Properly singing the Star Spangled Banner

Discussion in 'Our National Anthem' started by Proud Mother, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. jbradleyc

    jbradleyc New Member

    I am soon going to perform the song at an event. I like sticking to the melody and tempo of the song with no ad lib notes, rhythms and little vibrato. I have a few questions about the proper way to perform the piece.

    I read above that a singer does not need to cover their heart while performing. So, should the singer perform at attention with no arm movement? I was considering using some slight arm movement for expression and wondered if that was appropriate.

    I am a tenor and like to select as high a pitch for which I can comfortably sing the highest note in the song. Or, should it be sung in a certain key?

    Is it appropriate to change the tempo, such as slowing down near the end of the song, or should it be the same tempo throughout with perhaps only a brief stop on "free"?

    And can the last word be held at length, or should it end close to the original tempo?

    Thank you very much for this forum!
     
  2. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    .
    Greetings, JBradleyC ! :D


    Welcome to the USA-Flag-Site Forums ! :D


    As a former professional entertainer (and a Vietnam Veteran) I'll do my best to give you some good advice about performing our National Anthem : The Star-Spangled Banner. AND I'll do my best to parse out my answers one at a time so you'll know which part of your entry I'm referring to.


    QUOTE : "I read above that a singer does not need to cover their heart while performing. So, should the singer perform at attention with no arm movement? I was considering using some slight arm movement for expression and wondered if that was appropriate."

    Every time I performed the National Anthem before any kind of event, I held my right hand over my heart while doing it. I didn't "need" to or "have" to, I just wanted to, so I DID. If you want to "stand at attention", that's okay too. I'd advise you to forget about using "some slight arm movement for expression". The Star-Spangled Banner is expressive enough all by itself, don't you think?


    QUOTE : "I am a tenor and like to select as high a pitch for which I can comfortably sing the highest note in the song. Or, should it be sung in a certain key?"

    As a boy, I've performed the Star-Spangled Banner as a alto & soprano in many choirs (including the San Francisco Boys Choir) and as a soloist. As an adult I've performed it as a tenor, 2nd tenor, and baritone, both as a soloist and as the leader of the U.S. Navy's Blue Jacket Choir.

    The "high" notes are NOT necessarily the ones you should be worried about.

    The "low" notes, especially the ones at the beginning, require a LOT more "air" to achieve the same volume level as the rest of the song. If you can hit the low notes with some power & clarity you should be in pretty good shape for the high notes. If you're using a microphone (holding it in your LEFT hand) have it set-up to be "hot" (sensitive). Hold it closer to your mouth during the low notes, "average" distance throughout most of the song, and move it AWAY from your mouth when you need to hit the high "power" notes.

    As far as I know there is no "set" or "official" key. I usually like doing it in the Key of "C", and occasionally down a half-step or two depending on how my voice is doing.

    [NOTE : If you pick a key that is either too high or too low for most people there at the event to sing along with you comfortably, they will HATE YOU for it.]


    QUOTE : "Is it appropriate to change the tempo, such as slowing down near the end of the song, or should it be the same tempo throughout with perhaps only a brief stop on "free"?"

    I always liked doing the song fairly quickly, because no matter how much I love our Country, our National Anthem is NOT a slow love ballad! BUT... whatever tempo YOU pick, Do NOT change the tempo for any reason, ESPECIALLY for "dramatic" effect.

    Do NOT get "cute" with the song or any part of it for any reason, with one possible exception and that involves one extra note and the possibility of using your "falsetto" voice (assuming that you have a clean, clear one) if needed.

    After doing the entire National Anthem the way that it was written (up to that point), you'll come to the high note for the word, "Free" in the phrase, "Land of the Free". BUT... after you "hit" that high note, you are going to use your regular (if you can) or falsetto voice to "pop" that note up a full third, and hold it. [NOTE: If the song is in the key of "C", then the high note would be a "G", and the "ultra" high note would be "high C".] Then finish as you normally would. When done with power & authority, that "little something extra" will drive the crowd wild AND it will probably be the only note of the whole song that they will remember you singing.


    QUOTE : "And can the last word be held at length, or should it end close to the original tempo?"

    Finish it the way you normally would. BUT... if you listen to the crowd, they'll tell you just how hold long to hold the "ayve" sound at the end of the word, "Brave".


    So let's go over this one more time...

    #1 KNOW all the words and their proper order!
    #2 Pick a KEY that is comfortable for you (mind the LOW notes!) AND the audience!
    #3 ENUNCIATE correctly and crisply!
    #4 Do the entire song at ONE tempo!
    #5 Do the song "straight" (the way it was written) and don't get "cute" with it (with one possible exception - noted above)!
    #6 Hold your right hand over your heart (or not) if you want to. Do NOT wave your arms around "for effect"!
    #7 Use "proper" microphone technique!



    Practice! Practice! Practice! :D

    [NOTE : Do NOT practice singing the Star-Spangled Banner ONE way and then try to perform it a "different" way at the event!]




    Robin "I'll Have Another Glass of High C, Please!" Hickman
    Eugene, Oregon, USA
    .
     
  3. TexasZman

    TexasZman New Member

    So far as tempo is concerned, you may want to check with the organizer of the function. In my experience performing The Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events, they request the anthem to be completed within a specific timeframe. In most venues where I have sung, this timeframe is from 90 - 120 seconds. Some venues may permit more time, but then the anthem starts to sound like a funeral dirge. And, if one performs the music as written, without a lot of "personal interpretation" or "embellishment", 90 seconds is plenty of time.

    - Former ET1, USN
     

Share This Page