Tips for Singing The Star-Spangled Banner

Categories: OpinionMusicEntertainmentSports

Over the past few decades, it seems like more often than not, soloists - from police officers to professional singers - who attempt to sing our national anthem get more publicity for their failures than for their excellence.  The most blatant and memorable example, so far, is Rosanne Barr's dismal 1990 performance at a San Diego Padres baseball game.  The problem has become so bad, Time.com put together their own Top 10 Worst National-Anthem Renditions.  Time's compilation was published before Steven Tyler's ear-wrenching rendition at the January 22, 2011 AFC Championship game, so the competition is not yet over.

While the media comically entertains the rest of the world with these national disasters, no one has made it clear what needs to be done to stop it.  Part of the problem is that those responsible for booking these talents (or lack of) don't seem to have a clue what it takes to successfully pull off such a seemingly simple, yet focal performance.  As a result, they extend invitations to the unqualified.

The other half of the problem, of course, rests on the shoulders of the so-called singers.  The truth is most singers don't know how to sing.  There are college degrees for singing; it is a true art.  Many people refuse to recognize the fact that they can't sing.  That's what makes TV's American Idol such a huge success.  Carrying a tune does not qualify anyone as a singer any more than running across a Kentucky bluegrass pasture makes someone a Derby-winning race horse.  Even professionals Michael Bolton and Christina Aguilera, both with incredible potential, made the most basic and unforgivable of mistakes - they forgot the words.  No excuse.  If you do nothing else as a singer, you should, at the very least, know the lyrics of the song you agree, and often are paid, to lead the entire country in singing.  Amazingly, anthem amnesia seems to be one of the most common failures.

So here are my own top ten tips for singing The Star-Spangled Banner.  Following these tip won't guarantee you'll do well, but it will guarantee that whatever it is you do manage to screw up will be original.

Rule Zero - Choose Your Battles Carefully

Rule Zero is simple: If you're ever invited to sing the national anthem, run away as fast as you can.  Singing the national anthem will not enhance your career.  The invitation is not a compliment; it's either a ploy to use you as a jester to entertain the rabble and the royalty, or it's a decision made by some business administrator with absolutely no musical know-how whatsoever.  So resist the temptation to feel like you've just been nominated for a Grammy.  Instead, decline and let someone else get the boos.  If you follow this single rule, you cannot fail.  If, on the other hand, you're defiant and open to public ridicule, knock yourself out (but please read the following tips first).

The Tips

  1. Write down the words.  No, I don't mean look them up on Google and print them.  I mean listen to the song, and write them down.  With a pen and paper.  If you can't write as fast as the performer is singing, rewind and play it again.  And again and again.  Write down every word, spelled correctly, with punctuation, and proper case.

  2. When you've finished hand-writing the words, read them.  Every single word.  Put them together in a story - the story that prompted Francis Scott Key to write them to begin with.  Study the story so you know it, and know it well.  Study it so you feel it, and so that you will not forget the story.  This will help you remember the lyrics when that moment comes, as your standing in the spotlight singing to 50,000 screaming, drunk fans for the first time.

  3. Practice the song with a pianist who can play it in any key.  (If you don't know what "key" means, go back and re-read "Rule Zero" above.)  Practice it in the key you think you will be most comfortable with, then drop the key several steps down.  The easiest way to pick the correct key is to take the third note of the song and sing that as the lowest pitch you can possibly sing well.  That is the best key to sing it in.  From that note, the song pitch goes up, and up, and up, and up.  By starting in this low key, you'll leave room for the finish.

  4. Once you found the best key, make sure you will have an accompanist who can play it in that key.  If the host wants to provide recorded accompaniment where changing key is not an option, make other arrangements for accompaniment or walk away.  You are setting yourself up for disaster if you start in a key higher than you are capable of singing in, as most singers do.

  5. If you are asked or instructed to sing a capella, resist.  (If you don't know what "a capella" means, go back and re-read "Rule Zero" above.)  If you think you can do it a capella, this is not the time to find out.  Practice is not the time to find out.  Unless you have successful experience singing the national anthem a capella in front of tens of thousands of Americans, it is a recipe for failure.

  6. Don't drag.  In fact, pick up the pace.  Unless you're Whitney Houston (and you're not), no one really wants to hear this song as a fine art performance.  The Star-Spangled Banner is not a funeral dirge; it's about the nation's successful struggle to preserve her freedom and resist oppression.  While it is a tribute to those who fought and died for us, it should be upbeat, uplifting, and motivational.  Sing it at a rapid clip, at least 120 bpm.

    Listen to this "click track" to get an idea of what 120 bpm is.

