When I tell people I enjoy singing karaoke they look at me in a new light. “I didn’t know you sang—wow, that’s pretty cool.” I then ask them if they’d like to try it and most of the time they say they’d rather hear me sing. Most people can sing karaoke if they pick the right song for their voice and if they summon the confidence to get up on the stage—it’s so much fun to be a rock star for three and a half minutes. After getting back into karaoke from my ten year hiatus, I can say that singing has given me more confidence with my poetry performances and with speech-making in general. So if you’re a performing writer and/or speaker and you want to improve you stage and crowd presence, try your hand a karaoke!
I started doing karaoke in the mid 90s while I lived in South Carolina and loved how singing made me feel better about myself as it earned me new respect among my coworkers. I soon become addicted when I lived in Myrtle Beach and was a devoted regular at Wed night karaoke. Sometimes I’d go with my friends and sometimes I’d go alone and I wasn’t alone for long—I was always making new friends and if it was a slow night, I enjoyed listening to the KJ’s (the karaoke DJ) singing.
While my friends sang “Summer Lovin’” and I stuck to 10,000 Maniacs’ “Because the Night” and Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home,” I learned new songs, I learned the real words of songs (in “Drift Away” it’s the “beat, boys” not “the Beat Boys” – the name of a new band, ha, ha) and I imagined my music teacher in 5th grade apologizing to me: “Sorry, Alice, I didn’t mean to tell you to stop singing so loud!” My parents were horrified I sang since they believed I couldn’t carry a tune, either. After I moved to Raleigh I sang Matchbox 20’s “If You’re Gone” and totally bombed it. Rob Thomas won new respect from me that day. Parenting, graduate school and the entrepreneurial life got in the way of karaoke until I returned to the stage this summer at Yucatan Cantina in Morrisville where Hillary Rich of Aries Entertainment is the KJ from 9:30-1:30pm every Fri. Lots of fun being back!
Yes, I wish I was Laura Branigan (“Gloria”/”Self Control”) with her contralto, four octave range, but I do my best to stay in key and to pick songs that don’t totally embarrass me like many of Patty Loveless’s hits and Juice Newton’s “Queen of Hearts.”
Here are some of my tips on how to sing karaoke:
- Know a few songs that are in your vocal range and know them well enough so you won’t need the lyrics directly in front of you. Karaoke moves fast and it’s hard to do well if you don’t know the beats and pauses, oh, and the words.
- Sing directly into the mic; don’t whisper. We want to hear you and support you!
- Try not to stand still—move with the music. Bounce, kick and wave your arms. Yes, it looks and feels weird to do strange alien moves while everyone else is sipping their margaritas, but you want me to be proud of you, right? Show your passion! Feel the music!
- Plant your feet at least hip-distance apart and breathe! I promise you, you will stay vertical!
- Don’t drink too much. One or two drinks before you sing is good, but after that the law of diminishing returns applies.
There you have it. If you live in the Raleigh area, I’d love to see you at karaoke at Yucatan Cantina some time.
What did I miss? What are your tips for how to sing karaoke? How has singing karaoke changed your life?