If you’ve been living in Korea, are just visiting, or have been watching Korean drama movies, there is a high chance you know the word Noraebang. Noraebang are private singing rooms, and are an integral component of Korean culture.
Nevertheless, they might be a little scary for a newbie who doesn’t know what to expect. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide about Korean karaoke and the best songs to sing to help you enjoy your time there.
What Is Noraebang?
“Norae” means song, while “bang” means room. Therefore, Noraebang is a private room where people gather to play music videos and sing along to the on-screen lyrics. You’ll typically find the room equipped with a monitor, microphone, couches, a big screen for lyrics display, and seating for up to 10 people.
The significant distinction between American Karaoke and Korean Karaoke is that in the United States, people do it in the open. Singing in front of an unfamiliar audience is daunting for most people. However, besides you and your friends, there are no other people in Korean Karaoke rooms so you can sing your heart out without fear of reprisal.
It’s a staple of Korean culture, and individuals of all ages and social backgrounds appreciate it as a healthy pastime. You’ll discover that most people head to Noraebangs to unwind after a tiring day in the office. Nevertheless, during all the excitement, you must remember that a code of conduct also exists.
Always use the term Noraebang since “Karaoke” has Japanese roots, and you don’t wish to upset the locals by giving their national pastime a nickname from their eastern neighbors.
Paying for a Noraebang
Typically, Noraebang hires out rooms hourly, and reservations aren’t necessary. However, upon check-in, you’ll be asked how many hours you’d like to use the space, and they’ll charge you for that. Depending on how stylish the room is, you can expect to pay anything from 6,000 to 30,000 won (approximately $5–25) per hour.
The fee may also vary with the time of day; they’re typically lower in the afternoon and higher late at night because there are more people. Whereas some are slightly above acceptable quality, others are downright opulent, with free ice cream and luxurious furnishings.
You may also order drinks and snacks when paying out your fee. However, it’s essential to mention that certain Noraebang doesn’t sell alcoholic beverages to prevent underage drinking. It’s also surprising that many Noraebangs allow customers to bring their booze.
After making payments, they will give you a room number and a brief tutorial on operating the machines. The rooms mimic a recording studio’s soundproof design meaning that noise is contained within and cannot travel down the corridor.
Noraebangs may have noticeable aesthetic differences, but a song list is standard. The book contains all tracks’ titles and their respective numerical codes.
Korean pop and other Korean genres dominate the song list, but many English tracks exist. Anticipate seeing a lot of pop and rock, particularly from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
Selecting a Track
When it’s time to sing, enter the track’s corresponding number and press the “Start” button on the huge remote-looking device. A “Queue” option allows you to add the track to your playlist, but this will vary by device. If unsure what to do, press one of the green keys or wait for your host’s instructions.
Noraebangs use simple tunes as the background but offer a countdown showing when you should start performing and color-changing letters during the performance.
A video accompanies the background track, and it could be anything from the track’s original video to an unrelated visual (such as segments of Korean dramas from the ‘90s). Although most Noraebangs will provide the background track in its original key, some devices will allow you to select a different one.
Once you finish performing, an applause effect will play (to bolster your confidence), and a number rating will appear on the screen. While the score’s purpose is to demonstrate your accuracy, it’ll quickly become apparent that there are no standards for scoring.
Screaming random words into the microphone might earn you a 98, while singing in a high pitch gets you a 50. So, don’t let it bother you. After displaying your score on the screen, the machine will move to the next track in the playlist.
Extra Time (“Service”)
The monitor does display a small number telling you how much time you have before your session ends. When the number is about to hit zero, you’ll notice extra minutes on the monitor (usually around twenty minutes).
In Korea, that’s known as seo-bi-suh (“service” in English). It refers to anything offered to a client at no cost. You won’t pay a dime for this extra time. If it doesn’t appear automatically, requesting additional time is acceptable as long as there isn’t a queue of other customers waiting to use the room.
Noraebang Code of Conduct
To ensure everyone has a good time, it's essential to follow a few guidelines. Here's a guide to the Noraebang code of conduct:
Don't Hog the Microphone
The most self-explanatory guideline regarding Noraebangs is to avoid hogging the microphone. It's crucial to limit yourself to just one or two of your favorite tracks, allowing your friends to enjoy their turn as well unless you have a private room.
Choose Cheerful Tracks
While it may seem obvious, choosing upbeat or karaoke tracks with captivating beats is essential to keep your friends from getting bored and save yourself from embarrassment. Avoid loading your playlist with sad and ballad tunes in public, especially if people are singing along.
Avoid the Priority Reserve Button
If you're participating in a public Noraebang, avoid the Priority Reserve Button, which instantly moves your chosen track to the front. Instead, only use it in dire circumstances, such as when you need to rush somewhere or your colleagues will let you sing before it's your turn.
Don't Limit Yourself
A Noraebang karaoke is a fantastic way to let loose and have fun with your pals, so don't limit yourself. Even if you're not a good performer, you can still get in high spirits by showing off your best dance moves. But remember, nobody cares about a terrible Noraebang singer, so don't stress it too much.
Participate and Be Supportive
Your friends will expect you to participate, irrespective of your singing skills. It's customary to clap and cheer a person once they finish singing, no matter how good or bad their performance was. Additionally, you should only perform another person's track or join their performance with an invitation.
Respect Age and Emulate
Others Always check somebody's age before starting an activity with them. They deserve to go first if they're older than you, even by one year. Then, look at what they're doing and emulate them to avoid breaking unspoken rules.
