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Practice Makes Perfect
The human body is designed to coordinate. The body is capable of doing a lot of things far more than we are aware. But to accomplish those, it has to be trained through practice and exercises. The same is applicable in singing. Most people can sing, however, to sing very well the voice has to be trained to harmonize with the rest of the body and produce the right sounds in music.
Start by singing a song you are comfortable with. How do you sound to yourself? You may never know how pleasant or awful you sound until you can listen to your song when you are not singing. So sing again and record your song this time. Afterward, listen to your recordings and create an impression of how good your voice is. However good or bad it is, there is room for improvement.
2. Its All About Breathing
Ask a trained singer how to improve your singing, and you’ll hear the eternally irritating words:
“Sing with your stomach, not your throat”
Right. How the hell do I sing with my stomach, when I’ve been speaking with my throat my whole life!?
“Sing with your stomach” isn’t some magic technique which makes your voice appear from your belly button. The reason it’s popular advice is because most beginners sing exclusively using the small muscles in their throats.
While this might be good enough for a short rendition of “Lemon Tree”, it’s poor technique. Singing using these small muscles makes you run out of breath quickly. It also strains your throat, and makes your voice sound “muffled”.
A better way of singing is to recruit the larger muscles in your body to help. This takes the strain off your throat, makes your tone better, and makes your voice more powerful. The trick is to:
- Practice deep breathing. Look at yourself in the mirror as you inhale. If you’re breathing deeply enough, your tummy should be expanding. If you’re taking shallow breaths, only your chest and shoulders will move.
- Practice singing a note immediately after you’ve taken a deep breath. Notice how your voice has more power this way. Your deep breath allows you to hold a note longer.
- “Throw” your voice. For a beginner, this means singing louder than what you’re normally used to. Don’t self-muffle your own voice, which is what beginners tend to do (me included).
- Activate the same muscles you use when you’re speaking loudly. Imagine yourself projecting your voice to someone at the back of a room. You should sing with those same muscles.
If you feel your throat getting sore quickly when you sing — you’re still mainly using your throat. Keep practicing the steps above and you’ll get better at it.
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3. Choose a winning song
When you’re starting out, try picking a song that many people are familiar with and enjoy. Upbeat numbers tend to be better crowd pleasers compared to slow numbers. Songs with long instrumental breaks or overly long songs can be awkward for a karaoke session. It should be a song that you enjoy singing and is well within your vocal range.
By picking an upbeat crowd favourite, the audience will have more fun and that will definitely make it easier for you as a performer.
8. Be a good audience
Be a good sport and cheer for other performers. Clap after every song. A nice encouraging word can lift anyone’s spirit. Don’t wince if someone’s voice cracks up. Eventually, when you get up to perform, they’ll return the favour and cheer you on. As John Lennon said: “Instant karma’s gonna get you”.
KJing is a fun and relatively easy way to make a living, but, like any job, it takes practice and it has certain standards that need to be upheld. Follow the above steps and you could have a very long and lucrative KJ career. Love your patrons, respect (and tip) the bar staff, and, most of all, have fun. Don’t follow these three E's, and you could end up like that guy whose job I took.
Until next time, ta ta!
6. Deck Out Your Den
For karaoke decoration, lights are your best buds. Use lightning to brighten up the ambience and to bring the tone.
Use music notes’ stickers for the walls. Balloons and balls are never out of style.
You can go minimalist or profligate. Depends on you.
Feel free to add glitter, banners, confetti but do not go beyond the top. Too much of anything is not ideal.
KJ the Enforcer
It can be tough in a service job to lay down the hammer, but it’s important to do this… In a nice way, of course. One of my previous gigs, the crowd was predominately locals and regulars in their fifties. My initial reaction was to be nice and just let them come up at their leisure and tell me their songs. There were only two problems with this:
- It was damn hard to hear, what with the music blaring behind me. And:
- On a busy night, it was easy to forget what song was put in, and, perhaps more importantly, the order the songs were submitted.
