Karaoke is about more than just standing up and half-botching the words to someone else’s songs.
Karaoke is about making memories with friends in a fun setting. It’s working up the courage to share your singing abilities in public. It’s connecting sonically with other people.
To help you have the best karaoke night ever, here are six singing tips to master. Get ready to watch everyone’s jaw drop before they start chanting, “Encore! Encore!”
1. Practice is how singers improve.
Find some karaoke versions of songs you like on YouTube and practice before you get up to perform them live at karaoke night. Don’t forget to get familiar with the lyrics, too, even if you don’t completely memorize them.
2. Pick songs that work for your voice.
If your voice is naturally low, for instance, pick artists and songs that you can already do justice to.
3. Remember your diaphragmatic breathing.
You’ll need good breath control to get all the way through the song sounding strong and on key.
4. Drink more water, starting 24-hours before you sing, to keep your vocal cords hydrated.
Drinking more water is especially important if you are going to have alcohol at the karaoke venue. Booze will dehydrate your cords, making it harder for them to perform at their peak. Try to intake about a half-gallon of water the day before and day of karaoke, then drink two glasses of water to every one serving of alcohol you drink at the venue.
5. Mind your volume
Amateur singers tend to get louder in volume when they try to hit higher notes. That’s very hard on your vocal cords. Instead, keep your volume constant when you aim for higher keys.
6. Stop Going Wide
Watch yourself in a mirror as you practice your songs to check that you’re not going wide with the corners of your mouth when you sing higher notes. Widening your lips negatively impacts your pronunciation of the lyrics.
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Hi, I’m Roger Love, celebrity voice coach and author of the bestselling book Set Your Voice Free. Tonight’s the night. You’re going to get together with your friends. What are you going to do? You’re going to go out and sing karaoke, and you love it! You drink. You laugh. You party. Everybody has a good time. But I want to give you some tips right now to make sure that you have an even better time, and to make sure that, when you get up to sing, you just happen to sound like the absolute best singer of the night.
Now, I know the whole culture of karaoke in Japan is not about who sounds the best, but I’m telling you that, when you get up, and you sing your butt off, and everybody is like, “Wow, that was incredible! I can’t believe—you sound like Bruno Mars! You sound like Beyoncé! Man, you should be a professional singer!”—when they say things to you like that, or just, “Wow, that was amazing. Can I buy you a drink?” or “Wow, that was incredible. Please sit next to me and talk to me”—when they appreciate the way that you perform, it feels good. It feels great. So, let me set you up so that you’ll get the drinks bought for you. They’ll all want to sit down next to you. You will be the life of the party tonight.
First of all, singers sound good for one very important reason. They practice! They don’t just wing it. A singer doesn’t get up on a stage at a concert and sing a song that they’ve never sung before. They have practiced! Even the greatest singers, the more great they are, the more practice that goes on before they actually get up in front of people. And you’re like, “Well, Roger, I don’t have a karaoke system at the house. How could I practice?” I say, “That is baloney. You go online. You go to YouTube. There’s a billion songs. Almost every song you would ever want to sing is on YouTube Karaoke. You just go up to YouTube, and you type in the song, “such-and-such song karaoke,” and then all of a sudden, fifty versions will come up, all free. You don’t have to pay for them. And then, you will be able to have versions that have the lyrics, have versions that you can sing along with other people, have versions that—all different choices, and you are going to start, on a regular basis, today and any other day that you’re thinking you’re going to do karaoke—you’re going to start preparing by picking songs that you love, and not only picking songs that you love. Let’s make sure that you actually sound good on the ones you picked.
So, let’s say you have a low voice. Well, then, stop picking all Bruno Mars songs! Let’s say you have a high voice. Well, then, stop picking artists that sing all low. First, find songs that, without any vocal training, you just immediately connect with, and you just sound better, because they sit in the right place on your voice. If it’s a low song, and you sing low, then that’s a great song for you. So, how are you going to know? Because you’re going to pick all the songs you like. You’re going to sing along with them, and you’re going to know whether you hit all the high notes and the low notes or whether you don’t. But no matter what, even on the ones—if you sound great on all of them, you’re going to pick the ones that you sound even better on, and you’re going to practice those over and over.
