Trying To Make K-On!! Songs Easier To Sing

As I’m sure you know, I’m very passionate about karaoke (if you don’t know, please familiarize yourself with these videos~). Being as K-On!! was one of the best shows of the year and was a show about music with a number of really good opening and ending themes (even some great B-sides!), it seems like perfect karaoke material.

Or it would, were the songs not insanely difficult to sing. I pride myself on being exceptional at singing fast and complex songs—last Otakon, I did Shounen Heart, a rap song by Home Made Kazoku from Eueka Seven, almost without error (and those errors aren’t made all the time). But K-On’s music is a whole level above that.

The difficulties are marked by a few factors that carry across all of the songs, leading me to believe that the style was done on purpose. The vocal rhythms are very erratic and lyrics are often squished together to fit the rhythm. For instance, let’s say there was a 5-syllable line; this line may have only 5 syllables of lyrics in one verse, but in the next verse, there could be 8 syllables of lyrics, 5 of which are sung, and the other 3 of which are either squeezed-in or skipped altogether.

Whereas most Japanese songs pronounce every syllable individually, K-On songs will cut a letter off of one syllable and then sometimes combine that syllable with the next word. For example:

The second line in No, Thank You is “Rakugaki jiyuu na negaigoto”

However, rather than “Ra-ku-ga-ki,” Mio (as I’ll refer to her) sings “Ra-ku-gak”. The “i” is flung off into the void and the word becomes three syllables.

Moreover, there’s no pause before the next word, so it sounds “Rakugakjiyuu”.

Another issue with reading the lyrics is that sometimes two vowel sounds are combined, and other times they aren’t. This isn’t uncommon to Japanese songs from my experience, but it’s still a pain in the ass when combined with the other difficulties.

To see this broken down, let’s look at No, Thank You’s first line, “Howaito boodo de hishimekiau”

This is sung, “Ho-wa-i-to boo-do de hi-shi-me-ki-a-u”, with every syllable separated (The “boo” is not two syllables, but an extended one. Instead of “bo-o,” or “ボオ,” it’s simply “boo,” or “ボー.”)

However, the line “Omoide hitaru otona no you na kanbi na zeitaku” is sung “O-moi-de-hi-tar o-to-na no you na, ka-n-bi na zei-tak.” In this case, the “moi” in “omoide” is one sylable instead of “mo-i,” which is extra confusing because at the beginning of the chorus, the same word is pronounced in 4 separate-sounding syllables. This line also has the word-combo issue (“Omoidehitar,” which also has a dropped-off letter at the end), and more combos in the form of “you” and “zei,” with “zeitak” also having dropped the u.

Another notable aspect is that the English words in these songs are pronounced more like they actually are in English. In a lot of Japanese songs, English words get broken down into syllables like Japanese words, and sound nothing like the originals.

My favorite example of this is in Zetsubou Billy by Maximum the Hormone, which features the words “Eraser Rain” in the chorus, pronounced “I-re-i-sa rein.” The funniest part comes at the end of the song when the lines are sung “I-re-i-sa reeeeein — i-sa rein.” For dramatic effect, the word was broken in half. I don’t even know how to translate the broken half back into English.

In K-On songs, there are as many syllables in the English words as there are in English, but that doesn’t mean the pronunciation is right. In No, Thank You, the word “world” is used; in most Japanese songs, this would appear as “waado” or “warudo” (you know, as in ZA WARUDO). In No, Thank You, it appears simply as “waad.”

All of these elements add up to some really difficult karaoke, and in the case of GO! GO! MANIAC, I still haven’t even grasped the lyrics enough to figure out how to sing them. However, I used this knowledge to modify the lyrics to No, Thank You, and produced something much easier to sing.

In my version, I cut out all unpronounced letters and used hyphens to indicate where there’s no pause between two words, and em-dashes (—) to indicate where there are gaps within a word. In one place, I changed a romaji-version of an English word into the English word, because it was confusing to see “cauntodaun” (7 syllables if you count the Ns individually, 5 otherwise) when it’s pronounced in two syllables in the song. As for the alternating places were vowels are or aren’t separated, there wasn’t much I could do about it, so you’d just have to know the song well enough to know what to pronounce.

