It’s karaoke night and you haven’t sang a tune in front of a human being in years. Your palms are sweaty, knees are weak, and your arms are heavy. But you can still rock karaoke with the right tips and, at the end of the night, maybe even realize why so many people consider karaoke outings as some of the most fun a person can have, regardless of whether they have the voice of an angel or sound like Russel Crowe in Les Misérables.
The first thing you need to be aware of before your karaoke night is whether you’ll be singing in a private room or open-mic style in front of the bar. There are pros and cons to both, and it’s really just a matter of preference. A private room means you have more control over the songs and get to hit the mic more, plus the added bonus that you probably know all or most of the people there. That said, there are few experiences like capturing the attention of a crowded bar and getting everyone into the music. For both styles, some tips are relevant across the board.
How to Sing Karaoke, Even if You’re Not a Singer
- Come prepared with a list of songs that are in your vocal range
- Know the lyrics to the songs (yes, even though the lyrics are on the screen)
- If you drink, loosen up with a beverage or two, but don’t overdo it
- Mix up the song selection
- Choose songs that other people know so they can join in as backup
- Avoid stereotypical karaoke songs like “Livin on a Prayer” and “Don’t Stop Believin” (don’t worry, someone else will surely put them on)
- Keep the mic close while you sing at a normal volume, pull it back a few inches when you belt out lyrics
- Don’t take yourself too seriously
I caught up with Joe Noto, a karaoke host at Cross-Eyed Critters in Nashville, for some first hand recommendations of what to do and what to avoid when you’re singing. Noto moved from West Palm Beach, Florida, to Music City to pursue a career in country music. At Cross-Eyed Critters, he helps karaoke lovers jump onstage with confidence in what is truly a unique experience: the bar is the first and only animatronic karaoke bar with a robotic backup band of a bear who plays upright bass, a pig on guitar, and a fox on keys.
And while the band won’t judge you, your audience will.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Cool Material: What are the most overplayed songs that always elicit a groan?
Joe Noto: For guys it would be ‘Tennessee Whisky’, and for girls it would be ‘Goodbye Earl’ or ‘Anyman of Mine.’
What bands or eras have the best (or easiest) songs to sing?
The 90s for guys and girls are easy to sing because it’s full of recognizable classics that they grew up on. Anything from Backstreet Boys, to George Strait, to Shania Twain, or even The Killers.
What are the best duets for guys to do?
For two guys, that would be ‘Flower Shop’ by Morgan Wallen. If its a guy and girl, ‘Islands in the Stream’ by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton or ‘Shallow’ by Lady Gaga and Bradly Cooper.
What’s the biggest mistake that guys typically make when picking a song for karaoke?
Picking a song outside of their range, or if they swear they know a song but don’t end up knowing the majority of the lyrics.
How can a guy recover a song when he messes up in the middle?
Find a way to make the your group or the surrounding room laugh and everyone will love you.
Are there any unexpected or underused songs for guys that always end up being a smash?
Nobody does Michael Jackson, but if they go on stage and do it well (dance moves and all), then they don’t have to be that good and the place goes crazy. Or if someone does ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and kills it, the entire place goes silent in awe.
What genres should guys gravitate toward? What should they avoid?
Avoid heavy metal because it throws the room off and everyone is appalled. For your typical guy, I would say country or rock because those are easier genres to sing and most people know them, so it gets the room going.
What’s the most botched song in your opinion?
‘Find Me Somebody To Love’ because everyone thinks they know the song but really only know a sentence.
Any last piece of advice for a guy who doesn’t regularly sing but wants to give karaoke a go?
My advice would be is when in Rome, just get up and do it. Critters is a place where everyone will support you. Just come, have fun, and don’t be afraid to let loose.