Karaoke Etiquette

Last Saturday I hosted a karaoke gathering at R&B Karaoke on Thanon Naratiwat.  Marc was actually the person who kept sugesting we do karaoke, but he didn’t really know a place so I offered to pull it together.

A large number of our “regular” group were out of town or otherwise unavailable.  At one point, it looked like it would be just six of us, even though I had booked a room that held up to fifteen people.

Roka came through a few days before, inviting a group of her friends who were already gathering to celebrate a birthday.  It made for a lot of new faces, but I’m always ready to meet new people.  Especially if there is singing involved.

All in all, the night was good fun.  The selection of songs was good, the singers were no worse than “okay”, and the food was tasty.  We ran into some problems as the evening progressed, though, the types of problems that karaoke parties can often encounter.

At the end of the night, on the way back home, Tawn shared with me some of his expertise in this area.  See, you have to appreciate that I grew up in a culture that, while very musical, was not very karaoke-savvy.  As much as I enjoy singing, I can safely say that I’ve been to a karaoke place less than ten times in my life, including the six months I lived in Hong Kong.

I know.  You’re surprised, right?


To address some of the challenges we encountered at karaoke, Tawn educated me about karaoke etiquette.  Like bowling etiquette (Don’t bowl at the same time the people in the adjacent lanes are bowling.  You did know that, right?), karaoke etiquette contains rules for genteel behavior that makes the experience more pleasant for all involved. 

Let’s review:


Choosing songs

One common problem is that whoever grabs the remote control device starts browsing the catalog and, before you know it, they’ve entered ten songs that they really like.  The problem is by the time those songs come up they only want to sing the first couple, then they tire of singing and try to pass the microphone to other people, none of whom is enthusiastic about the song because they didn’t choose it.

Solution: The two song rule.  Each person gets to choose two songs to sing then the remote is handed to the next person.  If the remote is difficult to use, you can have a designated “DJ” to enter the information, but each person chooses two songs.  Once you’ve gone around the room you can start again.

Another problem with song selection is that there are just certain songs that aren’t really good for karaoke.  You know the ones.  They are hard to sing.  You don’t really know the melody because you only sing along to the chorus.  They are slow balads that are really depressing.  They have l-o-n-g instrumental parts between verses. 

Solution: Choose songs carefully.  The best ones are ones that are upbeat and that everyone knows and can enjoy singing to.  “Summer Lovin'” from the musical Grease is a great example.  “Like A Virgin” by Madonna is another good example.  Nearly anything by the Beatles.  If you need something down tempo, choose “Misty”. 


Group Composition

This may be a little touchy, but I’d argue that the best karaoke experiences occur when your group has pretty common tastes in music.  We listened to everything from the Everly Brothers to Robbie Williams to some new hip-hop artists I’ve never heard of.  Hey, I enjoyed the music but there were frequently several people sitting around kind of bored with the music at that given point.

Solution: Meanly cherry-pick your participants so the range of music doesn’t get too wide.  Okay, I’m kidding a little bit on this one, but there is still a point to be made here.  I’m not sure I can relate to what those youngsters are listening to these days.



This is always a challenge.  Some people arrive early and leave early, others arrive late and leave late.  Some just stop by for a bit in the middle of the evening.  At the karaoke places here in Thailand, you can order food and drinks to eat in the room.  These are good quality but expensive, as that’s how the money is made.

So you have the twin problems of how to collect money and how to divide the bill fairly.

We ran into that at the party.  Part way through, a few of the people decided to head out.  We actually totaled the food and beverage bill through that point and agreed about how it would be divied up.  We also agreed that the room rental would be divided equally by the number of people who eventually showed up and would be added to the food and beverage bill that we had just settled.  Then we did the whole thing again at the end of the evening.

Even though I thought everyone had agreed to the division, I received a call the next morning from one person who seemed to feel he had paid an unfair amount and questioning the motivation of other people who had showed up, suggesting they maybe were intending to free-load.  Oh, brother.

Solution: Come to an agreement beforehand about how bills will be covered.  I can agree that the cost of alcohol (which is a big expense, along with mixers) can be unfair to spread among people who did not drink, although if they had juice or cola they were drinking expensive mixers.  But outside of that, I think the room and food costs need to be splite evenly per person regardless of how long you stayed, how much or little you sang, and how much or little you ate.

It is just the easiest way to ensure that the hosts (or other people) don’t end up paying a hefty “surcharge” to cover a bill when those who pitched in didn’t pitch in enough.


So those are my initial thoughts about karaoke etiquette.  I’d appreciate you sharing any more so that I can be coaxed into organizing another outing.

11 thoughts on “Karaoke Etiquette

  1. Those are good ideas, espcially the song selection part!  To me, I think the trickiest part is how to divy up the expenses.  I have been lucky so far that the host paid my expenses.  I would love to hear other people thoughts also, so I know what to do next time. 

  2. You’ve got a great list, it seems. I agree that choosing the right kind of music is probably the most important factor to a successful karaoke night out. I’ve only done karaoke a few times, but when I did it in France, I noticed that the Frenchies always seemed to pick the slowest and most depressing ballads. That was never any fun, so I’d introduce a little Britney Spears, or, as you suggested, something from GREASE. Hope you get to go out and sing again!

  3. I hate all Karaoke music. It’s all so teeny boppy! My music is a bit too depressing for enjoyable nights looking at lyrics on the TV.

  4. Looks like a blast. One of my fondest memories involves karaoke in a Chinese restaurant in Paris and listening to these black French girls sing “I’m on the Top of the World” with thick French accents. Good times.

  5. Hehe, the whole paying thing is REALLY an issue. I usually leave early so that I can actually pay my fair shair instead of footing other people’s drinking tab!! And NEVER choose Mariah Carey. Definitely the types of songs that are way too hard to sing!

  6. Funny list! and useful. My friends and I started buzzing about doing a karaoke nite and if we do, I’ll be printing and posting your etiquette guidelines on their foreheads.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s