Karaoke Survival Guide: 5 Essential Tips

Singing karaoke for the first time can be scary and you might not think a “How to” guide on singing karaoke is necessary, especially if you’re not much of a karaoke fan.  But even those who don’t actively seek karaoke can often get roped into it, and you’ll be better off making the experience as painless (read: embarrassing train wreck-free) as possible. Here are some basic tips you might not have thought of, to make your karaoke experience much more enjoyable for both you and your audience.

1. Song Choice

Choose a song that you know and that is easily in your voice range.  Singing a song that you know really well will make it easier for you to give your best performance on stage - you can practice songs online at home or by singing along with the original recording.

If you’re singing at a karaoke bar or party, singing an up tempo song rather than a ballad, will keep the crowd in a party mood, singing a ballad can clear a room.  You Really Got Me by The Kinks is a good song in a mid range that almost everyone can sing easily.  Girls, if you want to sing it too, feel free to swap the gender “Boy, you really got me now”! 

Choose a song that’s under 3 or 4 minutes - unless you’re a pro and really know the song well, singing for more than 3 or 4 minutes on stage will seem like a really really long time.  Although it might seem like a good song choice, Hey Jude by the Beatles, is over 7 minutes long, and would be best to sing it online rather than on stage! 

Pretty Girl belting out a karaoke hit

Pretty Girl belting out a karaoke hit

2. Bust a move! 

No matter how well you move, entertaining the audience with your dance moves is part of the fun particularly during music breaks of the song (if you’re not comfortable dancing by yourself on stage, you might want to make sure that the song you choose does not have long musical breaks).

Barry Manilow’s Copacabana (At The Copa) is a great song choice, but be prepared to dance around the stage for almost 2 minutes of the the musical break in the middle of the song.  Don’t be discouraged from singing songs with musical breaks, just be prepared to do something during them. 

3. Look out at the crowd and smile

Not only will you have more fun if you know the lyrics really well and don’t have to rely on the screen, the audience will enjoy your performance much more if you’re moving around the stage and at least sometimes looking out into the crowd and smiling.  Any audience participation that you can gain will increase the amount of applause you receive at the end of your performance. 

It’s a win-win situation, the audience will enjoy your song more and so will you! Singing karaoke is all about having fun as Amy proves in her karaoke rendition of Tina Turner’s Simply the Best.

4. Go with friends and perform a duet

If it’s your first time and you don’t know a song really well, or you feel too nervous, you don’t have to sing karaoke alone.  Find a friend and sing together, or get a group of people and go on stage to shout it out!  A good song choice for multiple voices, that’s danceable and  a lot of fun to sing and to perform, is Kool & The Gang’s Celebration,

5. Share the mic

After you’ve sung your song and basked in the applause, hand the mic back to the KJ and let someone else have their moment on stage.  While you’re not on stage, sit back and enjoy other karaoke performances and encourage others by listening to their performances and applauding. When it’s your turn you’ll get back what you give.

Other web references

Here are a few other fun web references on how to sing karaoke:

However and wherever you sing karaoke, remember to have fun. You’re only as good (or bad) as your last performance and unless you’re recording songs and publishing them online, chances are that you’ll be the only one to remember your performance.

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Posted by Jess 10. June 2009 at 9:53 am :

Wow that performance in the video was horrible !!! I really hope I don’t sound or look like that when I sing karaoke ! haha !!
Good tips though, Ill make sure to remember that next time I go on stage!

Posted by Gen L 10. June 2009 at 9:56 am :

I enjoy those 5 tips. I would just add #6; take a shot or beer before going on stage, you won’t be as nervous, and you will be more likely to bust out some sweet dance moves !

Posted by Estrella Azul 10. June 2009 at 10:59 am :

Good tips, I’ll try and remember them when the time comes. Good and very useful article!

Posted by Ricardo Williams 12. June 2009 at 12:22 pm :

i’ll be sure to keep this in mind the next time i’m embarrassing myself

Posted by Christine 10. July 2009 at 12:48 pm :

Ahh, the lady in the karaoke video is having fun. She probably knows she’s not that good, but having fun with it anyway. But I do have to agree with “Gen L”, you may want to have a little courage juice, ie. tequilla, prior to taking the stage if you’re one to get nervous. Neat article. Thanks!

Posted by Coyote 19. December 2009 at 5:01 am :

The point of Karaoke is to have fun. You don’t need to be good, or worry what the crowd wants. The crowd can stay home and listen to their iPod if they want a professional performance.

Sing a ballad if you want. Sing a sad song, or a happy song. Sing a song that’s out of your range if you love the song.

And when someone else does it, clap, no matter how bad it is.

You are not a professional singer. If people are expected to practice first, and sing like a pro, that’s what will give karaoke singers anxiety.

Some people will turn out something beautiful. Others will sound awful. But if everyone tries to just enjoy what they can, whether because of someone’s talent, or because they can smile or even laugh, karaoke’s good.

If you’re getting graded on it, or feeling like you need to do anything but sing what you want, it’s not karaoke.

Posted by Lynque 11. February 2014 at 11:38 pm :

These rules will serve you well when the mike is yours:

1. Know the songs so you can sing to the audience, not the lyric display!
2. Avoid the songs you ‘can’t sing.’ The audience will know this within seconds.
3. Know the power of lyrics, especially the word ‘you.’ When this word comes up in the lyrics, lock onto someone’s eyes, widen them, raise eyebrows, wink, and then move on.

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