Microphone on stage

Tips for a New Karaoke Singer

Read the first in this series: Things a KJ May or May Not Tell You

Karaoke is hard! Very hard! If you remember the first time you performed a song in front of strangers, it was a terrifying experience.

Here are some new singer karaoke tips to help you along the way.

Singing Karaoke is Scary as Fuck

I remember my first time singing karaoke. It was a song I knew really well. It was All the Small Things by Blink 182.

I was a lurker. For a while. Then my friend Jay got up there with me to ease my nerves.

I was hooked ever since.

For karaoke veterans like myself, getting up to sing is child’s play.

But please remember, at one time in your life, getting up and singing in front of a group of strangers was very scary. And sometimes, (okay, almost always) it’s best to have some alcohol to elevate your courage.


Get Used to the Bar Culture

It’s okay to tap someone lightly on the back and force your way through the crowd. It’s okay to stand in line outside the restroom.

Where it is not cool is to stand directly behind someone at the urinal.

I once met a training Soldier while working for the Army. He was giving new recruits drug tests. He said some recruits would take up to an hour to pee, and that is when the recruit actually had to go. Give people their space.

This Will Not be a Good First date

Karaoke is loud. Super loud. Don’t try to do karaoke on a first date unless you’re finishing out the night.

At best, you’ll be texting back and forth.

Long Songs are Generally a Faux Pas

Try to not sing anything over 6 minutes unless you get the KJ’s permission. Sadly, this rules out American Pie, Freebird, Meatloaf, and others.

If it’s a slow night, hey, anything goes! Busy night where we have to get 25 people up and singing? Keep it short.

Respect the Regulars

If you respect the regulars, eventually you’ll become one too.

The regulars are the drinking and tipping customers who are smart and take an Uber home.

Do your best, applaud, buy someone a shot now and then. Break in to the inner circle. And in no time at all, you’ll be one.


But never, ever, try to jump in front of the regulars. It’s just not cool. Not cool at all.

Group Songs are Awful


I know, I got lambasted on my last post about group songs. If it’s more than two people, making a group song sound good is hard.

The mics we use are top-notch. Most group song singers hold the mic at arms-length so they can get all the people in.

As a result, we just see four-to-five hot females screaming and have no idea what they are saying.

If you must do a group song, give one mic to a competent singer, and share the mic with the rest of the singers.

Tipping is Appreciated

American culture is that of a tipping culture. Whether you think tips are bribes… eh.

A small appreciation of $1 to $2 per song is the norm.

Yes, the KJ is getting paid for the show, and perhaps is being comped on drinks. But there’s the loading of the equipment into their vehicle, unloading at the venue, tear up, tear down, then finally the KJ’s night is over.

What you see at the karaoke show is the tip of the iceberg unless the KJ is fortunate enough to work at a venue with a built-in sound setup.

Don’t Bug the KJ


The KJ is herding cats. And the cats are drunk. So it’s a hard job.

Don’t go up every 5 minutes to check up on your song. They’ll call you. Trust me.

We’ll Get You Singing, We Promise!


If we can’t get you up to sing, we’ll tell you. Promise!

It’s appropriate to ask the KJ when you are up. Sometimes it’s an hour. Sometimes you are next. You just never know.

Don’t Hog the Mic

When the KJ gives you the mic, that is your queue to sing. It’s not your queue to say hello to mom.

Please don’t grab the mic from the KJ. When we’re ready, we’ll give you the mic.

Also, after your song, it’s still not cool to say hello to mom. We have control over your mic. We’ll just turn that shit off.


When the Show is Over, it’s Over


Yes, you want to get that one more song. The answer is always no. Here’s why.

We’re paid to be at the venue, and we want to go home.

Also, the bar manager is usually the one who shuts us down. So it’s not always up to us.

Plus, even if we were to put in a new singer, it wouldn’t be you. It would be the next person in the rotation.

So, please, pretty please, understand that no, we cannot and will not accommodate you.

Respect the KJ’s Equipment


Leave your beer at your table. If you are worried about being drugged (a legit concern), tell the KJ. We’ll find a spot for your beer. Promise.

