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Karaoke Contest Tips

The key principles to a happy, healthy and rewarding contest experience are as follows:

>      Have a healthy, competitive attitude
>      Come early
>      Sing well
>      Perform well
>      Ask your friends to critique you
>      Plan ahead
>      Sell the judges as quickly as you can
>      Seek feedback
>      Set reasonable goals and NEVER give up

1) First and foremost: bring a healthy, competitive attitude to this contest. A contest of this caliber usually brings out the very best amateur singers in Kentuckiana. Regardless of how well that you sing, there are always others that can sing better and you very well may have the privilege to meet and compete against such people in this contest. If you do not win this contest or qualify to move on to the next round, it probably has more to do with how well your competition sings and performs and much less to do with how well you were scored by the judges. If you can’t accept this fact, then we politely recommend that you not compete in this contest because all that you will accomplish is to make yourselves and those around you unhappy. Don’t turn something that you enjoy into something that you dislike. Karaoke should be fun. Competing isn’t for everyone and it’s not the most important thing about being able to sing well.

Congratulate your competitors when they walk off the stage. If performers do an exceptional job, tell them so. When the contest is over, whether you qualify to move on to the next round or not, congratulate your competition and thank the judges. By all means, shake hands with the judges and tell them you appreciate the fact that they put gas in their cars and volunteered to do this for you.

2) Come early! Don’t take anything for granted. Competition could be stiff in any round and you never know how many others – including some “aces” – may show up to compete against you. The earlier the date that you choose to compete, the more chances you will have to qualify in case you do not qualify your first time out. Competition tends to be less during the week, so also consider this factor when you decide when and where to compete.

3) Sing very well. This may sound self-evident, but it deserves to be addressed in this format. The most important thing that you can do to be successful in this contest is to sing well. Singing accounts for 65% of your total score and is the single most important judging category in this contest, as it should be. There are many important components to a good singing performance, most of which are too lengthy to discuss here. To help, here are a few pointers: 

        If you smoke, refrain from smoking for at least 24 hours in advance of your performance. In addition to the extensively documented health risks associated with smoking, smoking can affect your ability to sing well. That is especially true if you have been smoking for an extended period of time. Smoking can cause your voice to “crack” while singing. We’re not trying to preach here, just stating a fact.

        Don’t drink too much alcohol prior to your performance. Alcohol consumption can dehydrate your voice. “Buzz singing” can affect your ability to sing well, especially in a contest. After your performance, drink all that you want, but please use good judgment of course.

        Drink lots of water instead. Stay hydrated. It helps to clean out the “gunk” in your throat. It also may make you want to go to the bathroom more often than usual, so plan accordingly.

        Choose songs that appeal to a broad consensus of people and that are entertaining. One of the biggest and most common mistakes that contest singers make is that they choose music that they themselves like to listen to but not necessarily what the audience wants to hear. When you choose your song, ask yourself if you think that the audience and the judges will find your song entertaining. If the answer is “no,” then you are probably singing to entertain yourself. That’s a great reason to sing karaoke, but it usually doesn’t carry you very far in a contest.

        Choosing a song that is very challenging to sing will not help you much if you can’t sing it well. We all have our limitations. Be realistic about your own abilities. Know and respect both your upper and lower registers and stay within your own boundaries. It is possible to improve your vocal range with practice and good coaching, but a contest of this type is not the place to experiment.

4) Perform well. Carefully consider your stage presentation plan. Presentation accounts for 25% of your total score. It is the second most important judging category and cannot be ignored or discounted. The best singer in the contest, without a well-prepared presentation plan, will find it almost impossible to win. The judges have been trained (yes, we actually do train our judges) to look for both the best singer and performer. Here are some tips:

        Consider your apparel. It should match the message of your song. A t-shirt and blue jeans is probably not the best performance attire, regardless of what you are singing. This doesn’t mean that you need to put on a ten gallon hat and a rhinestone belt if you are singing country music. Just use good judgment.

        Try to visually match the message of your song. If you just stare at the text prompter, you will likely accrue the minimum points in the presentation category. Visually engage both the audience and the judges. Look a judge in the eye. Pick an audience member either at random or by plan and sell your performance to him or her personally. If you are nervous on stage, sing directly to your best friend in the audience. The judges will never know what you are doing, even if they read this. Use “gesticulation” (hand and body movement). Don’t be visually stagnant.

