Whether you have just moved to Austin, Texas or you are visiting for a few days and looking for place to sing at, the Austin karaoke scene is a great place to hang out since it’s in the “live music capital of the world.” With more than thirty bars that do karaoke, chances are you are near one and can be on stage in singing within the next hour.
There are all different types in the Austin karaoke scene, from private singing rooms that you rent by the hour, to an open signup bar that anyone can go and sign up to sing. There are smaller bars that have a “hole in the wall” feel if you’d rather stay low key, or five thousand square foot karaoke bars that pack more than one hundred people to hear you sing.
The Austin karaoke scene is an interesting bunch with performers who are ready to audition for the next American Idol to performers who are ready to be on the American Idle “worst of” clips. But even if you can’t sing the Austin karaoke scene is a very fun, laid back, supportive group so you can always leave the stage to applause.
Since Karaoke began in Japan it has made it’s way across the world for everyone to enjoy. In it’s early stages, Karaoke was often “roll your eyes” worthy with very poor electronic renditions of the real song. People often disliked this because it “butchered” the original artists creation, but those days are in the past although the stereotype lives on. Many people won’t come within one hundred feet of a karaoke bar simply because they believe that it’s just going to be a bunch of old whiney people singing sappy versions of Elvis songs. While this is sometimes true, the market for karaoke has reached out to all ages and this is what you’ll find when you go to a bar that is hosting karaoke.
Since times have changed so has technology, so you can expect enjoy very high quality real instrumentals to sing along with, and if you need some extra help you can select the song with backup vocals. If that still isn’t enough, most bars will offer two, three or sometimes four microphones so you can bring up as much friendly support as you need through those first few songs. If you haven’t been to a karaoke bar in awhile, take a chance, keep an open mind and head out to one because you might be surprised at how fun it can actually be.
Be sure to call ahead to make sure the bar is hosting karaoke; unless it is a dedicated karaoke bar they may do it only on given nights and you may show up to a quiet scene. So if you’re ready to take the stage, throw your cares to the wind and let everyone know what you sound like at your best (or worst) look up an Austin karaoke bar close to you and join in on the fun!
If you’ve never hung out in the Austin karaoke scene before there’s a few things that you want to keep in mind before you go there. Most of these rules are blanket guidelines that almost any karaoke bar in the world follows and some of them are specific to Austin, here they are:
Austin Karaoke Basics
- Most bars on the Austin karaoke scene carry books which contain all of the songs that the bar has to offer. These are typically right next to the KJ (Karaoke Jockey) on a table. Feel free to grab one and take it to your table to browse through the list of songs by artist or by title. Once you are through with the book, place it back on the table so other people can use it! Some karaoke bars prefer that you keep it up at the stand and do not take it back with you. NOTE: Since the boom of smart phones and cellphone applications, some bars now offer application based song books. Typically the name of the App is posted on a board and you download it by connecting to the bars wi-fi. Once downloaded you can search for their list of songs and even sign up through the application. If you need assistance, ask the KJ.
- Once you have determined what song you want to sing, there are typically two ways to sign up. Some bars on the austin karaoke scene want you to write down the code number which is to the left of the song in the book that you want to sing. Write down the code, and the song title and artist. Others just want the artist and title. This is typically posted somewhere on a board to let newcomers know, or the paper which you sing up on (this is typically on the same table with the books) will have specific fields for you to fill out.
- After you have filled out your slip with your song on it, look for the KJ and deliver your paper to him. It’s ok to ask how long the estimated wait time is. Keep in mind that this is just an estimation and is not something that is guranteed. It’s difficult to calculate exactly when you will be coming up. Do keep in mind that you should only ask one time when you are dropping the slip off. It’s rude to continuously go up to the KJ and ask “when is it my turn?”. The KJ will get you up when the time comes for you to sing, and it’s in a specific order of who signed up when. Hang out, watch people sing and have some drinks, your time will come.
- Only sign up ONCE. The quickest way to get everyone on the Austin karaoke scene against you is to sign up under multiple names so you can go up on stage more than you should. Everyone in the room wants to sing, and they are going to recognize you as the KJ will. Once you get up there they’ll have to ask you to sit down so it won’t work anyway. NOTE: Signing up for a bunch of duet counts as your turn; so if you sign up for a solo and then do “backups” for someone else, you’ll be asked to sit down.
These are the basics when it comes to meshing with the Austin karaoke clique, so keep these things in mind and everyone should have a great time.
So you’ve made it to an Austin karaoke bar, the place is packed and everyone is having a good time and the question comes to mind, “what should I sing?”. The best answer to this question is to choose whatever song you will have the most singing, but here’s a few things to consider that you may not thought of:
Choosing a song for Austin Karaoke Bars:
- Choose a song that you want to sing, but also choose a song that you think the crowd that night will enjoy. If it’s a Saturday night and the crowd appears to be a younger set, then maybe singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” won’t be the best choice. If you select a song that you and the audience will enjoy then you’ll probably have a better experience. It’s good to watch a few of the songs which are being sung and see how the audience reacts so you can get a better idea of what they’re enjoying, but once again it comes down to what you want to sing. Even if you do decide on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” you can make everyone have a great time with it if you sing it ironically, so in the end, anything goes.
- Try to stay away from songs that last longer than four minutes. Most songs last around three and a half to four minutes. If you’re at an Austin karaoke spot and hop on stage to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” you’re going to be on stage for over seven minutes which is basically two peoples turns. If you must sing this song in order to enjoy yourself, you probably should ask yourself why that is, because there’s thousands to choose from!
- A song which the audience can participate in is almost always a great song. A good example is Dean Martin “That’s Am ore’”. When it gets to the big pizza pie in your eye part you’re almost guaranteed to get a full sing along and lots of love from the audience. The idea behind a good song is usually “fun, and upbeat”.
- Choose a song that people know. We all know that there is an underground band that the radio doesn’t play and is one of your favorites to listen to, but if nobody has heard it chances are you’re the only one that will be enjoying it. If it’s what you really want to sing, then you should absolutely go for it because the experience is for you, but if you want for everyone to enjoy it then try and keep it in the category of “songs for the masses” and save your cool underground band for you and your friends to listen to.
- If you’ve got a duet, sing it! Duets almost always seem to go over better than solo’s (unless you’re really good) so if you’ve got a buddy who knows the “other” part of the song then sign up together and rock the stage as a team.
Austin Karaoke is about having FUN
Once again, when you’re out on the Austin karaoke spots it’s all about having fun, so sing what will make you the happiest but also keep these things in mind and you might enhance your experience.
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