Please don’t place your beer near their setup. Accidents happen, even sober. One beer spill will destroy our equipment.

Applaud, Always


I honestly don’t care if the person is a douche. Or even if the person is singing my most detested song (up next).

Show some appreciation. Remember, karaoke is hard.

Show at least some appreciation by a clap or a whoop. Heckling is also welcome (but only after or before the song).

And for Fuck’s Sake, Stop Singing Picture


It’s a horrible song. Don’t do it. I will plan out your death.

Your Turn!

Please share your karaoke tips below in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Tips for a New Karaoke Singer”

  1. I’ll add: don’t cup the mic. We’re constantly trying to adjust your mic volume. Making this adjustment while cupping is impossible.

    1. GOD YES! I despise cuppers..it drives me insane trying to adjust the sound! Plus…don’t scream into the mic, pat it to see if it is on or try and act like you are going to drop it because you think you are a Diva and nailed the song…I have cut off and cut a many out of my show for that reason.

      1. Many singers don’t know how to hold the mic. They don’t understand that the maximum sensitivity of vocal mics is in the straight-up direction, so you hold the mic horizontally, pointed at your mouth, to get maximum signal into the board. I see so many other singers hold it like an ice-cream cone, or not pointed straight at their mouth…drives my KJ friends crazy having to crank up the gain so the audience can hear them while keeping it down enough to avoid feedback.

  2. Occasionally I bring my Flash Drive to insert into KJ’s laptop with my songs in my singable key. I am a decent singer! The KJ seems to resent it. Is it me or him? P.S. My songs only have the no voice backing tracks but I know the words!

      1. EXACTLY Timmy!! I would never allow that on my system..I have over 200,000+ karaoke songs, and all of mine can be key changed and tempo changed through my karaoke program I run..so no reason to use someone’s zip drive for a song

        1. Evidently the KJ that I sing for doesn’t have 200,000 songs because an Elvis song that I wanted to sing was not on his repertoire.

          1. Too I am a IT consultant and I know my FD contains no viruses or malware but some KJ’s still don’t trust me. Yes they may be a “dick”.

  3. Have a short list of possible songs with you to sing. Telling the KJ that you don’t care what you sing does not help anyone. Until you become a regular with any particular KJ, the KJ cannot decide between thousands of song choices FOR you! I understand that you can sing anything, but dead air time working out your personal preferences is just wrong.

    Make your song request slip legible. If your name or song title are just scribbles, chances are your request slip gets mysteriously lost. If a pencil is too difficult for you to operate, a microphone is way too much for you to handle. Try again next time 🙂

    I know that “liquid confidence” takes time to kick in, but don’t wait until the last ten minutes of the show to demand… anything. Other singers are still waiting patiently for their turn. The KJ already knows who will sing last, and no amount of money or booze offered will automatically make that person you! If you show no respect, you get none back.

    IF you enjoy yourself at any karaoke venue, TELL OTHERS! Establishments stop hosting karaoke when no one advertises for them. Word-of-mouth does wonders to boost attendance! Remember, karaoke is not just a bar scene thing. Coffee shops have open mic nights. Retirement homes have group singalongs. Any age, any place, any reason works to enjoy karaoke. (It is not a trend or fad)

  4. I was a KJ for 23 years and I laughed all the way through both of your posts! Spot on! ESPECIALLY Picture! Bahahahaha!

  5. My least favorite song, as a KJ, is ” You Won’t Even Call Me By My Name” by David Allen Coe. It goes on forever, and is stupid as hell. Unfortunately, the one guy who ALWAYS wants to sing it is 6’6″ and 350 pounds….
    A cure for the people asking when it’s their turn is a sign up board, sheet, or such. Those who are not idiots can figure out by themselves when they are going to sing; then time bathroom visits accordingly.

    1. Ugh I despise that song. I pray for a bout of diahrea at the exact moment the song is announced so I have more than enough time to not hear a single note.

    1. That’s, like, the First Commandment of Karaoke: “Thou shalt not drop the mic!”

      Another Karaoke Commandment is “Thou shalt not jump on stage with another singer unless invited.” I broke that one once…but, in my defense, it was the KJ that said I should do it. That other singer still got upset though.

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