This past weekend as part of a delayed birthday celebration, I went to a pub dinner and karaoke with a group of great friends. Over the course of the evening, I managed to get up there and sing two solos and one duet, all of which went well. You’d think that singing before a bunch of people more concentrated on drinking than entertainment might seem like no big deal, particularly if you’re used to speaking in front of people as I am, and your singing voice is at least passable, as mine is.
Over time though, I’ve learned a few things from karaoke, and I think many of us can apply these lessons in other aspects of life as well:
1. Know Your Venue
You don’t have to sing something just because you think other people will like it better than that obscure tune you like to sing in the shower, but at the same time if you’re singing in a crowded pub on a Saturday night, maybe a slow, quiet ballad is not quite the right way to go for that particular venue.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
Sometimes it’s great just to wing it, but it’s also worth taking the time to sit down and figure out how to do something right. When I sing karaoke duets for example, I try to pick out the harmonies and practice them in advance. That way I’m prepared, and the resulting performance sounds better.
3. Engage Your Audience
The key is to focus on appreciation, not mugging for your buddy’s iPhone camera. Often I can’t look at people when I’m singing karaoke, because I’m keeping an eye on the monitor where the song lyrics and timing cues are appearing. When it’s appropriate though, you do want to make some eye contact, particularly in thanking the people listening to you before and after you sing by a word, eye contact, a bow…however sparse the actual applause.
4. Be Gracious and Share
Shake hands with and thank those who tell you you’ve done well, and do the same for others. Every time some stranger comes up and tells me I nailed some song, I make sure that if they haven’t had a chance to sing yet, the DJ is made aware that they should get a turn. You want to do your best, but you also want to make sure others get a chance to enjoy themselves, as well.
5. Don’t Be Afraid
When I started singing at karaoke about a year and a half ago, thanks to the influence of some good Twitteratti, apart from singing the hymns in the pew at church I hadn’t sung in public for many years. The more I began going to karaoke, the more the little voices in my head saying, “You’re not really very good,” went away. Getting over the fear of failure was one of the best things to come out of the experience: I tried it, I learned what I could and could not do well, and I concentrated on getting better at those things I was able to achieve.
No doubt there are other life lessons one can take from singing karaoke, and feel free to share those in the comments. Hopefully this will inspire some of you to give it a shot, the next time you have an opportunity. And of course, with online karaoke videos widely available on places like YouTube, you can have karaoke night at home any time you like. Give it a shot!