Okay, I know what you are all saying…the National Anthem is the toughest song to sing in public.  Let’s rephrase that statement by saying that it’s one of the most difficult to sing a cappella (without accompaniment).  Here are ten ways to really keep your experience singing the National Anthem from being a..well…uncomfortable and embarrassing performance:

  1. Make sure to pick the right key for your voice.  It might feel extremely low to start, but you want to keep the high notes comfortable.  I often sing before 7am for a local road racing series, so I choose a much lower key than I would if I sang later.  Also choose a key you can sing if you are not feeling 100% vocally.
  2. If possible, sing the song as a slow march but NOT TOO SLOW!!!! It’s also written three beats to the measure, not FOUR!!!
  3. Tasteful ornamentation is okay because everyone knows the song, but as I’ve heard recently, if you don’t commit to riffing some moments, you just sound like you can’t riff. Try to sing the melody as written in the first part, and change it up (tastefully, please) in the restatement of the original melody.
  4. Best and safest melodic idea is to try to sing it as written with the optional high note thrown in at the end on “free” if you are able.  Yes, I’m a purist.

No, just, no….. star spangled

  1. When singing at a sporting event, bring a pitch pipe or tuning fork. You will be glad you did.  Know what pitch you need to start on…it is not the tonic of the key, but the fifth.
  2. With a ton of delay of the sound if singing in a large stadium, ABSOLUTELY do not wait to hear what you sound like, just stay in tempo and with good internal rhythm. The only exception should be if you elongate the ends of the phrases or on the high note at the end.  Let the sound settle and reverberate then continue.  If you can get them to provide you with a monitor, that is always a major plus so that you can hear yourself from close range, not through the stadium speakers.  Don’t count on that to happen, however.
  3. Don’t just “wing it.” You MUST practice diligently and intelligently.  Record yourself and see if you stay in the same key.  Modulation mid-performance is a cringe-worthy problem.
  4. Work with a voice teacher or coach. If you haven’t worked on it previously, you will certainly be thankful.  And practice with your teacher or coach playing the notes first, then try to sing it without them helping.  Oftentimes, even for trained classical singers, it is a huuuge challenge.  Practice, practice, practice.  Sing in front of friends, family, and other singers.  Get nervous!   Record audio and video.  What went well, what didn’t?
  5. Words, Words, Words and phrasing the text: drill those words so much that you can’t even think about making a mistake.  You wouldn’t be the only one to make a mistake, so, if in the chance that you blank out, just keep singing..most people may not even notice…most.  Try not to breathe after every word, please.  Try your best to sustain full phrases or text ideas…that’s why diligent and intelligent practice are so important.
  6. Remember to fully warm up as you would for a full performance, remember what you are singing about, and SELL IT!