popular karaoke songs

6 Struggles Only Karaoke Enthusiasts Understand (in GIFs)

6 Struggles Only Karaoke Enthusiasts Will Understand

Love karaoke? And by that we mean… borderline obsessed? Is it your first suggestion for a birthday get-together? Do the karaoke hosts at your local bar know you by name… and get concerned when you don’t show up? Are you first on stage, while your friends hide in the corner slowly sipping their liquid courage?

Yep, we know the feeling.

Even if it takes you forever to browse the book and pick the perfect song to sing, it’s all worth it when you take the stage, grab the mic, and hear the roaring cheers of your fans (er, friends).

If you know your local karaoke spot’s song catalog by heart, karaoke isn’t just a late-night whim for you. It’s a hobby that unleashes the natural performer inside you, daring you to take risks and win over crowds. If you’re a karaoke enthusiast like us, we bet you can relate to these six struggles…

1. YouTube swallows your weekends whole.

Most people imagine the karaoke life as a series of parties, bars, and amateur contests. However, you do most of your singing at home. YouTube is full of popular karaoke songs, complete with scrolling lyrics, so it’s easy to warm up with a few of your favorites. But before you know it, hours have passed and you’re down a sing-along rabbit hole. The Internet is a great place to practice, but if you’re not careful, you’ll lose track of real-life karaoke, with its far superior sound systems and energetic live audiences.

2. You have nightmares about losing your thumb drive.

Once upon a time, people burned their favorite popular karaoke songs onto CDs and handed them to KJs. Today, you can fit thousands of custom-edited and privately purchased karaoke songs onto one flash drive. However, if you’ve ever fished around for your USB drive in a dark pub, you know this convenience is a double-edged sword. If your competition has your playlist of karaoke songs, there goes the element of surprise.

3. You take notes while listening to the radio.

You can’t help it. When you’re driving to work or school, streaming an online radio station, or listening to a friend’s music collection, you’re constantly on the lookout for popular karaoke songs to sing. Are those lyrics fun and easy to hear? Is the beat recognizable? Do you think you can match the singer’s voice? Should you go scrambling for the rest of their collection, hoping to find that perfect track for the next karaoke night? Without fail, listening to music always results in karaoke brainstorms.

4. Reality show judges make you want to scream.

When you watch singing shows like “American Idol,” “X Factor,” or “The Voice,” you can’t help but critique the amateur singers who somehow get a national platform for their mediocre mimicry. And it’s inevitable: With every new season of yet another televised singing competition, a few more talent-less wannabes are kicked out of tryouts because they “belong in a karaoke bar.” Ironically, the judges are usually music-industry veterans who profit every time you sing a song they recorded or produced. Why, then, do they insist on using karaoke as a punchline?

5. To alter or not to alter: That is the question.

Some karaoke machines can raise or lower a song’s key, to better match your own voice with the singer’s. You’ve been around long enough to know how divisive this issue is, and you may even have a firm opinion about whether or not it’s a legitimate way to perform. However, there’s no denying the appeal of a guaranteed harmony, digital or otherwise.

6. Practice doesn’t always make perfect.

Successful “self-taught” singers are few and far between for a very good reason: singing takes more than just talent. If you want to master the nuances of singing for a live audience, you’ll need to train your vocal cords with exercises that make it easier to breathe, stay on key, remember the lyrics, and sing with emotion. A private vocal coach or singing instructor can work with you to hone your singing talents and tweak your performance style.

Karaoke Tips: Picking the Best Songs to Sing

Remember… picking the best song isn’t always about choosing from the most popular karaoke songs of all time. If you want to avoid embarrassing mistakes, you’ll want to select a song that suits your voice (i.e. your vocal range and stylistic tendencies), your personality, and also your audience! Are you at a grungy dive bar? Might be best to save “Genie in a Bottle” for another time.

Also, remember that singing karaoke is all about having fun! If you’re nervous, it’s much easier to pick a song your genuinely enjoy singing before breaking out the high notes and fancy riffs.

For specific recommendations, check out our list of fun songs to sing at karaoke!

Additional Karaoke Resources

Need more karaoke tips and inspiration? Here are few other websites to check out:

  • The Karaoke Channel — This website offers thousands of professional, re-recorded hits available for download, along with a community forum and a mobile app to take with you on the go.
  • Karaoke Version — Another great resource for finding instrumental tracks to sing along to.
  • Sunfly Karaoke — Offers more than 13,000 karaoke tracks available for download or via a personalized karaoke disc.
  • RedKaraoke — Feeling shy? These apps work with your iPhone/iPad, Android device, or SmartTV to start the party, without ever leaving the house!
  • Ace Karaoke — Need karaoke equipment, like amps, cables, stage lighting, or mics? Find it all here!

