A Guide to Doing Karaoke in China

A typical karaoke bar in China
A typical karaoke bar in China | © Akiyoshi Matsuoka / WikiCommons
Photo of Fran Lu
20 May 2018

In Chinese people’s minds, there’s probably no better party place than the karaoke boxes. They’ve got tons of songs for singing talents to show off their beautiful voices, a variety of beers, soft drinks, and snacks for foodies, and appropriately dimly lit corners for antisocial people who can’t say no to a KTV gathering. Foreigners in China are very likely to be invited to a KTV party, so here’s a guide for you to get ready.

How to find a KTV bar

Just in case you need to find a KTV bar on your own, these two Culture Trip articles have listed the best karaoke bars in Beijing and Shanghai. If you are based in other cities, and know some basic written Mandarin, you may also find your KTV bar on Dianping, the Chinese Yelp. With your consent, it can automatically set your location through your phone. All you need to do is type “KTV” in the search box, and the results will pop up. Usually, you need to call the KTV bar to book your box and time slot.

A typical karaoke bar in China | © Akiyoshi Matsuoka / WikiCommons

How much to pay

You can either pay on site or buy a coupon in advance. The latter is always recommended because it can make a huge difference in price. The price of coupons can vary between weekdays and weekends, the time slot, and the size of the room or the number of people attending the KTV party. You can buy coupons on Dianping, but if you don’t know Chinese, you can either ask for the help of a local friend or the KTV staff.

How to order a song

Now let’s get down to business. Once you are settled in the karaoke box, it’s time to order your song. Top-class KTV bars are usually equipped with a considerable variety of English, Japanese and Korean pop songs. Songs in other languages can be found at China’s KTVs as well, if the singer or the song is especially viral, like Vitas.

Different KTV bars have different systems, but it’s more or less the same when it comes to operating the machine. You can either look for your song on the singer’s page (singers are categorized by their language and gender), or by searching for the song directly by its capital letter. Now, with many karaoke systems developing their own cellphone apps, it’s also possible to order the song via your phone.

Feel free to order the songs you love to sing. Here are also some warm-up songs that almost every Chinese karaoke-goer knows, if you want to surprise someone.

Cheesy disco balls are a default in KTV boxes | © David Shamma / Flickr

How to order food and drinks

Many KTV bars have in-built convenience stores, which provide snacks, alcohols, soft drinks, and even things like personal hygiene items. Some KTV bars also have a buffet corner, though the food there may not be very delicious. The drinks at KTV convenience stores are usually more expensive, and you’re not allowed to bring drinks from the outside. However, some KTV bars turn a blind eye to the customers who sneak a small amount of snacks in – after all, there are a lot of delicious foods the KTV convenient stores can’t provide.

Tips on how to party at KTVs

I know you might say: “Meh, I don’t need tips on how to party,” but KTVs are a different scenario, because few people can resist the temptation of being a singer. However, it is an unwritten rule at KTV parties that people should not hoard the microphone and never let go. Everyone deserves a chance to sing their favorite songs, and everyone is sort of obligated to pretend that the person with the microphone has done a good performance, even if it’s actually not the case.

Just sing along | © Pixabay

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