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Guide to Karaoke Etiquette

A Guide for Karaoke Singers. (or: How to behave in a karaoke bar)

Karaoke originated in Japan and made it’s way around the world. It is one of the hottest areas of nightlife entertainment. The karaoke process involves going through a list of songs, writing down the one you want to sing on a piece of paper and handing it to the DJ. When it’s your turn, the DJ will call you to the stage at which point you have your few minutes of fame. The words will appear on the TV screens with color codes indicating when to sing each word.

Note that there are many different karaoke companies who sell various instrumental versions of your favorite songs for you to sing with. Some bars simply have better quality background music and typo-free lyrics than others.

Performing on stage is a lot of fun! Many first time karaoke bar patrons need to learn the ‘drill.’ All karaoke singers start somewhere and even though most clubs do not have written karaoke guides or rules, the unspoken rules are golden.

Tips for Karaoke Performers

If you’re a beginner or relatively new to karaoke, keep these tips in mind:

Never boo the person on stage. Everyone goes to karaoke to have a good time. Performers put themselves out there for fun, not to be ridiculed. This is especially true for the idiots who heckle singers and throw things on stage but are too chicken to go up and sing on their own.

  • Clap when singers are done. No matter how bad they may have been. Karaoke bars are like clubs where singers reward each other. Applause never hurts.
  • Never go on stage and/or take a second microphone and start singing without being invited. Wait your turn. On the other hand, some songs and situations call for everyone going on stage and dancing to the song which is a different scenario.
  • Beginners at karaoke should not sing a rap song. It may be easy to sing along with your favorite rap artist while listening to a CD or MP3 but when you have no background voice to guide you, it is rarely a pretty sight.
  • Do not yell at the karaoke DJ if your song has not come up. Different DJs use different methods for ordering the songs. Some DJs work strictly on a first come first served basis while others group songs by the type of music (a few rock songs then dance songs then slow songs…). Don’t hang around the DJ nagging him/her for your turn.
  • Don’t be pissed off if someone sang your song. There are a lot of songs to choose from so find another one! Similarly, don’t stay on stage singing song after song. Karaoke bars are there for everyone to perform, not for you to hold a private concert.
  • Don’t be rough with the karaoke equipment. This sometimes occurs when groups gather on stage and there is a microphone shortage. Don’t pull at the wire.

More Karaoke Observations

Here are some other general karaoke bar observations of interest:

  • Most karaoke bar singers are amateurs while some are semi-professional. Many singers try to get discovered at karaoke bars. Don’t let a great performance dissuade you from singing.
  • Larger karaoke clubs frequently draw big crowds. Make sure you put your song in early to avoid getting left out. Only a handful of songs are sung each hour and you’d be surprised how fast the night goes.
  • Beginners frequently go up as groups of 3 to 5 (even to 10!) and cling to each other while fighting for the microphone throughout the performance. This can get quite interesting! In fact, you frequently see everyone as being shy but after a minute into the song, singers start taking it more seriously and then build up the courage to sing on their own later on.
  • More experienced karaoke performers sometimes ask for the wireless microphone and walk around the bar singing. This should be left to the pros who know the songs by heart (thereby not relying on the TV screen and words) and who typically have great voices and an increased comfort level.

Getting Trashed at Karaoke

Not everyone needs to be completely trashed to get up and sing. The most common thing that people say when you mention a karaoke bar is “I can only sing when I’m totally wasted.” While wasted singers can be good, many just get up and use the microphone to act like an @$$. Just go at a decent pace and it will all be cool.

A related point, and perhaps more importantly, not everyone has to sing, period. Karaoke clubs are fun because the crowds are not pretentious and it’s fairly easy to talk to the strangers seated next to you. You even get to sing along to your favorite songs! Keep this guide in mind and have fun!

One Comment

  1. Doug |

    I wish I had seen this several months ago!I would like to address one item in the “Rules,” that being the part about someone singing “your” song.” There is a time when a person may be justifiably pissed off when someone sings their song, and that is at contest time! I was in a contest, and had put in my song. Since it wasn’t contest time yet, the KJ allowed another singer to do the song I was going to sing. I had worked on that song for the contest and was devastated when it was taken away from me. I was forced to use another song, which I was not prepared to sing at that time. As a result, I lost. I will never know if I would have won or not, the way events played out. I have since ceased participating at that location.

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