Readers, anything you’d add to this list? What are your favorite karaoke songs to sing? Leave a comment below and let us know!


Photo by Richard Sunderland

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How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Musicians, Here’s How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Ready to take your talents to the masses, but not sure how to get music gigs? In this guest post, our friends over at GigSalad share a few helpful tips to help you start your gigging career…


It’s safe to say that almost every musician dreams of making a career out of their talent. However, many artists are intimidated and unsure of where to begin. If you’re serious about your music, and you know you want to succeed in the industry, there are a few essential steps to help you find music gigs and kickstart your career. By applying these few simple methods to actively promote yourself, you’ll be well on your way to making a living doing what you love.

Practice, practice, practice. We know you probably hear this enough from your teachers, but your practice hours are crucial to your sound. It’s what attracts fans and keeps your calendar booked, so before you start your gigging endeavors, make sure you’ve mastered your performance.

You need a solid web presence. In order to line up your first few gigs, you have to put your talent in front of a lot of eyes and ears. One of the best (and cheapest) ways to do this is by promoting yourself online. There are many marketing tools available for musicians, but don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to utilize them all. Just focus on these few, and you will have a stronger impact.

  • Find a website builder. You don’t have to be tech-savvy to have a great place to host your music. There are several website builders that make it easy to plug your media into a beautifully designed template. You’ll want to choose one that is mobile-friendly, can be easily customized, and offers stylistic flexibility. We recommend Bandzoogle because it’s built specifically for musicians to add downloadable music files, gig calendars, and band merch. Having a beautifully designed website is an excellent way to gain more fans.
  • Use your social media. Your social platforms are a great way to engage your audience and attract new fans. You can notify followers of your upcoming shows, get feedback from past performances, and even find out what kind of music they’d like to hear in the future. And by activating the new Facebook call-to-action button, you can get booked directly from your page! To truly maximize your opportunities, consider going outside of your own social media feeds. When you connect with other local performers, venues, and community groups, you’re exposing your business to their followers as well. Liking other posts instead of just asking users to like yours creates a more direct relationship with those users.

Get gigs by playing gigs. At the beginning of a gigging career, often times artists will put on free shows to get started. These performances are typically in smaller, more intimate venues such as coffee shops, libraries, or house parties. Although these are unpaid gigs, they can still offer other valuable benefits. Any gig opportunity helps boost your stage presence, earns you the spotlight, and gives you a chance to recruit more fans.

Surround yourself with musicians. Not only do you get a chance to chat with people who have the same interests, but you can also learn a lot from these conversations. The music scene is constantly evolving, and your fellow musicians can keep you updated on the latest trends and tips that have helped them. This also gives you a great opportunity to create mutual referrals for future gigs.

Connect with venue owners. Venue owners come in contact with a ton of musicians, so it’s important to make yourself stand out. Introduce yourself in person, and be sure to leave them a link to that great website you’ve created to promote your music. Because of their heavy workload, it’s a good idea to send them a follow-up email if you haven’t received a response after a few days.

There are a lot of tips out there for musicians who are just starting their gigging careers, and it can feel daunting to consider all of them. Every musician is unique in their journey to success, so make the moves that feel right for you. By perfecting your talent, creating a strong web presence, and connecting with the right people, you can considerably boost your gigging opportunities.

Readers, what other strategies do you use to find music gigs? Let us know in the comments!

Post Author: Tessie Barnett
Tessie Barnett is the content writer for GigSalad, an online platform for artists to promote their talent, connect with event hosts and planners, and get booked for private and public gigs ranging from weddings and parties to corporate events and festivals. As the largest entertainment booking platform in the U.S. and Canada, GigSalad helps talented people do what they love.

Photo by Lauren Liggett

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get better at singing

4 Unconventional Ways to Get Better at Singing

get better at singing

Did you know there are ways you can get better at singing… that DON’T involve singing? Find out the ideas in this guest post by professional voice teacher Molly R...


The obvious thing to do when you want to get better at singing is, of course, to sign up for voice lessons! You may have even found that teacher right here on TakeLessons.

