What Is Proper Karaoke Etiquette?

Don’t want to be that unmannerly karaoke performer who everyone complains about? Learn how to be the life of the party with these 3 easy tips from Modern Manners Guy.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #161


Okay, I know what you’re thinking…how awesome is karaoke! Right? Was that’s not it? Okay, then you’re probably thinking that you’ve never heard of anyone covering karaoke etiquette before because, well, is there any etiquette in karaoke? To this, I say—absolutely not! To me, karaoke equals party, and at a party there can be guests who ruin it for everyone else with their unmannerly ways. With karaoke, it’s about having fun, yet some find it necessary to bring their poor manners to the table.

What Is Proper Karaoke Etiquette?

Let me make one thing clear – I can’t sing. I mean, I can’t sing even a little bit. At my daughter’s birthday party I sang softly so I wouldn’t be heard. I’m that bad. But, that doesn’t mean bad singers make bad karaoke singers. There is a difference. Karaoke is about the feeling, the emotion. So, come on Eileen, pick your favorite 80s song and join me as I give my top three tips for proper karaoke etiquette. Let’s get it oooooon.

Tip #1:  Don’t Expect Greatness

I’ve been a music a columnist and journalist for years and I have never heard of anyone being discovered at a karaoke bar. On YouTube, sure, but rarely do music reps hang out at karaoke bars. It’s like professional wrestling; put all sense of reality aside, belt it out the best way you can, and accept the same from others. So, if you’re going to a karaoke situation, don’t expect the guy from your office to be the next Marvin Gaye. Don’t boo a person or prevent them from singing because you think they aren’t good enough. Don’t heckle, don’t take the microphone away, and don’t hassle other performers. Nothing is more improper than to think that your opinion outranks someone else’s chance to have fun.

If you find someone doing this, there is only one thing to do… Yell at them, at the top of your lungs, the following, “IT’S KARAOKE!... NOT THE VOICE!”

Tip #2: Don’t Hog The Stage

If you have a karaoke machine in your house, then by all means hog away. But if you’re going to a party or a karaoke bar, don’t Bogart the stage. I was at a party last year and my friend’s cousin thought his voice was pure solid gold. However it was more like rusty nails… being pulled across a chalkboard… then put into a dryer on high speed. Knowing that it’s improper to go against someone else’s skills when I’ve established how awful I am, I danced along the entire time. All was fine for his one song but then he didn’t want to leave. He stayed up there and did another. Then, after being pulled away, he went right back up. He was relentless in his efforts to make sure to ruin the classic, “Born To Run” at least five times.

This tip shouldn’t even have to be mentioned if people would just remember their pre-school days when we all learned about sharing. Sharing is key for karaoke party success because the more people get involved, the better. But what happens if someone is this rude and won’t leave? Well, there are two things to do. For starters, establishing rules about the party night are always good.  Everyone has to sing and you can’t go again until, everyone has had their turn. Another good solution to the Stage Hog is what my one friend did – get four people to rush the stage, grab the microphone, and drown him out.  Then, when the song is over, quickly pass the microphone off. This way it keeps the party moving and he can take a much needed break

Tip #3: No Ace Of Base

One of the nicest things you can do during a karaoke performance is to pick a song that gets everyone going or is fun to hear. Not one like “I Saw The Sign”… that’s just awful. Am I being too picky? Okay well maybe so, but hear me out. Karaoke is a process of getting up in front of a crowd to show off, embarrass, and entertain – with that, you have to work the crowd. Picking a song that no one likes or will drag on (“Stairway To Heaven,” anyone?) is the fastest way to make sure you don’t get invited back. This isn’t your time to take the stage and tune everyone out.

One way to make sure you deliver a proper karaoke performance is to choose a song that everyone will enjoy. Again, as I said earlier, this is not Star Search or American Idol. You will not catch your friends saying, “WOW, did you hear that guy belt out the theme song from Titanic! He should get a record deal.” The proper thing to do is to make sure your friends are enjoying your presence the same way they would at a dinner party.  Granted, a good karaoke party is hardly an upscale soiree, with fancy place settings and waiters serving mini crab cakes – but it is a party nonetheless. So, with that, keep your karaoke etiquette in check!

Do you have a great story about an improper karaoke patron? Post all the juicy details in Comments below.  As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Check out my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Richie Frieman
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