I did karaoke in public for the first time in August. I’ve gone back every 2 to 3 weeks since then. Although I have been primarily a musical theatre and classical singer, I decided that in the 2010-2011 I would pursue some new things. I have been delighted with my karaoke experiences, for some surprising reasons. First off, let me say that it’s not as easy as it looks.
The things that I expected to enjoy are: getting to sing repertoire that I don’t normally get paid to perform, getting to sing things that I think are fun, and trying a different performing persona. The thing that I was not quite ready for at first was how “on the spot” you are as a karaoke singer. When the introduction starts, it may be a version of the song you have never sung with before, or in a key you have not done before, and you have to go ahead and do it anyway.
I did crash and burn on one song a few sessions ago. I tried “Eres tu”, a song I loved from the 70s. I have sheet music for it that was the version that I thought I had learned as a kid, but when the song came up on the screen there were lots of lyrics I didn’t recognize to go with many chord changes I also didn’t recognize. It was almost like those dreams I have where I walk out in front of a symphony orchestra in a packed house to perform a concerto on an instrument that I don’t know how to play.
The first time I do a song with the karaoke track, I don’t know what the arrangement will sound like or what key it will be in, so I have learned to start humming and harmonizing with the introduction before it gets to the singing part so I have a fighting chance of finding my starting note. In a classical or musical theatre audition situation, you bring in songs you know in keys you have practiced, but you are singing in an unfamiliar place with acoustics you have never encountered before. In this case, I know the place and the acoustics, but I don’t know the arrangement in advance. It’s great for getting you to think on your feet, while keeping a calm exterior and selling your song. It makes you appreciate the comfort of knowing the version you will be singing in a normal professional situation.
Another fun thing has been the feedback from the audience. I have been told I sing like Barry Manilow or Harry Belafonte. The Belafonte really threw me. What fun! And people do like it when I ornament or scat on old standards.
I would recommend karaoke to any singer who wants to get outside of a perfectionistic mode or who wants to try songs outside of their usual style. The audience where I go is very supportive and you will never get a bad review. It’s so nice just to get to sing! So many classical people practice and practice and practice and only have a few gigs per year. It is so nice to sing for appreciative people anytime you like, just for the fun of it, and you can sit and socialize while waiting your turn with no daggers in your back as has been rumored to happen (ahem) in the classical music scene. And I think it’s good training for anyone who has to do singing auditions. You are on the spot and you learn to be flexible. I still find it slightly scary yet exhilarating!