But singing is so much more than what goes on with your vocal cords. We also have to exude confidence and connect with our audience. We can’t always get the help we need to become dynamic performers from voice lessons alone. Here are some suggestions for other classes that will take you from a good singer to an unforgettable one!

Dance Lessons

No one’s looking for you to become the next Fred Astaire, but it’s essential that you move well if you plan on singing on any stage. Any type of dance lesson will do: ballet, salsa, ballroom, and more.

When the body’s more relaxed and agile, not only do you look more polished, your voice will be a lot more free. Gone are the days of “park and bark,” where you just stand there and open your mouth. To use your space effectively, you have to be comfortable with your body. Fear not, non-dancers: There are plenty of lessons out there that cater to beginners. I plan on taking a swing dance workshop this summer, and I am encouraging all my students to join me!

Tai Chi and Qigong

This is super simple, yet so very beneficial. Master the eight brocades in Qigong, and you have a marvelous way to connect with both body and breath! Tai Chi and Qigong lessons help us conquer nerves, get better sleep, and move with more grace. Yes, many of us have heard how yoga does all these things, too, but many people would prefer something easier and gentler. Plus, Tai Chi and Qigong are perfect for kids and senior singers!

In addition to your private lessons, I recommend following Jesse Tsao on YouTube for tips and inspiration.

Acting Lessons

A great voice becomes a spectacular voice when the audience believes you know what you’re singing about. One of the best ways to develop your performance skills is to take acting lessons. Even if you’re new to acting, beginner acting lessons abound. You can even find teachers through TakeLessons (I happen to teach beginning acting, too!).

Remember, each song you sing is a monologue set to music. Finding ways to express it dramatically, as well as musically, will set you apart from other singers who are only focused on sounding good! To help you get better at singing, an acting coach will challenge you to create a character for each song, thus making each of your performances more meaningful to both you and your audience.

To supplement your lessons, I also recommend reading the book “What Do I Do With My Hands?” by Rhonda Carlson, who has coached many Broadway performers.

Improv Lessons

This one changed everything for me! These days, improvisational comedy workshops are offered everywhere, including at corporate events and schools to make employees and students feel more confident. Plus, it’s plain fun!

Stepping out of your comfort zone is essential for any sort of performer. By taking improv lessons, you’ll strengthen your creativity by learning how to think on your feet and to trust your instincts. You’ll also learn how to “play well with others” — meaning your fellow performers and the audience. And did I mention just how much fun it is? Go for it! After performing in any improv situation, recitals, musicals, and open mics will seem so much easier!


So, what are you waiting for? As a voice student, you will always be learning something new to help you get better at singing — but, surprisingly, it’s not always about vocal technique! So go sign up, and have a blast. When you’re having fun on stage, so is the audience!

mollyrPost Author: Elaina R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

Photo by Nick Page

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The One Thing a Good Singer MUST Do

Singers, Don’t Forget the Most Important Part of Performing!

The One Thing a Good Singer MUST DoOut of all the stage presence and performance tips for singers, there’s one surprise element that many vocalists forget about. Learn what it is — and how to improve your own performance — in this guest post by Davis, CA teacher Steve G


Some people are born with perfect pitch, others with great ability to control the volume and character of their voice, and still others with a natural ebullience and a knack for the spotlight.

Each of these attributes can contribute positively to a vocal performance, as can learned traits such as proper breathing, a relaxed stance, and keen knowledge of the stylistic idioms of each genre. But these technical aspects and these decorative flourishes are each secondary to the true goal of singing a song: conveying a message to the audience.

The Most Important Performance Tip for Singers

Whether a singer has written the lyrics to the song him or herself or is singing a cover of someone else’s lyrics, the audience should always feel as though the singer is communicating the words for the first time, from his/her own imagination directly to the ears of the listener. Songwriting is storytelling, regardless of whether the story is told in an ornate fashion (Mariah Carey), a rich one (Josh Groban), an unpolished one (Joe Strummer), or a simple one (Paul Simon). It is often satisfying if the audience is impressed with a singer’s technical ability, range, or “flavor.” But if the audience responds to the message of the music, the performance has been a successful one.

