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Friday March 22nd 2019

Don’t Blow It—All about the Anthem

As a songwriter, I have to say, it doesn’t get any better than the success of Francis Scott Key. His famous tune doesn’t just provoke sentiment, it’s crooned more than any other—at every  local sports event and  national gathering—The Star Spangled Banner.

While songwriters worship the song for its timeless national popularity, singers have more of a love/hate relationship with the tune. I’ll be downright honest—it terrifies us.

The singer in me considers it a great challenge. Picture it, you’re tackling one of the most difficult songs to sing surrounded by a large crowd on their feet starring at you and thinking “for God’s sake, man, get it right, this song means something to us!”

Okay, they’re probably not ALL thinking exactly that, but there is a lot of pressure, and the song has somewhat of a difficult range and melody to perfect—it’s no piece of cake.

That aside, It is a good feeling when you “get it right” and an audience applauds and cheers on their feet in appreciation. But, to get to that glory, and do the song its deserved justice, a few simple rules must be followed.

  • Know the song—know the melody and know the words…like the back of your hand. There is so much pressure when you open your mouth to get out that first few measures, that even the most famous singers have fumbled the lyrics. Even the biggest stars with the best voices can mess up the words. Check out Christina Aguilera publicly fumbling the words to the anthem at the Super Bowl. Additionally linked is a performance by a police officer who CLEARLY should have brought along a cheat sheet:

  • Don’t start too high—if you begin the song too high in your range, you’re setting yourself up for not hitting the “big” part of the song. The national anthem builds and, the farther you go, the higher the key.  Nobody will ever forget Roseanne Barr’s butchering of the anthem. She now says she started too high and just turned it into a joke to recover. Whether it’s true, we all know, it was quite the disaster.

  • Stay true to your style—sing a version of the song that’s true to your style; otherwise, people will know you’re faking it. One of my favorite singers of the anthem is Taylor Swift. Whether you appreciate her music or not, she does a simple and beautiful version of the song that is always well-received.

There you have it, an insider’s look into singing the national anthem. Next time you’re standing there with hand over heart taking it in, remember what the performer might be going through. So, if they get it right, let them know!