More than that, sometimes I didn’t have a specifically requested song, or had multiple versions of the song, or I had a singer with special instructions, such as a key change or a request to introduce the songs themselves.
The solution, for me, was to have a notebook where the singer(s) could write down the song and artist, any special instructions, and their name. Busier venues or venues with fewer regulars might use a slip or even a computer system. But, for my purposes, I used a notebook and it kept some semblance of order . . . and it kept the halitosis and beer breath out of my face.
Additional tip: with a notebook or slips, place a bottle of hand sanitizer and your tip jar next to each other.
Enforcer also sometimes means turning someone’s microphone off. I once had a drunk "gentleman" go on a racist rant before he began his song. I promptly turned off his microphone and had him sent home for the evening.
Know What You’re Good At
When you sing, you’d probably notice that some songs are quite difficult for you. It may be because the notes are higher or lower than your natural voice range. These are the sort of songs you must avoid.
It is important to know that people have different voice ranges. An artist like Michael Jackson could sing very high notes, another; Barry White couldn’t. Know your voice range and choose songs within that range. This way, you wouldn’t sound shrilly while singing any song.
2. The Amateur Way
This is a great upgrade from the first method. If you will be doing karaoke on a regular basis, this is the preferred setup. The main idea behind this method is to be able to sing through a microphone. You’ll be surprised how your voice will sound a lot different.
The goal is not only to get used to hearing yourself singing through a mic but to get better at it. This setup will help you to develop the necessary skills which will give you that thundering applause the next time you go to a karaoke bar. At the very least, you will be able to develop the confidence and technique to sing better.
What You’ll Need:
- Karaoke Machine
- TV for streaming lyrics
- Additional microphone
How To Setup: Expect to spend around $50 to $200 with this setup. It will all depend on which karaoke machine you decide to purchase. Did you know that even those affordable kiddie karaoke players can do the trick? That is even if the sound quality is very basic.
To set this up, you’ll just have to connect your karaoke machine to your TV. These units have built-in speakers so you can hear both your voice and the instrumental in them. The TV is where you’ll read the lyrics. Some of them allow you to connect to an external speaker for added volume.
To get the most out of this method, what you’re looking for are karaoke machines like the Karaoke Machine Speaker System from Electrohome or the SDL9030DB Carnaval from Singing Machine. These are designed to have multiple music sources including CD and CD+Gs. The latter model even has its own built-in TV screen so you can bring the complete system with you anywhere.
3. The Right Karaoke Machine
A basic karaoke machine is all you need for home but what about parties?
The party is not going to be quiet like a library, especially when it’s with music. The volume of your machine’s speakers has to overtake the noisy background.
Getting the best karaoke machine is definitely worth it. After all, you are hosting a music party. Let’s not move on without considering a karaoke mixer too. The magic these two create will be a pleasure to your guests’ ears.
Don’t forget to make a soundcheck beforehand.
4. Choose the Right Songs
“In karaoke sessions of ‘Always’ by Bon Jovi, the girls can’t sing the verse. The guys can’t sing the chorus. And nobody can sing the screaming part at the end.”
Not everyone can sing rock. Not everyone can sing jazz. Almost no one should sing Nicki Minaj. Choose music you feel right with.
Sometimes you hit all the right notes at all the right times. And it still feels “off”. Choose another song.
Pop songs by bands are usually easy. They’re catchy, and not too difficult to sing. Plus everyone knows the lyrics.
If you’re a guy and have trouble reaching the high notes of today’s music, go for classic songs. When men still sounded like men.
If you’re a girl with a low voice, try singing male singers’ songs. The key will likely suit you better.
Choose fun songs where everyone in the audience can sing along and dance to. This may mean you need to suspend artistic musical tastes for a while, and sing mainstream Top 40.
But it’s OK – you’re there to have fun with your friends. Not show off.
In Asia, Michael Learns to Rock is king.