What: Noraebang (Korean Karaoke)
Where: Just About Everywhere
When: 24/7 (practically)
Cost: Variable (Usually 6,000-30,000 Won/Hour)

Imagine this: It’s your first time at noraebang. As soon as you walk in, everything is in Korean, and although you have been studying the language, nothing had prepared you for this. You have no clue what song to sing even though everyone has already lined up at least 5 song . Everybody has got it figured it out and you can’t even get the remote to work. Disco lights begin to flash! Your friends are busting out melodies like pros and you are unsure of your ability to sing happy birthday at this point. You’re palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…and is that…mom’s spaghetti? – suddenly the mic is put in your hands. Everyone is staring at you! You don’t know what to do!

But let’s take a quick pause for just a second. The mic did not just spontaneously show up in your hand.  Unless you were physically detained and dragged to this venue, by Korean law, you are a willing noraebang participant. If you’re in Korea and have Korean friends, it’s most likely that you will have to go to noraebang sometime.  And even if you are just traveling the country without a Korean travel guide, stopping at a noraebang is something that you do not want to miss.  If fact, refusing to attempt Korean style karaoke is a borderline crime in the country, so let’s just do everyone a favor and give it a try.

Generally noraebang will cost you around 6,000-30,000 won an hour depending on how fancy the noraebang is or how many people will be using the room. Noraebangs are really quite easy to find all over Seoul, but the bigger and fancier ones will be close to universities. One of the most famous and biggest noraebangs is called Luxury Su and it’s located in Hongdae. It really lives up to its name with it’s palace-like interior but more importantly its limitlessness ice cream and drinks for a dollar.  You can usually order snacks or pay a small fee for some simple snack foods, but not everywhere. Some noraebangs i’ve been too don’t serve alcoholic drinks, but most noraebangs do and all places will have some sort of beverage.

But even with the snack options and potential for endless ice cream if it’s your first time going to a noraebang, things can look pretty daunting.

Have no fear my friend! For I will guide you on how to conquer the beast that is noraebang, and reveal the secrets of my “Foreigners guide to not making a fool of yourself at noraebang”

Think of Songs in Advance

Think of a couple of your favorite songs in advance that you think you could sing and write them down if necessary! It’s not fun for anybody to wait around while you try to think of the same of ‘that one song’ that you really want to sing it come up blank and end up not singing at all. Noraebangs usually have a good array of English language songs including classics and newer pop songs as well, but make sure you have some backups if the noraebang doesn’t have your favorite song. Also, if you can sing a song in Korean which will be sure to score you some cool points with your friends.! If you can’t read the Korean script yet, I wouldn’t suggest singing a Korean song quite yet because noreabangs sometimes will make songs shorter or skip some parts of song and it may confuse you if you’re just trying to wing it.

If you need any ideas of songs that are easy to sing I did some research and found a couple songs that are supposed to be not too difficult to attempt.
The Ghostbusters theme – Ray Parker
Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus
Buddy Holly – Weezer
The Champs – Tequila
I Love Rock and Roll – Joan Jett
Also I found that all Christmas music is generally very easy to sing!

Practice your songs!

If you want to test your abilities on some songs, you can always go to coin noraebang (코인 노래방) or 1-person noraebang to try out some new songs before you sing them in front of your friends. Keep in mind in coin noraebang you pay per song in in 1-person noreabang you pay per hour. Generally coin noraebangs are easier to find than 1 person noraebangs which only have a few locations. I personally love coin noraebangs because they are cheap and perfect for days when you are really stressed out. Going to a coin noraebang and screaming some rebellious rock songs makes you forget all your problems!
Practice good noraebang etiquette!
Alright so the rules aren’t exactly written out but its good form to keep wary of things like hogging to mic, stealing people’s spotlights, or mentally checking out while others are singing.
Everybody likes some affirmation of their singing! Keep engaged! Clap! Play the tambourine! Dance! Snap! Do something! The most discouraging thing in noreabang that can happen is definitely when you rock a song to perfection and you look up and everyone in the room is on their phones or searching for their next song.

Get Familiar with the Noarebang Remotes Controls

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It’s daunting when you first look at the noraebang remote. So many buttons and choices at first sight it may look more difficult than controlling a spaceship but don’t worry! I will translate some of the most important aspects of it for you!

Of course there are a lot of different noraebang controllers with a lot of different functions, but I will at least try my best to explain the common and critical ones.

The most important functions being:

시작: Start!
취소: Cancel (Current song or menu)
제목: Search song by title
국가별: Search according to the country/language of the song or artist
가수: Search by artist
한/영 change keyboard to Korean or English
예약: Reserve a song on a waiting list
우선 예약: Reserve the song and jump to the front of the waiting list
예약취소Remove the most recent song from the waiting list
마이크음량: Change the microphone’s volume


간주 점프: Skip instrumental section!
마디점프: Skip a bar!
절점프: Skip a verse! Go on a skipping spree!
남/여: Changes the voice pitch from Male to Female.
에코음량: Change the echo (echo echo echo)
반주음량: Change the instrumental volume
템포: Change the songs speed. Now Eminem’s raps are finally within your grasp!
음정: Change the pitch of your song (this function is useful if you really like a song but its register is too high or low. Adjust it a couple notches and voila! You can sing it!)

영상선택: Background video clip. This is useful when you’re trying to sing a heartfelt, tear inspiring ballad but there’s a distracting video playing in the background, like violent safari scenes or overly sexual dancing…..or whatever is going on here…..

Excuse me good sirs, but you are totally ruining the mood.

박수: Applause For when you’re friends aren’t there for you, the noraebang machine has got your back. Clap for me, virtual minions!

점수제거: Get rid of the machine judging your singing capabilities. Who wants to be judged anyways?

Well….unless you’re getting scores like these.

Don’t be Embarrassed

Though I think most people going to noraebang might have the power of ‘liquid confidence’ within them, for the rest I will say that, going to noraebang can be a bit scary, but it isn’t all about being a good singer, it’s about having a fun time with your friends. If you still feel shy about singing alone you can always ask if someone would be willing to sing with you! If by chance you absolutely lack any singing ability whatsoever…you can always try rapping!
And one last thing, if you mess up at the dramatic climax of song and hit a fatal off-key note (it happens to the best of us), there’s not much that can be done besides laughing about it. At least it’ll show you have a good sense of humor

From someone who went from a noraebang avoider to a noraebang fanatic in one year, I hope that lots of foreigners will get to experience the joys and thrills of noraebang.
Now, with all that expertise knowledge you’re definitely ready to go out there and rock some socks off.
Go get ‘em, Beyonce.