  7. Breathe, and don't breathe, in the right places.  Among the most annoying things about singers who are not formally trained are their poor breathing habits.  This problem has a negative conscious effect on formally trained musicians, but a negative subconscious effect on the rest of the audience.  When singers breathe in the wrong places, interrupting the flow of the phrase, most people can tell something is awry, but can't quite put their finger on it.  Trained singers cringe.  If you don't know where to breathe, you need to make friends with your friendly neighborhood choral director - the professional one.

  8. When you come to the word "perilous", remember...it is pronounced per-ih-lus, not per-uh-lis.  (Virtually every singer makes this mistake.  Even Whitney.)

  9. Don't overdo the finish.  If you did well throughout the song, the crowd will be cheering at that point, so much so that they won't care about hearing the last few words.  But if you try to make the ending bigger than it really is, remember that you will be recorded from all angles, and you may end up along with Steven Tyler on Time.com's revised list.  Despite Tyler's years of success with Aerosmith, that would not be an accomplishment.

  10. Remember, above all else, that this song is not about you!  It is America's national anthem, not yours.  It is the one outstanding song that represents the spirit of our country's freedom.  To perform it well, your goal must be to transfer that spirit from the music and lyrics to the heart of every witness, and ultimately, to everyone who enjoys freedom in America.


User Comments:
Ananya - Apr 10, 2012 09:34:53 — Hi! I belt the national anthem and I can hit all the notes strongly. All I am worried about is that I don't want to make it plain. But I want to make it a little more fun with voice trills. I will not overdue it.I am singing a Capella. I have training for 8 years so I good with that part. So you think that its a reasonable idea?
Jonas - Apr 10, 2012 10:24:25 — The fact that you took the time to write and ask the question tells me you're taking this seriously, as you should.  I have confidence in you, but the national anthem is not the song to have fun with.  Things are much, much different when that spot light hits you.  In my humble opinion, you would be much better off, and more respected, if you sing it plainly and competently.

The root cause of most of the problems singers experience with this song is that they don't perform it often enough to know what works and what doesn't.  You should never experiment during a once-in-a-blue-moon live performance.

I would encourage you to search Google for videos of some of the worst national anthem failures.  Here's one link to get you started:

http://www.asylum.com/2010/10/21/the-worst-national-anthem-fails/

Thanks for visiting, and whatever you choose to do, "break a leg!!"

(I want a video of your performance to put on this site.  It's up to you whether to make it hail or fail!  If we don't hear from you...)
Jonas - Jul 30, 2012 09:53:20 — This might take the gold medal in the worst performances:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/07/30/texas-parents-defend-daughter-11-following-reports-blasting-worst-ever-national/?intcmp=features
Steph - Sep 23, 2012 12:59:56 — Thank you for these words of wisdom. I was recently asked to sing the National Anthem for a festival coming up in about a month. My training is extensive but I have never worked on this song before. I plan to rehearse plenty and with a coach before the big day. I have not sung professionally for a few years and I am looking forward to it. I agree with your notes about the emotional objective of the song and where the focus should lie. I plan to sing it as written and to keep it moving. Great tips Jonas!
Jonas - Sep 23, 2012 12:17:07 — Hi Steph! Let us know how it goes. If you can, get it on YouTube and send us a link. Thanks for visiting, and best of luck!
Kianna Rhodes - Sep 28, 2012 12:30:41 — I was asked to sing this at my high schools homecoming. I feel since i am a senior and it is my last year why not try it. I have a good voice and pretty good range. My only concern is that i may freeze when it comes times to sing. How do i get over this? Also i believe i can put alot of the poems original emotion back into the song. Many people have told me when i sing it brings them to tears. Anymore advice? BTW: my homecoming is in about 2 weeks.
Jonas - Nov 1, 2012 11:12:44 — No, Kianna, I have no more advice.  (I don't see any videos of the performance on your fb page.)  So if you had to do it over, would you?  If you did it again, what would you do differently?
skystew - Jan 23, 2013 08:52:05 — most sing the word 'banner' wrong too...it's NOT baaaaaaaaner..it's ban-ner
Jonas - Jan 24, 2013 08:13:13 — Thanks, skystew! But this is a choral thing. In singing, a consonant at the end of a syllable is always sung at the beginning of the next syllable, rather than at the end of a syllable. So a choral director would have you sing 'baa-ner', rather than 'ban-ner'. The vowels are ALWAYS stretched out. If the word is extended and sung correctly, it should be 'baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-nner'. Thanks for writing!
Robert Prince - Jan 25, 2013 03:21:24 — The Star Spangled Banner should always be sung by the audience.
Jonas - Jan 25, 2013 04:47:37 — I agree, Robert.  You'll notice that increasingly, there are more and more who not only refuse to sing, but also refuse to stand.  So for those in the audience who do sing, only tip 8 applies!
Charissa - Feb 21, 2013 04:06:05 — Hi, I have trouble being a little to breathy on this song[. D]o you have any advice on how to hit the notes harder instead of breathy??
Jonas - Feb 21, 2013 04:52:30 — First of all, I'm a critic, not a coach.  And I'm not a singer (but I sometimes play one on the Internet...LOL).  Here's what little I do know (and you've probably heard this before): It's more natural to sing "from the throat" (bad).  But you must sing "from the gut" (good).  You must use your abdomen to push against the diaphragm, forcing the air out of the lungs, through the pipes, and out into the concert hall.  The more force with which you can push that air, the less "breathy" you will sound.  If you are not accustomed to singing this way, it will not be easy to start out.  It will be like doing sit-ups.  Your stomach will be sore for a few weeks until your muscles get stronger.  As you practice, you will sound like a bad opera singer, and you may not want to sing in that style.  But you don't need to sing that way all the time.  Listen to Christina Aguilera.  She has a powerful voice, but she can pull it back when she wants to.  You can develop your abdominal muscles and use them when you want/need to.  But you must practice and develop those muscles, and hold on to them in order to use them on those rare occasions when you want them.  As far as exercises to develop those muscles, I can't help.  You will need a vocal coach for that.  Thanks for writing, and good luck!  We'll look for you at the Super Bowl next year!
Charissa  - Feb 22, 2013 09:33:00 — That's what my dad says! lol Thank you so much for your help! :)
Jonas - Mar 31, 2013 01:07:57 — If you live near Albany, New York, and you want to ignore Rule Zero, here's a good reason to.

