A Beginner’s Guide to Live Band Karaoke

What if you were told that you could get the same blood-pumping, adrenaline rush from extreme sports just by stepping onto a stage? No death-defying leaps or tricks, just a backing band and an enthusiastically inebriated crowd?

Welcome to the world of live band karaoke. Here, you can fulfill your rockstar fantasies in a way that you simply cannot with backing-track karaoke. We talked to Graeme Hinde, Founder and Music Director of Casual Encounters Karaoke — one of the leading live karaoke bands in Los Angeles — to help you prepare for your moment of stardom.

Is the Band Really Live?

Not all karaoke bands are created equally. Some utilize backing tracks which can help them expand their catalog and add in instruments the band might not have, like a brass section. Casual Encounters keeps everything truly live and has managed to build out a genre-spanning list of more than 100 songs. As a result, the performances are less rigid and can complement the singer’s style.

a beginners guide to live band karaoke microphone
Hex/Getty Images

“People tell us all the time that they will never go back to regular karaoke after singing with us,” says Hinde regarding traditional karaoke. “The energy a live band brings is a lot different from karaoke backing tracks. We can respond to the singer and jam with them in a way that you can’t with a pre-recorded track.”

Reading the Lyrics

Due to the somewhat improvisational nature of purely live karaoke, you won’t get as much help with the lyrics. This will vary, especially if the band uses backing tracks, but Casual Encounters displays static lyrics. If you’re highly dependent on the highlighting of words to get a sense of a song’s rhythm at karaoke bars, you should get a bit more familiar with the song before you step out with a band.

Handling the Mic

As we’ve all learned from singing competitions like American Idol and The Voice, handling a microphone onstage is actually pretty difficult. Luckily, we have a couple of tips for you.

a beginners guide to live band karaoke microphone
Kane Reinholdtsen

“Don’t hold the top of the microphone; hold the handle,” says Hinde. “If you cover the microphone with your hand, you can create feedback and/or stop your voice from actually going into the microphone.”

What’s the point of tracking down your town’s live karaoke band if your adoring fans can’t hear you? To keep that from happening, you should also make sure you’re not holding the mic too far away. “You also have to sing directly into the microphone,” continues Hinde. “Some people see on TV, a crooner will be holding the microphone at waist height and singing kind of over it and that doesn’t work.”

Hinde also told a tale of a mic-swinging singer who hit themselves in the face during the last song of the night. He, much like his song choice, was born to be wild, but we highly recommend you put your safety first.

Be Yourself

There’s no right or wrong way to front a band. If you want to stand around and sway, great! If you want to cover every inch of the stage, go for it!

a beginners guide to live band karaoke casual encounters
Casual Encounters Karaoke Casual Encounters Karaoke

“We like all the performers that sing with us. It takes all different styles to make a show,” says Hinde. “We like people who make the songs their own. We like the people who sing songs just as they are.”

And even if you mess up, the band’s got your back. They can start singing if you lose your place and help you get back on track. From the time the song starts, all they want is for you to have an incredible experience.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be afraid of.”


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