Do you have to memorize the lyrics? No, of course, the lyrics will be streaming at the karaoke place. But you could practice so that nothing is a surprise. You can get familiar with the lyrics. And like I said, you will know whether that’s a good song or not based on whether or not you can hit all the high notes or the low notes. Here’s some things that will help you hit the low notes and the high notes.
Focus on diaphragmatic breathing. Remember, you’re supposed to breathe in through your nose, not your mouth. You’re supposed to keep your lips closed, breathe in through your nose, pretend that you have a balloon in your abdomen, fill it up with air, and then, when you sing, your abdomen is supposed to come back in. That’s diaphragmatic breathing. If you’re NOT breathing diaphragmatically, you’re always going to be short of breath. You’re not going to have enough air to get through the song or hit the high notes and the low notes. So, make sure that you’re trying to do diaphragmatic breathing: breathing in through your nose, filling up your abdomen with air, and then singing while your stomach is coming back in. That’s really important.
Also, you should be drinking a ton of water on the day that you’re going to go sing karaoke, because I want your vocal cords to be very hydrated. I want them to be moist and lubricated, because you and I both know what’s probably going to happen when you get to that place. You’re going to start drinking. Maybe it’s a beer. Maybe it’s a glass of wine. Maybe it’s something stronger. Well, what is that alcohol going to do? It’s going to dehydrate you. So, the longer you are waiting to get up to do your song that you’ve practiced all day, the more you drink and the more your body gets dehydrated, so your vocal cords are not happy. And while you’re trying to build up your confidence and power, you’re actually breaking down your vocal cords, so be drinking a lot of water.
I’m not saying you can’t drink at all, but let’s say, if you have a glass of wine, then have two glasses of water. If you have a beer, then have a glass of water. Just try to offset however much alcohol you’re drinking with water, and take as many trips as you want to the bathroom to make that happen.
OK, so you’re drinking a lot. You’ve gone on YouTube, and you practiced the songs that you think will not surprise you, because you can hit all the high notes. You’re getting the breathing right. What else can you do? You can stop getting louder when you go to hit the top notes. Most people start a song down here, and they’re singing down low, and they have a particular volume, and then the notes start to get higher, and then they get louder, and they start shouting. When you get louder trying to reach the high notes, you basically send so much air to the vocal cords that the vocal cords freak out! If you just go for the high notes without getting louder, you have a seventy-five percent greater chance of hitting the high notes, so stop getting louder when you go to hit the high notes. Keep your volume the same.
Second, stop going wide with the corners of your mouth when you go to sing the high notes. People are like, “I love you down here. I love you so much,” and then the notes get higher, and it’s like, “I love, I love you so much.” All of a sudden, everything’s like, “Aa.” The corners of the mouth go wide, and it’s nasal, and you’re what’s called “splatting.” Stop going wide with the corners of your mouth. Drop your jaw down on the high notes and keep the corners of your mouth in. That will up your chances, again, another fifty to seventy-five percent, as to whether you can hit the high notes. So, you’re down low, and your mouth goes like this, “Looooove,” and then when you go up high, you do the same thing with your mouth, “Looooove,” not “looooove.” Sounds bad, and you’re not singing about “lav” anyways. You’re singing about love.
So, to summarize: focus on your breathing, practice during the day, don’t getting louder as you hit the high notes, drink tons of water in between whatever alcohol you’re drinking, and don’t going wide with the corners of your mouth. All of those things will really guarantee that when it’s your turn, you’re doing a song that you practiced. You’re breathing right. Your vocal cords are hydrated. You are going to sing two hundred percent, maybe five hundred percent, better than you would have without all of those things.
Your friends, who already love you, are going to love you more. Your friends, who already appreciate you, are going to appreciate new talents that they have never seen come out of you, and your confidence will soar! Tonight is going to be your night. Enjoy it. Karaoke all you want. With these tips, you’re going to be amazing.
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