"The [Tri-City] ValleyCats [of Troy, New York] are looking for a talented individual (or group of individuals) to perform the National Anthem at the Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy for the 2013 season.  The winner will be selected by a process reminiscent of an American Idol judging/public voting system."


One of the judges is last year's winner, Kelli Trippany.  Here's a link to a YouTube video of one of her performances.  She confessed to violating rule number eight, and has promised to work on that.  Otherwise, I think this is one of the best renditions I've heard in a long time.  This is "the bar"!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeXsUF8vWq0

For more information on the upcoming competition, go here (fast):

http://www.albany.com/event/national-anthem-auditions-34918/
Tess O. - Apr 14, 2013 11:32:46 — Jonas what is your opinion on this performance? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQHoxykpY70
Jonas - Apr 15, 2013 10:50:09 — Thanks for the link, Tess O.  Ms. Rae has some good qualities.  If she were to ask my opinion, I would humbly offer a few suggestions.  But without the request coming from her, I'm hesitant to add any more than that.  What do YOU think of it?  Are you a singer?
Tess O. - Apr 18, 2013 09:45:21 — No Johas, I am not a singer. I am her mom. Just curious of you opinion.
Jonas - Apr 19, 2013 11:55:45 — Okay, Tess O....IMHO, shaky start, particularly with pitch.  After that, pitch was good.  Diction needs the most work.  Tempo also needs attention.  Read rule number eight.  Breathing was pretty good, but one slip-up caught my attention.  Audience response was weak, and you can't blame the audience for that.  For more details, please send me your email address through the Contact form (see the Contact link in the main menu above).  Thanks for caring!
Jonas - May 19, 2013 08:42:28 — Which of my rules did this singer, Alexis Normand, not break?  This, my friends, is the reason for Rule Zero!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqryAVfqnRU
Jill Marie weingarten - May 24, 2013 10:00:03 — Hi. I am an Army veteran and singer. I perform the National Anthem SEVERAL times throughout the year and although capable of all of the "vocal gymnastics"...I do NOT feel the need to jazz it up like some of these needy young singers who need attention. These over embellishers only succeed in pi%%ing me off. Grow up and read the sheet music! Respectfully...
Jonas - May 25, 2013 01:43:54 — "Read..."?  Oh, now you're just asking way too much.
Ron G. - Jun 18, 2013 09:11:36 — Oh my goodness. The word "perilous" is one of my biggest pet peeves! Every singer (including many military folks) I have heard mispronounces it. So much so, that when I pronounce it correctly, it sounds wrong to my ear. Weird. No worries with the Anthem. I was a vocalist with The (Official) United States Army Band, "Pershing's Own" and the Anthem was part of my job for years in Washington, DC. I never stray too far from the melody as my military bearing always kicks in. Thanks for the notes to others.
Jonas - Jun 18, 2013 10:05:02 — You got it right, Ron G.  Stray all you want on some other song, but not the National Anthem.  Thanks for the comment!
Abby - Jun 19, 2013 02:20:43 — Jonus-hey Jonus! i was recently invited to sing the national anthem at a football game but its pop warner. Nothing big. I am still scared at one point my voice would crack at a high not! How could i fix that?
