software or newer, you can still enjoy non-animated lyrics in the Music app via a dedicated Lyrics button — it’s right there near the top-right corner of the window, to the left of the Up Next icon.

Karaoke Mac

On older macOS versions, the speech bubble simply brings up static lyrics

Clicking it brings up a song’s complete lyrics, static and in small type (upgrade to macOS Catalina 10.15.4+ to see animated time-synced lyrics).

time-synced lyrics Mac

On older macOS version, you get static lyrics printed in small type.

Seeing time-synced lyrics on Apple TV

On your Apple TV HD, Apple TV 4K or newer, do this:

1) Open the Music app

2) Start playing a song on Apple Music.

Karaoke Apple TV

I can’t get this song out of my head.

That’s it, no additional step is needed because the Music app on Apple TV defaults to scrolling the lyrics in sync with your music, which looks particularly effective on a big screen TV. In fact, every time a song or album plays using the Music app on Apple TV, the lyrics will animate.

time-synced lyrics Apple TV

Handy timestamps make navigating animated lyrics easier.

Swipe across the Touch surface to scroll the lyrics up and down. A handy timestamp is shown above the selected line, indicating its place in the song. To jump to a specific place in the song, simply scroll to a desired line and click the remote.

To stop seeing time-synced lyrics on your Apple TV, scroll up on the Now Playing screen and click the Lyrics icon near the top-right section of the screen.

If you’re planning on inviting some friends over for a fun karaoke night, it might be a very good idea to disable your current Apple TV screen saver in order to prevent it from taking over the entire screen and ruining your karaoke fun.

In order to do so, venture into Settings → General → Screensaver and set the option Show During Music & Podcasts to OFF.

Seeing full lyrics on Apple TV

To get to the full lyrics, first click the three-dotted menu at the top of the Now Playing screen.

time-synced lyrics Apple TV

There are some hidden options under this button.

Next, choose the option Show Fully Lyrics from the popup menu.

karaoke Apple TV

The option to view full song lyrics is hidden in a menu.

And voilà, a screen with a song’s complete lyrics pops up.

karaoke Apple TV

How about a quick option to cycle between static and animated lyrics?

Need help? Ask iDB!

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