        Move around if you choose, but NEVER leave the judges field of vision. Some contestants like to move into the audience and engage the audience members personally. The audience may be “judging” you to some extent, but they don’t have a score sheet. Only the judges have those. If you leave the judges’ field of vision, they cannot see you. If they cannot see you, it will be very hard for them to judge you.

5) Ask your friends to critique your performance. Even the best singers need to rehearse. Before the start of the contest, go some place to practice. There are several good karaoke bars across the Louisville metro area. People that you trust are more likely to give you an honest assessment of your performance and give you quality improvement tips.

6) Plan ahead. Contestants are encouraged to bring their own discs. We will use a minimum of five different DJs through the course of this contest. The DJ working on the night that you compete may or may not have the song selection of your choice. Even if the DJ does have the song that you want to sing, it could be a different version than the one you are used to singing with. This could severely disrupt your performance. Differences may include variations in lyrics, pitch, rhythms, tempo, and musical instruments used. Even the overall quality of the reproduction may vary.

7) Plan to SELL the judges on your abilities as quickly as possible. The sooner the judges come to believe that you are a contender to win this contest, the higher that they are likely to score you. Try to sell them on your abilities within 15-20 seconds after starting your performance. Think about what you would need to do to make this kind of impression on the judges and put together a plan to do so. The rest of the time you spend on stage is used to convince the judges that you should finish first instead of second or third. You should carry this plan with you through each round of the contest. Don’t hold back and try to “spring something” or surprise the judges during the finals. Establish yourself as a contender to win the contest as early as possible.

8) If you are like the scores of other contestants who will not win this contest this year, seek feedback concerning your performance. Find out what you did well and what you could improve upon. Then come back next year with a plan to do better than you did this year. You can do this by attending a formal feedback session with the judges after each round in which you successfully compete, or by requesting informal feedback if you do not advance to the next round. To do this, e-mail the contest coordinator at

9) Set reasonable goals for yourself and strive to achieve them. If you do not qualify for the contest on the first night that you compete, keep in mind that there are a total of 12 qualifying rounds and four different groups in this contest. Each group (A, B, C and D) has three qualifying rounds and is designed to have at least one different judge in each qualifying group. So, if you don’t qualify on one night, you can try your luck with a different judge the next night. If you still cannot advance after three attempts with the first judging panel, there are three other panels that have not seen your performance. All of the judges are eager to give you a fresh chance.

If you advance to the quarter-finals but do not move on to the semi-finals, remember that the earlier you compete, the more chances you will have to re-enter the contest and be judged by a different judging panel and possibly advance to the semi-finals. If you do advance to the semi-finals, but do not advance to the finals, then your goal next year obviously should be to advance to the finals. If you make it into the finals but don’t finish in the top 10 this year, then your goal next year should be to finish in the top 10. If you finish in the top five in the finals this year, then your goal next year should be to win! If everyone who didn’t win their first time out gave up and walked away, then future winners wouldn’t be future winners. Most future winners are those who receive and accept their feedback, learn from their mistakes, come back year after year and never quit until they achieve the goals that they have set forth for themselves. We hope these tips help you to be as successful as possible. Good luck to all contestants!

Here are some additional tips found on the Internet:

How do I know when I have a voice problem?

  • Has the quality of your voice changed?
  • Have you been hoarse or raspy for more then two weeks?
  • Can you no longer reach some of the high notes that used to be there?
  • Do you use more to create your voice?
  • Do you have a lot of "junk" in your throat?


  • throat clearing
  • caffeine and products with caffeine
  • cheese and other dairy products
  • feeling effort in your throat when you use your voice
  • yelling or screaming
  • noisy places where you have to speak above the din of noise
  • using your voice extensively when you have a cold or you feel fatigued
  • harmful inhalants like cigarette smoke
  • running out of breath at the ends of phrases or sentences


  • keep yourself well hydrated
  • get plenty of rest
  • wash your hands often with plain soap and water
  • get plenty of exercise
  • use a microphone as often as possible when you address a group of people
  • sing within the comfortable limits of your range

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