Jonas - Jun 19, 2013 05:40:20 — Abby, my first suggestion would be decline the invitation (Rule Zero above).  You'll get other opportunities to sing.  This will not be a "big break" for you.  However, knowing you're most likely going to ignore this advice, you can't "fix" the cracking voice quickly.  That comes from your age.  It's biological and only time and growth can get past it.  The best advice I have is to avoid it.  That means avoid the high note(s).  And the easiest way to do that is by starting in the lowest key you possibly can.  Remember that the third note of the song (the word "say") is the lowest note of the entire song.  Work on singing in a key that allows you to sing that note as the lowest note you can possibly sing and still be heard.  But, Abby, listen to me: This is a song that you CAN NOT screw up.  If you're scared now, you'll certainly crack under the pressure of singing it live in front of the crowd.  This is why I emphasize Rule Zero.  Go out on a limb for anything else in your life, but not the National Anthem.  It's not about you.  When you screw up "The Star-Spangled Banner", it's not just a mistake in a performance.  You're being disrespectful to the entire nation, and all those who fought and died for our freedom.  They gave their lives for us.  Can't we show our respect to them and all Americans by performing this one song with the spirit of excellence it deserves?  Whatever you decide, good luck, God bless you, and thanks for writing!
Rob O'Brien - Jun 30, 2013 09:25:57 — When I was a kid, 99% of spectators at a ball game, etc. would belt out the National Anthem. It's sad that it's become something for spectators now, not for joiners. I remember seeing someone NOT singing the anthem and asking my father, "Why?" He said it was a political statement, that they don't love their country. I was lucky, I guess, to attend a church when I was young that had no choir. We all sang in 8-part harmony, and nobody had a problem with that. If you can't sing the anthem, harmonize. If you can't carry a tune, sing it anyway. I'd rather hear that than silence, as I still, in my 60's, consider someone not singing the anthem as unpatriotic.
Jonas - Jun 30, 2013 02:01:44 — Good point!  For some, though, it's not that they don't love their country; it's that they don't want to give the impression that they're pleased in any way with the government.

"Dissent may be the highest form of patriotism." --Howard Zinn, historian
Darrell Martin - Jul 7, 2013 08:02:48 — Hi Jonas,

Writing to let you know that early on in my bucket-list quest to sing the Nat'l Anthem at a baseball game I found and bookmarked and often referred back this page. This page, plus a few months of lessons, a lot of practice and family encouragement resulted in a successful performance and a pretty good memory.

Thank you for taking the time to put a page like this out there and for offering tips that make a difference.

Respectfully,
Darrell Martin
Jonas - Jul 13, 2013 12:19:17 — Congratulations, Darrell!  It's great to hear a success story.  I hope you got it recorded somehow (hint).  I'd love to see/hear the performance.  Thanks for sharing!
Darrell Martin - Jul 15, 2013 03:29:55 — Jonas, Here it is. Please know that I know it isn't perfect. It went 5-6 seconds longer than in most practice sessions and I feel that made a difference in terms of pitch/breathing a few times. I'm hoping they call back, would like a 2nd chance knowing I won't pass out cold standing there waiting. Respectfully, Darrell Martin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvL_3V9ghFw
Brenda-Jo - Jul 15, 2013 08:25:28 — Fabulous Job, Darrell! You even stayed on pitch without any music.... that was superb! Jonas, You pulled through again! Your advice is always helpful.. as Rush Limbaugh would say... "you have talent on loan from God." ...and YOU do! Thanks for keeping your column active. It's always fun to chime in. Take care and enjoy Vegas' cool 90 degree weather ;)
Jonas - Jul 15, 2013 09:40:23 — God bless you, Darrell!  I could nitpick the performance, but there's no need to.  You're right - it wasn't perfect, but you did a nice job.  You took on the challenge, and you focused on the song and the meaning, not on yourself.  Thanks again for sharing, and we'll see you at Carnegie Hall!