Developing Stage Presence by Emphasizing Particular Words or Phrases

Given this dynamic, a singer can enhance his or her performance in a number of ways. A particular word or phrase might be emphasized with more volume or ornamentation (or conversely, as a contrast to the bombast around it) if the word or phrase is of particular importance to the message. When I perform “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (my version is closest to Neil Diamond’s version), I always put extra focus on the words “Why not share?” just before the song’s climax. Listen here:

This crystallizes the meaning of the song into a single, simple phrase, and I sing it as though my obligation to the audience is to have them internalize just these three words if they take anything from my performance.

In other cases, words may be sung with a particular inflection of strain or of release, as per the singer’s vision of the song’s message. I put an extra level of strained intensity into the line “Stop this heartbreak overload” in John Waite’s “Missing You” in order to show that the narrator has reached the limits of his emotional angst and thus must cry out in fury:

Meanwhile, I sing the line “Take away all my sadness” in the song “Have I Told You Lately” (my version is closest to Rod Stewart’s version) with exceeding calm and relief, expressing that although the tone of the song is rather sad, the narrator is reassured into solace by his lover.

Developing Stage Presence Through Body Language

Body language can also be an important element in conveying a story to an audience, even if one’s body is partially occupied by playing an instrument while singing. An audience will always respond to conviction and comfort, and these can be displayed not only through a singer’s familiarity with the song at hand, but also through confident posture and the willingness to connect both with individual listeners and with a crowd in general.

Some artists accomplish this through their banter between songs, or their willingness to perform a cover of a well-known song to which the audience already may have a strong nostalgic attachment. Others draw from techniques employed by dancers (purposeful movements, exuberant energy), actors (poignant facial expressions), speech-givers (different rhythmic cadences to emphasize key thematic concepts), or folk-tale narrators (a tangible sense of wondrous exploration in each new piece that is sung).

Perhaps the most universal connection between singer and audience can be achieved through strategic use of eye contact. Eye contact need not (and perhaps should not) occur for every moment of a song — a singer may look above the audience’s head, look down, and/or close his or her eyes for certain lines in a song, and often these moments not only infuse an enhanced urgency or poignancy into a line that is sufficiently powerful to compel such a change, but can continually renew an audience’s interest every time that eye contact is re-established.

As an example, take a look at this performance of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” by Cassandra Wilson:

You’ll notice she switches about evenly between making eye contact and closing her eyes. Her eyes are always closed when singing the most introspective, evocative line of the song (“Cause all I ever have, redemption songs”), but are often open when the lyrics “instruct” the audience on what to feel (“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery”). In this way, she is able to distinguish the communal from the personal, and thus give an added dimension to the story she is telling.

When I teach voice lessons, it is sometimes necessary to work on things such as intonation, situational breathing, projection, eye contact, vowel sounds, and other tools. These instructions help develop the basic parameters of a capable singer. But I always strive to gear these devices toward helping the student achieve a unique interpretation of each song he or she works on. Keep these performance tips for singers in mind . The real magic occurs beyond the physical framework of the notes; it occurs in the message that is communicated.

Steve G.Steve G. teaches singing, piano and music theory lessons in Davis, CA. He earned his PhD in music theory and composition from the University of California Davis and also tutors math and writing. Learn more about Steve here!



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Tips for Singers - What to Pack in Your Gig Bag

Singers, Don’t Forget These 9 Items In Your Gig Bag!

Performing in front of a live audience is an amazing feeling! But to ensure a smooth, no-stress gig, preparation is key. If you’re looking for tips for your first gig — or just need a refresher — check out this advice from Saint Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L...


For the performing singer, there’s nothing quite like having practiced your butt off for three weeks, spraying your throat every five minutes with that throat spray for singers, and running through your customized voice exercises, only to realize as you walk through those venue doors that you forgot your microphone at home.

As the lead singer of two Saint Augustine, Florida bands, I know that I’m part of a team. But I also know that I need to be responsible for my own stuff, and what exactly we need as performing singers, whether you’re a solo act or in a group, can get pretty specific. Whether it’s your first gig or you’re an experienced performer, you need to be prepared. Here’s my list of what every singer needs to pack in his or her gig bag.

What to Pack In Your Gig Bag

Throat Coat Tea and Honey (single-serve packets)
You might be skeptical of special teas and potions for the voice, like I once was. But trust me, after singing in a dry room for two hours, you’ll be thankful for the lubrication!

Great Microphone
My microphone is a Shure product. It’s not expensive and sounds great. What’s important is having your own, especially if you ever put your mouth on it. Germs, anyone?

Wind Screen
This is super important for protecting the investment that is your microphone. Strong wind, a drop on the floor, or even blowing air into it can cause damage. Your wind screen can prevent this.

