Many bars, restaurants and private event centers have regularly scheduled karaoke nights, which means the chances of you finding yourself with a songbook and a request slip one night are pretty good. For experienced singers, the thought of winning over the crowd with a dead-on Pat Benatar impersonation may be exciting, but others who are not performers by nature may find the whole karaoke experience to be a bit overwhelming and anxiety-producing. If you find yourself lost in a crowd of karaoke enthusiasts and your only chance is to sing your way out, here are some tips for making your first karaoke experience a pleasant one.
- Song selection is very important. Take your time and read the songbook thoroughly. There are literally thousands of songs available on karaoke, but different venues have different collections to choose from. For your first karaoke experience, pick a song you could literally sing in the shower. If you are a fan of Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash, you might want to choose one of their most familiar or signature tunes, not their lesser-known material. Many people in the crowd will support a singer who chooses a very popular or familiar song, and one thing you want on your side for your first time is crowd support. Be realistic about your vocal range and style and select a song that fits both. Some first-time singers find country music to be easier than rock music, but others find singing tuneless "frat rock" songs like Louie, Louie or Wooly Bully to be less intimidating. If you're not happy with your performance, you might try a different musical genre for your next song. The trick is not to bite off more than you can chew vocally for your first karaoke experience.
- Allow the karaoke graphics to guide you along. Most karaoke systems have a video monitor which displays the lyrics of a chosen song as the music plays. The graphic display should also provide essential information such as the count-off before the verses and instrumental breaks. In addition, the lyrics should change color in time with the music, so use this as a clue for phrasing and timing. Sometimes the lyrics may appear a few beats before the actual melody, so it pays to listen for musical cues as well as visual ones. You may also experience a different arrangement or tempo than the original recording, so allow the graphics to be your guide through the changes.
- Use the vocal monitors for pitch and dynamic control. You may notice a small amplifier or two pointed in your direction as you stand in front of the karaoke video screen. This is a vocal monitor designed to provide the singer with the same mixed sound the audience hears through the main PA system. Some first-time singers may not be used to hearing themselves sing, but it is better than having no monitoring system at all. When the music starts, you should be able to hear it coming out of the vocal monitor as well as the main speakers. You should also be able to hear your voice coming out of the vocal monitor as you perform. This should help you gauge how loudly or softly you are singing, so you can adjust accordingly. You should also be able to hear if you are singing at the right pitch or if you've gone off-key. A good vocal monitor mixed at the same level as the main speakers should help you sing at a comfortable volume level, just slightly above the level of normal conversation. You shouldn't have to shout or whisper to be heard by the crowd.
- Sing to the ones who are listening. Karaoke audiences can be tough crowds for first-time singers. If you look out in the crowd and sense indifference, play to the people who really are listening to you. If you are nervous about singing in public for the first time, seeing your friends and family singing along with you or clapping or dancing can do wonders for your self-confidence. Once an audience gets a sense of your musical tastes and vocal stylings, they should begin to warm up and become more responsive. The first time you sing karaoke, you may want to bring a friend to the stage for moral support. If you become friends with a more established singer, he or she may also agree to sing along with you. Karaoke singing should be a social ice-breaker and constructive outlet, not a competition.
- Work to improve your singing and performance skills. The first time you sing karaoke is best described as a learning experience. Some parts of the performance may go okay, while others may definitely leave room for improvement. The important thing is you took a chance and went onstage. Even if the crowd didn't exactly go wild or you completely flubbed the third verse, you did something creative and exciting. The next time you perform, and there will be a next time, you might want to work on the problem areas such as timing or pitch. You may also want to find other songs which suit your vocal range and style and perform those several times until you are very comfortable with them. You may even end up with a signature song of your own, one that pleases the crowd and helps define you as a performer.
Singing karaoke for the first time in public may be one of the scariest moments of your life, but many people have discovered that it becomes easier over time. The fear and anxiety of singing in public is often replaced by the feeling of acceptance and appreciation by an attentive audience. Remember to start simply and build up your repertoire whenever you feel comfortable.