Thanks also to you, Brenda-Jo!  Yeah, it was cool today.  I was out on the Strip in a suit and, to me, it was very comfortable.  Everyone else was dragging and complaining.  That's was alcohol and caffeine does to you.  Ha!
Ashley W - Sep 17, 2013 09:30:36 — Hi there! I'm an experienced singer, college degreed, and perform regularly. I have not avoided the national anthem, however this is the first time I've been asked to sing it in a stadium. I'm only concerned with the echo! I doubt that I will get the opportunity to rehearse it and get a feel for arena. I get lost when I hear a delay on phone conversations, and I know that a stadium setting will have that second of delay. Since my background was originally choir based, my instinct is to listen carefully to my surroundings. What's the way to get rid of that echo effect so I don't lose myself in a song I've sung a thousand times? Earplugs? Thanks!!
Jonas - Oct 6, 2013 02:53:25 — Ashley, I'm so sorry for the delay in my response  I'm guessing your performance is over by now, so my advice is too late.  The good news is that I really don't think I have any good advice anyway.  I hope you didn't try earplugs.  If you did, you will have learned that within seconds, you would have been yanking them out.  One finger over one ear can occasionally help, but you never want to shut out such a valuable tool as your hearing.  Singing in a large arena can be a challenge, but here's what I would suggest: 1) Be prepared to perform well.  That's the base.  2) Focus on your body, your diaphragm, your lungs, your voice, your instrument.  Do not focus on the sound waves bouncing around after they've left your mouth.  There's nothing you can do about that.  3) Focus also on the tempo.  Keep it up, and don't let other distractions (e.g. echo) start dragging it down.  Having said all that, I've gotta remind everyone (again) that I'm not a singer, and I'm not a coach.  I criticize singers after they've screwed up.  My work is easy.  So if you want some valuable advice, a good professional coach or singer can help much better than I can, especially on a question like this.  If there are any pro's out there who can offer more tips in this situation, we'd appreciate hearing from you.
Jonas - Oct 25, 2013 02:08:28 — I won't say a bad word about JT. I won't do it!
Alex - Dec 9, 2013 03:25:09 — I'm not good at memorizing lyrics of any song, but the melody of the US national anthem is constantly spinning in my head. Great!
Yacina - Jan 3, 2014 10:19:41 — Hi, I'm 13 years old! Oddly, one of my favorite songs besides Justin Bieber or Katy Perry IS the NATIONAL ANTHEM!! I don't exactly know why I love it so much but I do! I sing it a lot and I KNOW the words by HEART! The only part I struggle with is the really high part; And the rockets red glare, The bombs bursting in air! It's pretty high! But I really want to sing this somewhere that would be a great start, that will make it matter; but nothing TOO big like the Orange Bowl! I just need suggestions and tips! By the way, P.S. Bradbery did so good at the Orange Bowl! And my dance team danced at halftime during the Orange Bowl! Awesome right! I didn't get to go because of other reasons. Sorry, I don't know why I am telling you this I just had to tell somebody, you know! Anyway, reply soon, bye!
Jonas - Jan 12, 2014 02:11:10 — Hi Yacina,

I know how you feel about missing the Orange Bowl.  I was once scheduled to perform at the seventh game of the World Series.  Unfortunately, the series ended in game six.  C'est la vie!

I'm not impressed at all with Bradbery.  She had a very shaky start, weak voice, dragging (rule 6), some breathing problems (rule 7), and, as everyone does, mis-pronounced "perilous" (rule 8).  Plus she mis-spells her own name. (JK!)

But Bradbery did exactly what I would advise you to do.  Start in a lower key so the high parts won't be too high for your range.  If it's still a challenge, keep working.  Remember that you're only 13, and as you get older your range will increase with practice.  So keep singing!
Amy - Jan 13, 2014 12:57:31 — Any suggestions on how to sing the anthem a cappella in a baseball stadium where there is an echo?
Amy - Jan 13, 2014 01:05:37 — ...my daughter is 11 and I am wondering if an earpiece of some sort would help her to hear herself better, rather than the echo in a stadium setting. Here is a video of her singing in a smaller arena... http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EYwgO4agXDw
Jonas - Jan 13, 2014 03:24:05 — Judging from that video, Hannah has lots of potential.  But I'm not sure I can answer your question.  Hannah, I wouldn't rely on technology to solve the problem, unless you're already used to singing with earphones.  A finger in one ear occasionally, but other than that...focus, focus, focus.  Concentrate on you, your diaphragm, your voice, your posture, your pitch, everything within.  Don't let yourself get distracted by the external environment.  Know the song, know the key (and stay in it), know the tempo (don't drag), know every single note you plan on singing.  Then go out there and do it.  That is if you absolutely insist on ignoring "rule zero".  Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
benkostal - Jan 27, 2014 09:50:43 — its to long of the song ok lol
Jonas - Jan 27, 2014 04:59:59 — Good reason to follow rule number six, benkostal.
Bob McEachern - Feb 5, 2014 05:54:10 — Sing the National Anthem the way Arturo Sandovel, jazz trumpeter played it at the 2009 Orange Bowl.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6tKXl-xoBs)  No need to go to that excessively high pitch near the end.