No, Thank You! Modified

Howaito boodo de hishi—me—ki—au
Rakugak-jiyuu na negai—goto
Houkago no chaim-yuuhi ni hibii—temo
Yume mir-pawaa disrenai-ne ainik

Let’s sing motto motto motto koe takaku
Kuchibi—ru-ni kibo—ou-tazusaete
Waad-hanats sono tabi hikari ni naru
Watashitachi no kakera

Omoide nan—te iranai yo
Datte ima-tsuyok, fukak aishiter-kara
Omoide-hitar oto—na no you na kanbi na zeitak
Mada chotto… enryo shitai no

Kokoro no NOTE-maka hiki—mi—da—rete
Osaer-to naksou na POINT bak—ka
Itami yorokobi minna to iru to
Mugen ni-ribaavu de sasaru fu—shgi

Let’s fly zutto zutto zutto kanata made
Countdown ma—tenai yabo—ou oikaze ni
Bit-kizam sono tabi purachna-ni naru
Watashitachi no tsubasa

Yakusoku nan—te iranai yo
Datte ima-igai, darem okirenai kara
Yaksok-hoshgar kodo mo no you na mujaki na zeijak
Mou tokku-ni… sotsugyou shita no

Itsmademo dokmademo kitto kikoe tsudzu—keru
Eien sae-iranai no-ni naze-nakusesou ni nai
Our Splendid Songs

Let’s sing motto motto motto koe-karetemo
Kuchibi—ru de kono toki tata—ete
Ruut-onnaj chizu mochi meguria—eta
Watashitachi no kizuna

NO, Thank you!! Omoide nante iranai yo
Datte ima-tsuyok, fukak aishiter-kara
Omoide-hitar oto—na no you na kanbi na zeitaku
Mada chotto… enryo shitai no

See you at the next karaoke event!

Bonus: May as well practice! (Note: the lyrics on this vid aren’t my version, though.)

5 thoughts on “Trying To Make K-On!! Songs Easier To Sing

  1. I’ve tried to sing Japanese songs before and even though I have a good voice I generally sound pretty stupid when I sing them because I can never get the phrasing right. Also I rarely memorize a song beyond it’s 1minute and some change TV opening size. I tried to sing with the video you had. Difficult, the “Omoide hitaru otona no you na” bit killed me I often have trouble fitting in the little prepositions or w/e they are called when they sometimes seem to skip over them or squeeze them together with the next word. It’s just too fast for ma mouth to move.

    I need to do more tongue twisters.

    • Haha, indeed. I’m definitely not one who lets my tastes get in the way of one-another. I know plenty of people who listen to exactly one kind of music, like my friends offline who just listen to extreme metal, or my anime fan friends who only listed to anime music. I could never pull that off. I like bands from just about every imaginable genre. And to match that, I’ve trained myself to be able to sing any kind of vocals, from brutal death growls to power metal falsetto to Japanese female.

      The same goes for my taste in anime. Lots of people will only watch shows that fit some perceived standard of greatness. I watch and enjoy almost everything.

      • “And to match that, I’ve trained myself to be able to sing any kind of vocals, from brutal death growls to power metal falsetto to Japanese female.”

        -O__o I want to hear that ! (Your tribut to Eureka 7 was amazing btw)

        And I agree with the anime/music taste: People should be more open-minded to enjoy a more versatile range of art.
        For example my 33 year old brother only listens to Death Metal (Krisiun, Autopsy, Nile, Morbid Angel and so on) while my sister only watches Shoujo-like anime (Fushigi Yuugi, Ouran Host Club and other gay stuff ^_-). They don’t want to have stuff that goes beyond their taste and perception.

        • I won’t say anything about what others “should” do, after all, I don’t expect everyone to be able to explore as far as I do. We all have our boundaries, after all (mine being country music and bl). But yeah, the less someone’s willing to explore, the less I’ll have to talk with them about, which to me is the saddest thing.

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