Your Phone
OK, so you might not need to pack this in the gig bag, but be sure to take it. If you’re running late, you’ll want to let the venue know.

Mic Stand
Even if you’re the kind of performer who runs all over the stage with a cordless mic, you’ll need to keep that mic in a safe spot between sets. There might even be a song you’ll want to try with the mic in its stand!

Even though I personally recommend drinking tea with a thicker consistency than water during performances, water will hydrate the body before and after you sing.

Potato Chips
I was skeptical about this one for a long time. But a music producer recommended them, and now, I always pack them in my gig bag. The salt reduces mucus, the oil lubricates, and the crunch helps relieve stress.

Your Merch
If you have any merchandise for your act, like T-shirts, CDs, cards for free downloads of one of your songs, or even just business cards, you’ll want to pack them in your gig bag. You never know who you’ll meet at a show, or what fans will ask for!

Extension Cord
Recently, my band had to make a really stressful and last-minute run to the local hardware store 20 minutes before show time, because our cords weren’t long enough for the new venue. Be prepared with a 50-foot extension cord. Oh, and make it an outdoor one, in case it rains!

Not There Yet? Here’s How to Get Gigs

Word of mouth is said to be the best way to get gigs for bands and musicians. But since the Internet is where so much is communicated nowadays, word of mouth means having a great social media presence. Make sure that you have a fresh, updated Facebook page with videos, reviews (even from teachers and fellow musicians), audio, and lots of photos of rehearsals and formal band photos, too. Make sure that you have a YouTube channel, so that potential clients and fans can watch you perform. Even if you only post great band practices, people can still get a feel for your sound! You can also make your own website for free at, where you can post past and future gigs. (Here’s a great post from Wix about setting up your music website.)

Next, search your local paper or Google local open mics — these are a great way to get exposure and meet other musicians! You can also build a profile for free at websites like GigMasters and GigSalad. They’ll send leads for gigs right to your email and charge a small fee. Here’s a great round-up of those and other websites for finding gigs.

Tips for Your First Gig

Gearing up for your first gig? Congrats!

  • First, get as many details as possible from your gig contact, who’s probably the person who scheduled or hired you. Make sure that you know exactly what you’ll need to bring, what the venue already has and is willing to share, how early you’re allowed to set up your gear, how long you’re expected to perform, and a number for your contact at the venue on the day of the event, just in case you get caught in traffic or tied up, and you need to call ahead.
  • Second, if it’s possible, go to the venue yourself to check it out. How much room is there? (This’ll also help you feel more comfortable when you actually perform in the space.)
  • Third, rehearse as much as your schedule allows, and try to practice in the same physical set-up that you’ll be in the venue. Here’s a handy checklist for preparing for a gig.
  • Fourth, relax, but not by telling yourself not to be nervous… instead tell yourself that the nervousness is only excitement. It really is all about perspective and attitude.

All this considered, the most important thing to bring to a performance should be so big, that you couldn’t fit it into any gig bag. That thing is your amazing self-confidence. Remember that excitement you were feeling earlier? One of the best tips for your first gig is to use that excitement as extra energy. Because, let’s face it, you could drink all of the finest teas in the world and own the best microphones, but if you don’t believe that you belong up there, singing, you’re toast.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!


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Checklist for Auditions-Performance

How to Prepare For Your First Singing Performance [Checklist]

Are you gearing up for your very first time singing on stage or in front of an audience? Learn how to get ready for an audition or vocal performance — and overcome stage fright before it hits you — with this handy checklist from online voice teacher Tyler J...


Performing can be a beautiful experience, but if it’s your first time in front of an audience, the thought of it can be nerve-wracking. Stage fright is common for beginners (and believe it or not, sometimes even for professionals who have done tons of gigs), but these fears can be overcome with simple preparation. By following this timeline, you can learn how to prepare for a singing performance — from talent shows to important auditions — conquer any anxieties, and hit the stage with confidence.

Checklist for Singers First PerformanceIf you follow these steps, you’ll find that the stage isn’t quite so scary after all. If you still feel a little anxious right before, that’s okay – use that adrenaline to add energy to your performance. Throughout the weeks leading up to the performance, make sure to use a checklist like this with your private instructor. He or she can help coach you and provide plenty of encouragement as you prepare for your singing performance or audition. Remember, you’ve worked hard and are well prepared — now get out there and show the audience what you’re made of!