This is not a love song.  It is a patriotic song.

As an addition to rule 8, pronounce "rockets" as "rock-ETTS", not "rock-"ITTS".
Jonas - Feb 5, 2014 06:58:50 — Holy...!  I didn't think he was going to make it, but...wow!  Okay, I was distracted by the high notes.  I think he was dragging all the way.  Otherwise, nice performance.  And excellent point, Bob, regarding the pronunciation of rockets.  Thanks for the contribution!
Bob McEachern - Feb 5, 2014 08:44:30 — Thanks, Jonas, for your comment. As to dragging, I think there is a compromise between a fast march, and a stately performance. However, Arturo was much better than those singers who thought the National Anthem was a "torchy love song."
Lou Villano - Mar 8, 2014 01:52:46 — I sing the Anthem a number of times in So. Florida between Spring Training games and the Florida State League. When standing on the field what is the appropriate position to stand when singing? Is it facing the fans or do you face out to the field and where the flag is?
Jonas - Mar 8, 2014 08:05:55 — When singing the National anthem, the singer should always face the microphone.

Okay, I'm kidding...sorta.

There is an etiquette for the national anthem, but there are no "rules".  In America, we are all free to face any direction, chew gum, eat, talk on our phones, whatever.

Most Americans, however, are respectful enough to obey the guidelines of the United States Code Title 36, §301. National Anthem, which tells us that when the flag is displayed, all persons other than individuals in uniform and members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform "should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed." (Bold emphasis mine.)

Nowhere does it say "except for singers."  So, technically, you would follow the same guidelines as everyone else.

But that's not the real world, is it?

In most cases, there will be many things to consider.  It will not likely be the singer's choice.

There are usually limitations and restrictions placed on singers being amplified (mic'd).  In order to avoid feedback, the direction the singer faces may be dictated by the location and position of speakers and monitors.  In this case, the singer's positioning may be entirely up to the sound technicians.

If the event is televised, or there are official photographers/videographers, the singer may also be expected to face a specific direction for the benefit of the cameras.

If the singer is performing with live musicians, he/she should face in the same direction as the group.  For example, if a military band faces the audience with the flag to their backs, the singer should also face the audience (assuming the singer is in close proximity to the band).

All of this is part of the planning that goes into a national anthem performance.  If you have a preference, make sure you express your wishes to the organizing authority well before the event so they will have time to consider your requests and make reasonable accommodations.

The bottom line is this: Show respect in every decision you make.  Don't worry about following a rule just for the sake of following rules.  Make your decisions based on the circumstances, considering the physical characteristics, acoustics, organizers, local tradition, audience, sound techs, photographers, etc.  If you do that, you can't go wrong.
Senzel - May 26, 2014 11:13:56 — I am very worried about tomorrow because I have auditions for The National Anthem for anyone that wants to sing it at everyone's graduation. Everyone at school knows who I am, but I don't know if the teachers, who are judging, would like the way I sing it, even though all my classmates do. What do you think I should do?
Jonas - May 27, 2014 01:03:37 — 1. 90% of what you worry about never happens, so statistically, worrying is very effective.  You're starting off good.
2. Choose your battles carefully.  You should know your competition, and how you rate compared to them.  Can you beat them?  If you have any doubts, maybe you shouldn't be in the game.  On the other hand, "quitters never win".
3. If anyone - teachers, classmates, anyone - doesn't like the way you sing, find out why.  Once you know why, make a decision.  You can either make changes to improve your performance, or disregard your critics' opinions and express yourself artistically.  (In the latter, be prepared to live as a pauper).
4. It's late.  All you can do for tomorrow is focus and do the very best you can.
Amy D - May 28, 2014 11:06:41 — Love your tips! Like one of your other readers I have had singing the National Anthem on my bucket list for most of my life. I'm 49 and finally getting the opportunity to cross it off that list at a baseball game in Sanford, Florida. So, unfortunately, Rule 0 must be broken, hahah. But I'm glad I found your site and love your tips. Although I've sung the song a million times over the years, I am sitting down at this moment to follow tips 1 and 2, and then I will move on to the others. I sing professionally with a swing band and a couple of big bands, and I know what key I need, so it shouldn't be too bad. But I don't want to screw it up, so I'm taking every precaution. I have always felt the same way about not dragging it, not over-embellishing, and remembering what the song is about, but seeing someone else say those things is helpful reaffirmation. Wish me luck, and if I can I'll post a video, no matter how embarrassing it may turn out to be. :)
Jonas - May 29, 2014 12:28:47 — Thanks, Amy D!  I do wish you the best of luck.  I have a feeling you'll do very well.  I look forward to that video.
Amy D - Jun 11, 2014 11:18:47 — I did it! Not the most unboring of renditions, but at least I got the job done and didn't mess up. Critique? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIDJ7cQDrT4&feature=youtu.be
Jonas - Jun 12, 2014 11:58:06 — Yes, you did it, Amy D!  Overall, nice job.  Pretty good pitch, although you tend to slide in to some notes.  Good breathing, but I did catch one unnecessary breath.  You got "perilous" right!  But you said it - not "unboring".  It was on the side of a lifeless lullaby, dragging with no emotions.  You failed to convey the message to the audience, to evoke feelings, in this case, of strength, victory, and pride.  That's the toughest part of music - it's what separates the best from the rest.  But you can be sure you won't appear on Time magazine's next "Top 10" list!
Amy D - Jun 15, 2014 10:06:17 — Thanks, Jonas. What is your favorite rendition?
Jonas - Jun 16, 2014 01:41:45 — Best Solo Vocal Recording

