Q: What is Piano Karaoke?
A: Singers performing their favorite tunes, by request, in their best vocal range or key, accompanied by a live pianist, in front of a live audience. A microphone and PA system are provided for the singer.
Q: What's the biggest difference for the audience between Piano Karaoke and DJ/recording-based karaoke?
A: The audiences for Piano Karaoke are extremely receptive and supportive of the performers. While a lot of wonderful socializing happens between tunes, the cabaret-style setting provided by a respectful quiet from the audience allows the singers to really connect with their favorite songs.
Q: How do the singers read the lyrics?
A: We set up an iPad on a music stand where both the singer and I can see it, displaying lyrics from an internet lyrics site for the singer's reference. The singer scrolls through the lyric as the song progresses.
Q: How are songs selected?
A: Singers choose the tunes they'd like to perform --- up to a point!
Because I accompany by ear, the songs selected need to be ones I've heard at least a few times before.
Regardless of the era or decade (jazz standards and folk tunes from the 20s onward; perennial 60s and 70s favorites such as Elton John, The Eagles, James Taylor, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Billy Joel; holiday favorites; more recent tunes from artists such as Adele, Coldplay, Josh Groban, Maroon 5, John Legend, and more), well-known classic tunes tend to work best.
Suggest a tune and we'll see if it will work --- a majority of requested tunes work just fine! Generally, I am able to tell you right upfront whether I know a tune well enough for it to work well.
It's best if you can bring a list of tunes you'd like to try, because trying to make a mental list while enjoying the performances of other singers can be really tough.
Here are two master lists of tunes that have worked well in the past --- one organized alphabetically by artist, the other by song title. Please refer to these if you're stumped about what to sing.
Q: How do we figure out what key/vocal range is best?
A: I ask singers to sing just a few notes of the tune (singing quietly just to me, at the piano, off-microphone) to get an idea of your most comfortable range for a given tune. There's no need to go with the original key of the song --- the goal is to find out what your most comfortable range is.
Q: Are all songs suitable for Piano Karaoke?
A: Songs which have an extensive or extremely loud accompaniment in their original versions (full symphony orchestras, rock bands set on "eleven," complex electronica grooves, etc.) tend to not be the best choices for piano-only accompaniment. Here are a few examples!
Ballads are almost always a great choice, as they put much of the focus on the vocals and the emotions of the singer's delivery, but any tune where the vocal melody is the main focus generally works extremely well.
Q: What is the cost for attending Piano Karaoke?
A: We ask for a cash donation of $5 to $10 per person (sliding scale).
This requested donation covers the venue rental fee or the cost of maintaining the grand piano (tunings cost about $100 each and are needed as often as once monthly), our ASCAP music licensing fees (hundreds of dollars a year), our SoundCloud Unlimited Pro account ($15 a month), and the Organizer's fee for our Meetup.com account ($20 a month).
Cash is left in a donations hat. If you prefer, you can pay with a debit or credit card on our Meetup page (look for the green "CHIP IN" button on the left.)
Any funds left over after paying for venue rental, piano tunings, and Meetup.com is donated to the Spirit of Harmony Foundation, which supports music education for underprivileged kids.
Q: How many songs will I get to sing?
A: It depends on how many singers show up for the session. We establish a "round robin" rotation and singers can sit out any given round if they only want to sing one or two tunes during a session.
Q: Is drinking allowed?
A: No alcohol is allowed at the venues which host Piano Karaoke, although plenty of folks make PK a part of a more extensive plan for a night out. But please keep in mind that our focus is on the music and having a great evening with fellow music lovers --- not on drinking.
Q: Can I bring sheet music?
A: Yes, you can definitely bring your own sheet music; generally, that works just fine. Sheet music allows me to accompany you, even on tunes I've never heard before.
If you do bring sheet music, please make sure it's chord symbol-based, like this (note the chord symbols along the top):
...and not just notes (or "grand staff"), like this:
Q: Can you learn a new tune for me?
A: Absolutely. If one of your favorite tunes is not on my list of familiar material or is just rare and obscure to begin with, we can probably still perform it --- given a little time.
send me your favorite video-based performance of the tune so that I can check it out. If it's workable, I'll let you know!
Find a web-based lyrics site which has an accurate version of the lyrics --- the version that you're familiar with.
Copy the lyrics and paste them into a word processing document
Format the lyrics so that they are double-spaced (which allows me to write in the chords over the lyrics)
I'll use your chosen video version of the tune to transcribe the chords.
At a subsequent session of Piano Karaoke, I will give you the completed lyric/chord sheet for the tune for you to hold on to. Bring it with you for future performances!
Please keep in mind that while it's a fun challenge, transcribing tunes from video or audio recordings is quite time-intensive and is something that I do as time allows.
Q: Do I have to sing?
Plenty of people visit us a few times before they decide to sing; others are happy to sing the second they come in the door; still others only want to listen, even after many visits.
Listening to other singers connect with the music they love best is a blast, whether you decide to sing or not; our singers and audience members are wonderful musicians and listeners and are the most supportive audience around.
After you arrive, we'll ask you if you want to join the rotation. There are no wrong answers, and no pressure! All we ask is that you respect the music and the other participants.
Q: Are all singers welcome?
A: Absolutely. I have several decades of experience as a musician and music educator and am a seasoned accompanist of all kinds of singers, from the strongest and most experienced to those who are new to singing or who've been told they're "not strong singers". The mood, tempo, and/or loudness can make a difference in your performance --- and we can adjust any of these factors in a split second. The piano accompaniment is there to support the singer, rather than the singer having to conform to a recording.
Q: What does it sound like?
A: Like this!
Thanks for reading!
Piano Karaoke accompanist