Tyler J

 Tyler J. teaches multiple styles of singing and guitar via online lessons. He recently earned a Master of Music in Commercial Music from California State University Los Angeles and can also help students with composition, music recording, and audio engineering. Learn more about Tyler here!



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popular cover songs

Singers, Here’s How to Make Cover Songs REALLY Stand Out

How To Improve Your Cover SongsSinging popular cover songs can be a blast — it’s a great way to rev up your crowd, and gives you the opportunity to show off your skills and make the song your own! Here, online voice teacher Emmanuel M. shares his tips to keep in mind…


For those of us who love to sing, there are some songs that we just fall in love with and can’t stop singing. Sometimes, this passion inspires us to record popular cover songs and upload them online for others to adore. However, sometimes there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other covers of that same song. So what can you do to make yours stand out?

Most popular cover songs can be categorized into one of two methods: singing the song like the original singer (the most common method) or creating a more personal rendition of the song. Whichever you choose is up to you, but here are some tips to help you decide which one is best for you:

  • For the first method, your voice must stand out. Because your cover song will sound like the many others that follow this method, uniqueness and originality will fall mostly on your voice (i.e. does your voice stand out?). Chances are you don’t sound like the singer, but what matters is whether or not your voice sounds good.
  • For the second method, the style and the way you sing the song must stand out, as well as your voice. Singers using this method create their own melodies, runs, and riffs; they add layers, harmonies, background vocals, and high notes. The key here is to make the song your own – to give it your own twist.

To make your choice easier, just think: Does your voice stand out (e.g. great vocals, tonality, or timbre), or does your musicality stand out (e.g. original melodies, harmonies, runs, and riffs)?

Singing Cover Songs Using the First Method

If you decide to sing your cover song like the original singer, the bonus is that this method is relatively easy, since you just follow along with what the singer is doing. However, if you copy another artist, your voice must stand out in order to make it an original cover. If your voice sounds like most other people’s, then this might not be the best choice for you, as there is a ton of competition among singers using this method. My advice is this: Know your voice and be honest. Does your voice truly stand out in this song? By that I mean, do people get the chills when you sing this song? Each of our voices is “made” for certain songs, and while sometimes your voice may be perfect for one song, it may not work well with another.

Singing Cover Songs Using the Second Method

If you decide to sing your cover song using your own flare, then you have the opportunity to make it really stand out. Singers with musicality, this is your forte! It’s time to own that song and give it your own spin. Make a unique rendition that pays homage to the singer, but also showcases your talent. Use your skills to your advantage. If singing low notes is your strength, then sing the song in a lower key or add lower harmonies. If belting is your strength, then add extra belts or sustain some notes in the background. Basically, do what you do best! This truly is your time to shine and to blow people away. Singers who use this method can also find different instrumental or acoustic versions of the original song. Although this is much harder to do (because most songs don’t have these instrumentals online), if you can find one, then this can be a huge advantage for you.

Additional Tips For All Cover Singers

  • Play the music with your own instrument of choice (guitar, piano, etc.).
  • Sing an a cappella version of the song using your own voice as the various “instruments.”
  • Add harmonies, background vocals, and anything else you can do with your voice.
  • Record yourself with a good camera. Videos of popular cover songs that show the singer singing get more attention than videos with just the song and a picture.

Ready to improve your singing skills? Working with a qualified vocal coach can give you the boost you need. Find a singing teacher in your area! 

Emmanuel Noriega

Emmanuel M. teaches singing and songwriting exclusively online. A California State University, Fullerton graduate and native Spanish speaker, he also teaches essay writing, study skills, and Spanish. Learn more about Emmanuel here!



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Photo by Ben K Adams

Pre-performance checklist flowchart

Checklist for Singers: How to Prepare for an Upcoming Gig

Are you a singer gearing up for an important gig? If you’re feeling nervous about singing, don’t sweat. Here, online voice teacher Tyler J. share his timeline for success…


The gig is booked, you’ve invited your friends, and you realize on the night of the show that you haven’t even rehearsed yet. Your heart rate speeds up, your stomach turns, and you break out in a cold sweat. “I’ve barely rehearsed, I’m totally going to screw this up” repeats over and over in your mind as you pace back and forth counting down the hours until downbeat. Have you ever been in this situation? Of course you’re going to feel nervous about singing in this scenario.

