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What is Karaoke?

Karaoke is a popular form of entertainment in which amateur singers sing along with pre-recorded music accompanied with a synchronized video display of the song's lyrics.

Karaoke first appeared in Japan in the early 1970's and the term 'Karaoke' is a portmanteau of the Japanese words 'kara' ('empty') and 'okesutora' ('orchestra').

In the 1990's Karaoke spread from Asia to the west including the United States. Karaoke began to appear in bars and nightclubs and as its popularity increased more establishments began offering Karaoke on specific scheduled nights, with some eventually offering Karaoke 7 days a week and becoming known as 'Karaoke Bars'.

The typical equipment used for Karaoke include a device for playing the Karaoke media, one or more microphones (wired or wireless), a video monitor (or TV) to display the song lyrics and a public address system to mix and play the singer's vocals and background music. Consumer level Karaoke systems are usually single self contained units which include all the above, while bar or professional systems utilize more specialized components including multiple video monitor displays, multi-channel mixers, effects processors, amplifiers and powerful speaker systems. These systems often include the ability to add echo/reverb to the singer's voice and/or modify the 'key' of the background music. By modifying the 'Key' of the background music the operator can lower or raise the notes of the song by a fixed value; this allows matching the songs 'key' to the singer's range.

In a bar or other commercial Karaoke venue, the Karaoke system is usually operated by a 'Karaoke Jockey' or 'KJ'. A 'KJ' is analogous to a 'Disc Jockey' or 'DJ', with the difference that he manages the submission of patron song requests, controls the order of singers and announces/introduces each singer in turn. KJs may work directly for an establishment or may work as an independent contractor servicing several different venues on different nights and also may provide KJ/DJ services for private events and parties.

Karaoke music is available in various formats and media, the most popular and wide spread format is known as 'CD+G'. CD+G is a normal audio CD which has been specially encoded to include the lyrics and graphic display seen on karaoke monitors (i.e. '+G' for +Graphics). Karaoke is also available on DVD media which due to its larger storage volume can store many more songs on a single disk (eg. 'Super CD+G' from the CAVS company). Specialized CD/DVD players are required to read these disks although some recent consumer DVD players now have this ability.

Recently the digital age of encoding songs in formats such as 'MP3' for playback on computers has ushered in the conversion of Karaoke music into the format known as 'MP3+G'. The MP3+G format consists of two files for each song; the background music in a traditional MP3 format and the lyrics/graphics stored as an encoded CDG file. Since MP3+G files are relatively small, a large number can be stored on conventional computer media. A typical Karaoke library of hundreds of CD+G Compact Disks can easily be stored on compact computer hard drives the size of a pack of cigarettes or a paperback novel.

Today many KJs are utilizing the MP3+G karaoke format, with a system comprised of a computer (i.e. laptop), to store and play the MP3+G files; along with typical mixer, microphones, an amplifier and speakers. PC software for playback of the MP3+G files ranges from full featured commercial KJ hosting applications to simple plug-ins for MP3 players (e.g. Win Amp, Windows Media Player, etc.) which add the ability to read the MP3+G format.

So what can you expect at a typical Karaoke show? Typically the KJ will make available one or more books which list the available songs by either song title and/or artist name. You then usually fill out a song request slip including the your name, the title of your song, and dependant on the KJ, either song artist, song (disk) number (if the KJ is using CD/DVD media) or request for key change (i.e. +1, -2, etc.). You then present this slip to the KJ.

KJs use various methods to order singer requests, but typically it is some form of 'first come, first serve' rotation. Singers are usually restricted to submitting a single song request at a time and may submit a another once they sing. The KJ will announce/introduce each singer by name, you then present yourself to the KJ and he will provide you a microphone and start the song playback. The song lyrics will appear on the video monitor and typically will change color in sync with the background music to assist the singer with keeping their place in the lyrics.

People who enjoy karaoke come from all walks of life and all levels of musical talent. Karaoke is a social activity; although everyone tries to sing their best, the purpose is to participate and enjoy the experience not to audition for a TV Idol show. Singers often speak of feeding off the energy of a crowd, and no matter what your skill, doing karaoke gives you a chance to tap into that energy and here lies the addiction of karaoke. Its a great way to party with your friends and also discover new ones.

So come out and if needed, build up your courage with a few drinks, grab a microphone and get ready for a great time.