The Star Spangled Banner (vocal)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZKeLFEBVYI

This singer, billed only as "Done Again", is obviously formally trained.  It's clear that she reads music, and she performed this song as it was written, with little or no artistic freeedom.  It was not about her; it was about the song and its meaning.  She was also the only singer I could find that pronounces "perilous" correctly.  Although not particularly moving, this one gets my vote as the overall best rendition of the U.S. national anthem, at least from those on the first six pages of Google video search results.

Most Authentic, True to the Original

"The Star-Spangled Banner"—Original 1814 Version (High Defin...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvVtFD9Na0I

Best Artistic Arrangement

The Star Spangled Banner
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QTOZGP-rr0

Best Male Vocal Recordings (tie)

Star Spangled Banner - One Man Choir - Trudbol A Cappella
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyCn0_UxwDw

Star Spangled Banner - A Cappella
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-ULpQgbZGE

Most Motivating Live Performance

US National Anthem by the Academy Choirs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ETrr-XHBjE

Best Male Quartet

Armed Forces Salute - National Anthem
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS4wIzp_4R8
(Starts at 5:08)

Jonas - Jun 16, 2014 01:57:06 — Oh, I forgot...as far as popular versions, Whitney raised the bar to a level that no one else has been able to reach, despite the fact that the song, including her vocals, was pre-recorded.  I have no doubt that she also sang it live, but whether her mic was open or not remains a question.  In any case, it was a great recording/performance.
Abbi  - Jul 14, 2014 06:00:34 — Hi, I am singing the star spangeled banner at a football game for my high school. I'm worried that my voice will crack, as it does randomly. Do you have any advice for me? Thanks!
Jonas - Jul 14, 2014 06:46:48 — Yes.  Don't do it.
Erin - Jul 16, 2014 01:53:27 — I read your article and wanted to share my daughters video links with you. This is her first time singing at any event. She aings the Canadian anthem too because we live in Buffalo and this was a hockey game. I apologize for the poor videography!! http://youtu.be/ZOtrONOlT04 This next one is her singing before one of this season's Buffalo Bisons baseball games at Coca Cola Field in Buffalo, NY. She was one of less than 10 new anthem singers chosen from over 250 auditioners at open auditions. Her only prior experience was the above event. It is an honor for her each time she she is asked to sing before a game. http://youtu.be/2USGoM-ae-A Thank you for your time!
Jonas - Jul 16, 2014 12:07:55 — Very good. Good dynamics, especially in the first video (hockey). Broke rules 6, 7, and 8 in both videos, and rule 3 in the second video (baseball). Looks a little nervous, but not distracting. Her voice really projects. Still, it's a little weak, probably because of her young age. Could be developed more ("from the gut"). I could see her singing on Broadway someday. Thanks for sharing!
Aditi - Jul 17, 2014 08:32:55 — Hi! I am 13 years old and have been asked to sing the national anthem at a softball tournament. I live in a pretty small town, so I am not expecting too many people to be there. I know what key I should sing in, and I will be able to hit the high notes. It is acapella and I have never sang the national anthem in front of an audience before. I have already committed to it. Any advice?
Jonas - Jul 18, 2014 02:34:25 — Yes. Read my article 'Tips for Singing The Star-Spangled Banner.'
Erin  - Aug 3, 2014 12:12:18 — Thank you for taking the time to listen & write your review!! Anna loved reading, 'I could see her sing on Broadway someday'. That is her ultimate goal & intends to study musical theater in college.
Phi - Sep 11, 2014 02:22:32 — This is my daughter. She's 15 and I think she sings good. I would appreciate your opinion and any feedback. Thank you! https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=5C2F5B98C0BF2D32!748&authkey=!AJH3e12ADmnqDuc&ithint=file%2cm4a
Jonas - Sep 11, 2014 11:51:18 — Hi, Phi!  So you should know that I don't offer praises here.  I'm a neurotic perfectionist, so I focus on what needs to be improved, not what impresses me.  So here we go...