It’s something that many performing musicians have experienced, but it fortunately can be remedied well in advance. Following the checklist below is a great way to know you’re well prepared, and will help you confidently take the stage when the time comes.

Checklist for Singers

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While at first this may seem like a lot of work, when you space it out over a few weeks it’ll seem much easier. I highly suggest working through this checklist with your vocal coach (and if you don’t have one, look no further than right here on!). These are just some of the tips for singers that will help you become an amazing performer. Your teacher can also provide honest criticism of your performance, help you memorize lyrics, and help to keep your voice feeling strong and comfortable. If you’re prepared, you’ll be able to step on stage with confidence and deliver an excellent performance.

Need help finding a vocal coach near you? Start your search here!

Tyler J

 Tyler J. teaches multiple styles of singing and guitar via online lessons. He recently earned a Master of Music in Commercial Music from California State University Los Angeles and can also help students with composition, music recording, and audio engineering. Learn more about Tyler here!



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Turning Rejection Into Success: 5 Stories To Encourage You to Keep Singing

5 Famous Singers Who Failed Big Before They Made It

Dreaming about making it big as a singer? Developing a thick skin and learning how to persevere is key — the road ahead isn’t always easy! Even the most successful singers today had to start somewhere. In this guest post by Corona, CA teacher Milton J.learn how to become a famous singer by drawing inspiration from these success stories…


As a budding musician and singer myself, you and I have something in common – we both love to share our vocal gifts with those willing to listen. However, how do we feel when some people are just not willing to listen? How do we keep our confidence up and turn our audience into fans? We can draw our inspiration from some of the music industry’s most successful artists who, just like us, had similar setbacks on their road to stardom. Despite the setbacks, though, they all persevered to become the famous singers they are today!

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, was a child piano prodigy and began performing in New York jazz and supper clubs as a teenager. Initially signed by L.A. Reid for Def Jam, her subsequent demos from her debut album did not impress her new boss, who labeled her new music “disgusting.” Gaga spoke on this event, stating, “They would say, ‘This is too racy, too dance-oriented, too underground. It’s not marketable.’ And I would say, ‘My name is Lady Gaga, I’ve been on the music scene for years, and I’m telling you, this is what’s next.’ And look…I was right.” Lady Gaga clearly knew how to become a pop star, and after her prompt dismissal from the label, she lined up with Akon’s Konvict Music and had the freedom to write and perform to her heart’s content.



It seems as though Gaga is the apparent heir to Madonna’s pop trailblazing career, so it’s no coincidence that Madonna dealt with the same adversity decades earlier. After graduating from high school in Michigan, Madonna received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. After convincing her father to allow her to take ballet lessons, she was persuaded by her ballet teacher to pursue a career in dance, dropped out of college in 1978, and relocated to New York City. She worked as a Dunkin’ Donuts waitress and danced with modern dance troupes, continuing to perfect her craft while trying to make ends meet. “It was the first time I’d ever taken a plane, the first time I’d ever gotten a taxi cab,” she once said of her move to New York. “I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I’d ever done.”

After collaborating with bands The Breakfast Club and Emmy, she eventually decided to market herself as a solo act and recorded demos to send to record labels in New York City. Madonna was famously rejected by Millennium Records President Jeremy Ienner, known for productions of such hits as “Dirty Dancing” and “Sister Act.” He stated that while he enjoyed some of her music, she was “not ready yet” and he would “pass for now.” This rejection motivated Madonna to continue making music with club DJ Mark Kamins, who at the time was working with Seymour Stein of Sire Records. Kamins gave Stein a demo of Madonna’s work while Stein was in the hospital, and he insisted Madonna come to the hospital immediately so he could sign her to his label.

In an interview, Stein remembered what it was like to meet Madonna: “I always believed in her, because not only did she have talent, but she had a burning desire, drive, ambition, and a work ethic that is incredible. So, she had everything and I saw that in my hospital room.”

And a whole list of others…

Some of our best recent vocalists and bands come from the reality singing competition reject lines. “American Idol,” “X Factor,” and “The Voice” may rule the ratings on television, but they do not necessarily dictate talent and success.

Hillary Scott, of Lady Antebellum fame, did not make it to the judges’ round to see Randy, Paula, and Simon. Colbie Caillat met the same fate while singing her future lead single “Bubbly” for the judges. Later, she would state, “I was shy. I was nervous. I didn’t look the greatest. I wasn’t ready for it yet. I was glad, when I auditioned, that they said no.” Inevitably, she found success by channeling that rejection into a chance to get better and come into her own as an artist.

