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To Karaoke

Hey, why don't you get up and sing one next?" someone yells. Suddenly all eyes turn toward you and someone hands you the microphone. Your mind turns to jelly. Your knees go weak. Sure, you sing along with your favourite songs on the radio, but in front of everyone?

It's only natural to have a pang of anxiety any time you're in the spotlight. But singing with karaoke isn't about giving a perfect performance. It's about having fun with your friends. People want to hear you. If they wanted to hear Ali­cia Keys, they'd just ask the DJ. Besides, what's the worst thing that can happen? The worst thing that can happen is that you sit there and don't even try. A potential karaoke moment may be lurking anywhere—at a dance, a wedding reception, or a Sweet Sixteen party—so why not be prepared?


Here are some tips that will help make you shine the next time you're in the spotlight:


1. Practice makes perfect. The voice is like any musical instrument the more you practice the better you will become. However, no one expects you to be the next star of the X-factor, and everyone appreciates those that try.


2 Pick two or three of your favourite songs to learn. Choose well-known songs that are in your range. Can you reach the high notes without screaming? Can you reach the low notes? Make sure the melody is easy to hum and that you can feel the rhythm easily. Learn the melody and study it as thoroughly as you would study any other subject. Record yourself and listen back. Taking time to write out all the words will help you memorize them quickly.

3 Try to get the instrumental tracks on cassette or CD so you can sing along without nearing the other singer. If you always practice singing with someone else's voice, you will never learn to lead with your voice. Background tracks to the most popular songs are gener­ally available at record stores and media outlets. Go to the Internet if you can't find them in your town.

4 Work on your voice. Singing is a very physical activity and re­quires a power source. Support your voice tone the way you would support your body when you're lifting something heavy. Get your legs under you, tuck your hips under, and use strength from the lower part of your body—as if you were lifting. Push the balls of your feet firmly into the floor. Try not to lift your chin; instead, keep your head rounded over the microphone with your chin lower in the front. This makes the tone sound warm and resonant.

5. Sing the words. Actually think about what the words mean. It's surprising how much better we sound when we really mean what we're saying. Choose songs that are age-appropriate so you're not trying to be convincing in a song about your six kids and three divorces.

6. Calm your fears. There's a trick I teach my students when they are nervous about a performance. I tell them to write down all the things they think could go wrong-going off pitch, forgetting the words, falling down-whatever they fear most. Then I tell them to sing and make all those mistakes—just do a terrible job. This is not as easy as it sounds. You'll find it's almost as hard to be terrible as it is to be perfect, but once you've done it a few times, you'll find this exercise helps put your performance fears to rest.

7. Ham it up. Getting up to sing is a chance to act out your "star" fantasies. Go all the way. Find the "ham" in you. Wear some glam clothing, do some rock and roll moves, sing your heart out. In truth, most people would rather see you succeed than fail, and giving a full-out performance will always go over better than hanging back. Trust me. Things don't improve when you sound as if you're apolo­gizing for giving such a rotten, worthless performance.


Now, I can't guarantee these tips will get you a recording con­tract or an MTV video, but they should go a long way toward mak­ing it a lot more fun—to sing for fun