There is something magical about karaoke: stepping into your favorite artist’s shoes to express a shared feeling or try out their musical style. Korea has fully embraced this pastime with noraebang, Korean karaoke, which turns a simple night out into a dynamic experience. Whether you are a songbird or cannot hold a tune, you are welcome; noraebang is an environment of fun and camaraderie for anyone.
What is Noraebang?
If you are Canadian, the karaoke you are familiar with is likely on a stage in a restaurant or using a small home device. However, the traditional format of karaoke is based around having small, private rooms where you and your friends can book time to sing (and eat, and enjoy) alone. Thus, the Korean name for karaoke is 노래방 (noraebang), which combines the words for song (노래; norae) and room (방; bang).
When coming to noraebang, you must first let the establishment know how long you would like to use the room. Typically you do this in increments of half an hour or an hour, and you may need to make a reservation ahead of time depending on how busy it is. Most places will have a variety of room sizes so that you can fit comfortably, even if you are a party of two dozen – or one!
As you come into the room, you will notice a large machine with a screen, which is where the songs will be displayed. There will be microphones ready, which you can turn on or off with a switch as needed. Often, the room will have seats, tables, books with songs listed, and a menu to order drinks and snacks. There may also be fun items like tambourines or small covers that you can put over the mics for cleanliness.
Most importantly, there will be a large remote for the karaoke machine. This remote is full of buttons – but don’t worry! Once you become accustomed to it, it is very easy to use. The machine itself may also have some buttons on it that you can utilize; for example, there could be dials to adjust the mic and music volume. Keep in mind that not all machines are the same, so you may notice some differences depending on where you go.
There are two main ways to select a song: using the song number or the search feature. Each song will have a unique number that identifies it, so if you know what this number is you can enter it with the number pad on the remote. Then you can either press “Start” to have the song begin immediately, or “Reserve” to add it to the list of upcoming songs. You can also use the song books in the room to look up a song that you want. Most noraebang places will have a wide selection of songs in both Korean and English, as well as other languages.
If you do not know the song number, or want to browse the selection in the machine, you can use the Search feature. This is very helpful if you want to see all of the songs from a particular artist, or if the song books do not have all of the songs listed (as they may not have been updated in a while).
To use the Search feature, you will want to look for buttons on the remote that say things like “Title”, “Artist”, “Lyric”, and/or “Country”. You can use these to select what category you want to search in, and then use the alphabet keys to type in what you want. If there is both English and Hangul entry available, there will be a handy button to switch between the two inputs.
As you reserve songs that you want to sing, they will be added to a “Reserve List” that will show at the top of the screen. Here you can see the numbers of songs to come, which song is currently playing, and which song is up next. The remote will also have features for viewing this list, and canceling a song if desired.
With these basics, you are more than ready to enjoy a night of noraebang. However, there are many things that you can do to maximize your experience, or to keep things new and different each time you go.
Most remotes will have buttons that will allow you to manipulate songs to your own preference, such as changing the key or skipping certain sections (long instrumental breaks, for example!). It can also be helpful to know song numbers ahead of time, rather than having to look them up. Some noraebang companies, such as TJ Karaoke, have YouTube channels with the songs that they have available, and the song number is listed in the description of the video. If you want to add a bit of novelty, pick a random song to add to your Reservation List and see what comes up!
These days, there are many places that offer noraebang in Canada, so I hope that there is at least one in your area! Although they are all different, and may not line up perfectly with my experiences, I can assure you that noraebang is a fantastic way to spend an evening.
Special thanks to Galaxy Karaoke in Calgary, where these pictures were taken – I always enjoy visiting you!
Categories: KOREA-CANADA BLOG 2018