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Today we’re featuring a guest post from Craig, a contributor to The Singer’s Corner, a great place to learn, refresh, and delve into the music world. I often encourage my violin and viola students to sing or hum their parts as they’re learning new pieces, even if they don’t feel like they have great voices. I find that “if we can sing it, we can play it.” Without all the technique and multi-tasking involved in playing even the most basic violin phrase, through singing, we can more quickly internalize our intonation, rhythms, and phrasing. Or, maybe we are just audiating in our heads, thinking through and hearing internally how we want everything to sound. In either case, by the time we take the music to our instrument, we’ve saved ourselves days, if not weeks, of practice time. Guaranteed!

So, when Craig reached out about a collaboration, my first thought was, well, how do we get the non-singers to bust out of their comfort zone? For the reluctant singers out there, or for the friends or teachers who’d like to encourage them, here are some great tips and ideas from Craig:

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, "According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death...That means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."

Unless you're born with a natural disposition towards getting up on stage and possibly embarrassing yourself, nearly everyone in the world has some kind of hangup on performing live in front of other people. Whether it's a theatrical stage or the middle of the living room at a big party, stage fright is a very real and troubling phenomenon.

But let's face it: during a karaoke night, it just gets in the way.

Anyone who has been forced to sing an 80's classic in front of a group of complete strangers knows the sweat-inducing, palm-shaking fear that grips you in that moment, but the feeling of pushing through and performing anyway is almost other-worldly.

For those who are veteran singers, however, it can be hard to convince newbies that it'll be worth it. Here are some tips you can employ at your next singing competition to coax them up on stage.

  1. Pick the Right Location

The crowd at most karaoke bars can range from the high teens all the way up to several hundred people at once. The larger venues are generally reserved for the more "professional" competitions, but usually still allow amateurs to grace their stage from time to time.

If you're dealing with someone who is new to karaoke, keep them far away from the big clubs. The last you want them to endure is the drunken yelling of people who can't even see straight, much less hear the song. The singer could very well become so discouraged from that one moment that they put themselves out there that they never try again.

Instead, opt for a smaller venue, one in which you can pack the club with more supportive people, like friends and family. No matter how well they actually do, shout encouragement the whole way through and make the room erupt in applause at the end. Give them a moment they'll never forget and they very well may come back for more.

  1. Phrase It as a Bonding Experience

Karaoke clubs are not just a place to make a fool of yourself or let your inner Celine Dion, they're also great places to make friends and bond with your friends and coworkers. If someone is paranoid about getting up on stage and possibly looking bad, remind them that it's not about the performance, but the experience itself. After all, if everyone else is going on a roller-coaster at Six Flags, you don't want to be the one person sitting at the benches eating cotton candy and watching from the sidelines, do you?

If you communicate to your friend that singing is a bonding experience rather than a talent competition, then no matter how good (or bad) they do, it'll still be a victory. Once they accept the fact that the worst possible outcome is that they won't get to sing their favorite song, they're more likely to go for it.

  1. Offer to Start Singing With Them

For newbies, the stage is a wide-open and lonely place that can be hard to fill all on your own. The audience may not see it, but it's easy to feel like you're all alone and totally exposed for the world to see.

For some, the thing that might help them the most is a friend on stage going through the exact same thing that they are. Put your arm around their shoulder and tell them, "We'll sing this one together," then stroll up on stage and belt out a hit from one of the late-90's groups like NSync or Destiny's Child. A few renditions of that under their belt and they'll be ready to go solo sooner rather than later.

  1. Plan for the Right Environment

People who are scared to jump on stage to sing in front of a bunch of strangers usually just need the right coaxing, and for most, it may just be finding the right song. Try to remember what their favorite song is outside of the club, such as the one they sing in the shower or in the car non-stop. Ask the DJ if they have it, and if so, remind your friend that they sing all the time anyway, might as well do it here as well.

In addition to this, as much as possible eliminate fast food, coffee, or sugary drinks in the meantime that will only add to their anxiety leading up to the moment. Even if they do get up there, the heightened senses will be moving so fast that their timing will be way off and their performance won't go well in their own eyes. There's no way to keep everything bad out of their system, but try to minimize it as much as possible.

No matter what, remember to keep everything in perspective. You're not JFK standing at the inauguration reciting the "Ask Not" speech in front of millions, you're an amateur singer at an amateur club singing hokey tunes to the enjoyment of friends and family. It's not a matter of life or death, and as much as it may not seem like it, everyone will most likely make it out alive.

Please email me at if you have a violin, viola, fiddle, music biz, or practice related question you’d like answered in the blog or on a podcast, have a story or insight to share, or if you’d like to inquire about violin, viola, or fiddle lessons with me, in-person or online via Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom.

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Laurel Thomsen

Violin, Viola, Vocals
Performance, Instruction, Recording

Based in Santa Cruz, California

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