Beware of Dowoomi
Although most Noraebangs are above board, some Korean singing rooms have dowoomi, which translates to “helpers.” They're typically half-clothed women who entertain and drink with customers. Therefore, when heading out to get a taste of Korean Karaoke, make sure you don't walk into the wrong places.
11 Best Korean Karaoke Songs
1. “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” by Blackpink
Korean girl group Black pink is the latest to take the K-pop world by storm. They’ve been topping music charts and garnering international attention since their debut in 2016. They’ve also worked with stars like Cardi B, Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, and Lady Gaga.
One of their biggest hits is “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du,” released in 2018. It is an upbeat, electro-pop song with memorable lyrics, rendering it an excellent pick for Noraebang sessions. The song combines rap, hip-hop, and EDM elements to create an infectious dance track that everyone can enjoy.
You will love this song because it’s easy to remember. In addition, the song is visually appealing and utilizes a unique presentation you will rarely find in other Korean songs.
2. “Lullaby” by GOT7
GOT7 is a seven boys’ band that came into the limelight in 2014. They’ve had numerous international releases, like many Korean musicians. GOT7’s Lullaby is a perfect song to sing at a Korean karaoke session.
As one of the group’s signature songs, it has a catchy melody, outstanding choreography, memorable lyrics, and a slow tempo.
It tells the story of a man still in love with his former girlfriend and wants to express his feelings to her. You will create an unforgettable karaoke experience with the track because it combines contemporary deep house and pop vibes.
3. “Dynamite” by BTS
BTS came into the limelight in 2010. Lyrically, they often tackle heavy subjects like the importance of being yourself, self-love, and mental health.
The combination of their stunning vocals and captivating choreography is enough to make you want to learn more about them, even when they’re singing in English. With its lively beat and easy-to-memorize lyrics, “Dynamite” is one of the best songs to sing in a Korean karaoke room.
4. “Red Flavor” by Red Velvet
You might enjoy Red Velvet’s lengthy hit tracks if you’re unfamiliar with Korean pop. “Red Flavor” is a representation of the group’s best releases. The song has an infectious beat and a catchy chorus that will have everyone in the room standing up to sing along.
Even if you don’t know all the words, the track will surely get everyone in the mood to have a great time.
5. “Blue Hour” by Tomorrow ft. Together
The upbeat song is perfect for getting the party started at a Korean karaoke. It’s a disco dance track that exudes sweet and lively energy such that you cannot help but get up and dance. It has a cheerful, upbeat melody and a catchy synth tone.
The song’s lyrics are also easy to understand and will keep you and your friends singing along. It has a catchy synth sound and a captivating melody.
6. “Love Shot” by EXO
For those who like to get a bit of K-pop flavor in their Korean karaoke night, “Love Shot” by EXO is the perfect song. Released in 2018 as part of the group’s fifth studio album, “Love Shot,” the track is upbeat, catchy, and sure to get everyone singing along.
The track’s easy-to-understand lyrics make it easy for anyone unfamiliar with the language to pick up the words and join the chorus. Furthermore, the song’s video dance moves are enjoyable and easy to follow, making it an excellent pick for your next karaoke session.
7. “I Am the Best” by 2NE1
The song was an instant hit and has become a staple in the Korean music industry, making it a must-sing song in any Noraebang. Written by YG Entertainment’s own Teddy Park, this track is undeniably catchy with its bold lyrics and fierce rap verses. The track incorporates components of various genres, including:
- Electronic and electro-house
The song’s lyrics talk about self-assurance, narcissism, and authority. Whether you’re a fan of hip hop or just a Korean music lover, “I Am the Best” will surely be a hit among your friends as you sing the chorus at the top of your lungs.
8. “I Got a Boy” by Girls Generation
Regarding Korean karaoke, few songs get as much attention as “I got a boy” by Girls Generation. The song evokes energy and emotion, perfect for singing with friends.
The lyrics tell the story of a girl who has grown up and found her identity. It has a catchy melody and top-notch choreography. The track has stood the test of time and remains one of Korea’s most popular karaoke songs.
9. “Maniac” by Stray Kids
Stray Kids are a K-pop boy band that debuted in 2017. The song “Maniac” is an exciting and upbeat track that perfectly adds to your next Noraebang night. The track celebrates individuals who break societal expectations to become different.
Singing a new tune amid a K-pop karaoke is an excellent opportunity. With its memorable lyrics and addictive beat, it’ll be a hit with all your friends. The upbeat track is among the most popular karaoke songs on various music platforms.
10. “Drunk Dazed” by Enhypen
The track’s pulsating electronic production creates a party-like atmosphere, and the rap breaks will surely get you grooving. It showcases the band members’ vocal and rap skills.
The vocalist’s determination to follow his passion should inspire you to grab the mic and show your friends what you can do. With its easy-to-understand lyrics and addictive chorus, this is one of the best songs to sing at Korean karaoke.
11. “Gangnam Style” by PSY
No list of the best Korean karaoke songs would be complete without “Gangnam Style” by PSY. The single was a global phenomenon, topping charts in over 30 countries and earning PSY the distinction of being the first Korean artist to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
It features all of South Korea’s fantastic styles and is among the most memorable Korean-pop tracks in karaoke. The lyrics are primarily about the ideal girlfriend who knows how to enjoy life while maintaining her sophistication.
What Is Korean Karaoke? Final Thoughts
Korean karaoke, or Noraebang, is a great way to let loose and have fun with friends. You may not know where to start if you’re new to Korean karaoke. Fortunately, plenty of classic and modern K-pop songs will have you feeling like a professional in no time.
And even if you don’t have a great singing voice, you’ll still have a great time. We hope you enjoyed reading our guide on Noraebang culture and the best karaoke songs.