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Karaoke Singing Tips

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Walt's Inn reserves the right to refuse to play songs with excessively explicit lyrics that might offend other patrons


  1. Choose your songs ahead of time; pick songs you enjoy, that fit your vocal range and style.  Develop your own ‘A-list’ of songs which you perform best and you can select from this list songs best fit to your audience’s mood and be insured of a great reception.
  2. Practice your songs, singing along with an original recording so you can become familiar with the lyrics and flow of the song.  Gage how well you can reach all the notes; you should avoid songs where you need to strain to hit notes.
  3. Build a list of songs and write them on a small card with the artist noted and bring it with you, this way you’ll always remember that song you wanted to sing, especially after a few drinks.
  4. Just as you would before a sporting event, the muscles involved with singing need to be warmed up to bring out your best performance and avoid injury.  Take a few relaxed breaths and sing the lowest note in your range, sing ‘Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do’ up the scale until you reach the top of your scale and then reverse this and sing from your highest note back down to the bottom of your range.
  5. As you practice scales, work towards being able to sing one or two notes beyond your bottom and top range without undue stress, this will increase your comfort level while singing within your normal range.
  6. Say some tongue twisters as fast as you can to warm up your tongue, and the rest of the muscles in your mouth.
  7. Drink plenty of water before you go out to sing, hydrating helps to lubricate your vocal cords and helps to offset the dehydrating effect of alcohol.
  8. Wait until no one is around and practice singing in a mirror, watching your face and posture you can tell how comfortable you are with the song and how well you are projecting emotion.
  9. Do some sit-up or leg-lifts, not only will it help your figure, it also helps strengthen the muscles used to give your voice power and overall tone.
  10. Come out to sing Karaoke earlier in the night; this will give you a chance to sing more and test out a few ‘new’ songs on a smaller crowd.


  1. Hold the mic about an inch away from your mouth when singing.  Adjust the distance to allow for the strength (loudness) of your singing voice and also when singing a long high note start with the mic further away and move closer as you run out of breath; this will give you a stronger and more consistent note.
  2. Don’t shout into the mic, they are sensitive and doing so will only make you sound like the voice at the local fast food drive through.
  3. Avoid ‘popping’ sounds when singing words with strong ‘B’, ‘P’ or ‘S’ sounds by moving the mic slightly to the side instead of directly to the front of your mouth.
  4. Don’t cover or hold the mic by the head, this distorts and muffles your voice and can increase feedback.
  5. Stay away from the speakers and don’t point the mic directly at the speakers, this will cause feedback.
  6. Let your soft palate, the fleshy part to the top-rear of your mouth rise to open up your throat.  The sensation is similar to the beginning of a yawn.  This will allow you to project a stronger and fuller sound.

Breathing (and you thought you knew how):

  1. Always remember that your breath is the driving force for producing sound, mastering good breathing is part of the equation to good singing.
  2. Breath with your diaphragm, fill your lungs with air and use these muscles to control the release of air as you sing.
  3. Know your song, use natural pauses for taking a breath; you will usually find these at the end of each line in a song.  Anticipate extended lyrics and long or powerful notes by always having a full breath to drive your voice.
  4. If it affects your breathing, it also affects your singing.  (I.e. Smoking, colds, allergies, etc.)
  5. Posture affects your breathing, when singing keep a relaxed, but erect posture with your head up and neck comfortably extended to produce the best sound.


  1. Anxiety affects your performance, if your anxiety level is high, try singing with a friend using the old safety in numbers rule.  This can be an interim step to building confidence and then going solo.
  2. Feel your song and learn to project the emotions to the audience.  Most popular Karaoke tunes tend to be upbeat, so remember to smile; you’ll be surprised at how something so simple can change how your performance is received.
  3. Focus your energy on the audience, try to avoid constantly staring at the monitor and make eye contact with the audience as much as you comfortably can.
  4. Have fun with the song, if you’re having a good time singing it will project to the crowd.
  5. If you make a ‘mistake’, ignore it and keep singing, don’t grimace or point it out; chances are likely that it wasn’t even noticed by most.


  1. Always applaud and cheer the performance of others, even those not destine for America’s Idol.  Remember, we're all here to have a good time, it doesn’t cost anything to applaud and it’s just the classy thing to do.
  2. Never heckle or boo a singer, it’s rude, makes you look like a jerk and your mom taught you better.
  3. Don’t try to out-sing someone performing and NEVER join the singer unless they have given you permission. 
  4. Sometimes someone else will sing ‘your song’, the KJ will try to warn you if your song is already up, but be prepared with an alternative song if this happens.
  5. Don’t curse like a drunken sailor (even if you are one), this can lead to things like a dead mic and does not raise your ‘coolness’ level.
  6. Be kind to the microphone, no screaming at it or beating it up!  It didn’t do anything to you and trust me, these things are not cheap!
  7. Treat your KJ with kindness, laugh at his/her jokes and avoid asking the ‘When do I sing next?’ question.
  8. When you are called to sing, please come up to sing promptly.  This waiting time just takes time from everyone else who wants to sing and can cause your song to be skipped.
  9. Karaoke is a service provided by the bar; support the bar and do your part by buying a few drinks.
  10. Tip your bartenders well, it will bring you good karma, brighten your smile and help ensure you always have a cold drink in your hands.