Jordin Sparks, winner of “American Idol’s” sixth season, was actually rejected in her first audition and won a radio station contest to re-audition in a different city. Additionally, just last year, she was dropped from her label RCA due to delays from the executive team and recently signed to Salaam Remi’s new label Louder Than Life, with her album coming in May 2015.

Even show winners have faced setbacks. “The Sing-Off” winners and reigning a cappella music leaders Pentatonix was dropped after Sony’s Epic Records folded and only came back to Sony – this time with Madison Gate, owned by Sony – after their covers began to go viral on YouTube. After their debut album, they would leave Madison Gate for RCA due to their desire to release more original music than merely covers.


This industry is indeed for the strong-willed and the bounce-back types, and these artists figured that out long before they were famous. What’s more, however, is learning from the sure-fire rejection that is bound to come. Not everyone will like your singing and your performance, but if you push forward and continue to work on getting better at singing every single day, you can turn your love for singing into a career. It is true our worst critics can be ourselves, but the right vocal teacher can help bring the absolute best out of you! With the right attitude, your potential is endless!

Readers, what other advice have you received about how to become a famous singer? Leave a comment below and share!

MiltonJMilton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!



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audition songs for altos

8 Dazzling Audition Songs for Alto Voices

Do you have an audition coming up? Selecting the right song to show off your abilities is key. Here, Hayward, CA teacher Molly R. shares her top picks for audition songs for altos…


Altos are just fabulous! Your easy low notes and rich tone make so many great types of music suitable to you: jazz, pop, classical, and so on. So, what do you pick as an audition piece to best show off that special voice type of yours? Here are a few suggestions in various genres that may suit you!

Old Standards:

“Stormy Weather” — here’s a classic torch song with lots of emotion and a truly gorgeous vocal line, making it the perfect audition song for an alto interested in jazz. It was written by Harold Arlen, who composed the music for “Wizard of Oz”. There are many fantastic renditions out there, but Lena Horne’s is one of the best:

“River of No Return”  — this is a song from the Marilyn Monroe movie of the same name. This is a lovely song that is rarely performed because it sits very, VERY low — perfect for true alto voices!


“Constant Craving” — who doesn’t love this song? It’s an interesting hybrid of jazz and pop. k.d. lang’s flawless performance definitely inspires. This song can go anywhere — an audition for a band, a cabaret show… you name it!

“I Feel the Earth Move” from Carole King’s album “Tapestry” was made for pop/rock altos. All of her songs on this album are excellent, but this is one of the uptempo songs for some contrast. Not only is this a great audition song for bands, talent shows, and open mics, but it also works for musical theatre, since there is now a Broadway show (“Beautiful”) that features all Carole King songs!

Musical Theatre:

“If He Really Knew Me” — this is a very moving ballad from “They’re Playing Our Song” by Marvin Hamlisch. It’s perfect for musical theatre altos who consider themselves more pop-ish, rather than brassy belters. The other plus to this song is that audition panels usually love hearing it, since it’s far from overdone!

“I’ve Got The Sun in the Morning” — this older show tune from Irving Berlin’s beloved “Annie Get Your Gun” is uptempo and just plain fun! A wide variety of lower-voiced ladies have performed this (including Doris Day and Reba McEntire!), but here is the original performer, the great belter Ethel Merman:


“Stride la vampa” — this is only for mature altos who have studied and performed for many years! Verdi is definitely meant for the professionals. This very dramatic operatic aria from “Il Trovatore” will show off your trill, your low chest notes, and your acting chops as well. Here is the great Marilyn Horne, who happens to have ALL of that and then some!

“Oh Thou That Tellest” from Handel’s “Messiah” — you simply can’t go wrong with this. If you’re a classical singer, you know that being prepared with “Messiah” can be lucrative, especially if you do lots of concert work. This aria is appropriate for auditions for church gigs, vocal competitions, and music programs everywhere.

Of course, the best resource for repertoire is your voice teacher! He or she really knows your voice and abilities, and can work with you in finding the perfect audition songs for altos to best show you off, musically, vocally, and dramatically. Part of the fun of being a singer is discovering the repertoire that speaks to you, and there are many qualified voice teachers out there who would love to help you with that — especially you wonderful, rare altos!

The dazzling doesn’t stop here! Click here for even more songs to sing.

mollyrMolly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!



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