The first thing I noticed is that the song is dragging.  Everyone does this because that's how we've heard others do it all our lives.  In this recording, she's singing at about 68 beats per minute (bpm) - almost half of the 120 bpm I recommend.

In the article above, rule six, I added a link to a "click track" to give you an idea of what 120 bpm would be.

She has dynamics (the difference between loud and soft).  Unfortunately, they're in the wrong places for the wrong reasons.  It's natural to sing louder when we sing a higher pitch.  But we shouldn't do that.  Dynamics would be written by the composer, and a professional singer would follow those dynamics, not add his/her own.  Which brings me to the most likely reason for this.

It seems to me that she is singing a few keys too high.  A single note, the word "free" near the end, is sung in falsetto (nice transiton into the falsetto, by the way).  If she toook it down a step or two, she might be able to control the dynamics a bit more.

There were a few pitch problems, most notably starting with "And the rockets red glare...".  Again, because of the key, this jump of more than one octave from G to B causes her to start this phrase flat, and she never recovers.

"Through the perilous..." was a disaster, pitchwise.

Overall, she starts in the key of G, but ends very close to F sharp.  That's the risk of singing a capella.

One black mark for the big breath she takes in "The bombs bursting in air."  To her credit, she was trying to join two phrases "And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air."  She just didn't get a big enough gulp before she started those phrases.  That's tough to do, and that's why planning your breathing is so important.

On a personal note, I didn't care for the embellishing.  Any other song, okay, but not this one.

I think your daughter does sing well, but if she wants to take it seriously, she needs a coach, and she will need to listen to her coach and follow the coach's advice.  Sadly, most young girls just want sound like Beyonce.

Good luck and thanks for visiting!
jamie - Dec 8, 2014 02:08:50 — that is so sad the song is dododododo sad
MBC - Dec 11, 2014 06:23:16 — I loved your rules. Even though I'm probably not as much a stickler as you, I've become very frustrated listening to people mutilate the National Anthem. I feel Rule 10 is the most important rule. Regardless of your fame or salary point--the National Anthem deserve respect and should not be viewed as a vehicle to show-off a person's ability to perform vocal gymnastics.
Jonas - Dec 12, 2014 12:33:13 — Thanks, MBC!  You're obviously exceptionally intelligent. ;)
suthapklomrod - Jan 16, 2015 09:50:36 — Everyone could learn how to sing better even if they won't be able to sell millions of records and get some Grammy awards. When you train how to sing, it will be less complicated for you to learn your own voice. Don't forget that in singing, technicality and creativity are parts of it. Vocal classes are not all about learning as well, it's also a path for you to develop your skills. Hire a vocal coach and begin training to become a better singer.
Kristen - Feb 2, 2015 06:38:22 — I am going to speed it up the tempo a bit, but not too much. I am a tenor, so for me to sing hi is hard on it's own...to go from low to super high is even more difficult. Anyways, I am a HUGE SF Giants fan, and I work at a restaurant right down the street from the park. The restaurants owner is friends with the owner of the Giants and many of the teams staff. I am not worried about the recording I have attached, but I am worried about actually singing it live. I have never sung the national anthem in a large stadium and I am a little nervous about the "echo" of my voice. What would you recommend when it comes to not losing your key if there is an echo or delay? Does that make sense? Below is a link that will bring you to the video of me singing on my facebook..remember, am going to speed it up. I hope you can help me out with my worry of the "echo effect"! Kristen https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152573754177001&pnref=story
Kristen - Feb 2, 2015 07:51:51 — Never mind, I thought you were a singer...thanks anyways
Jonas - Feb 2, 2015 12:27:39 — LOL I don't know why people keep getting that impression.  Good luck!
Elena - Mar 23, 2015 01:36:52 — If you have to choose between singing with a prerecorded or acapella,what would you choose? I think I would rather ask for the starting note or the chord (I am leaning towards doing it in G, much lower and I can't get the bottom note anymore) and then go from there, rather than try to follow a recording in a key I'm not comfortable in. Also, to add to those tips - I would be prepared with music to sing it in your lowest comfortable key and the next key both up and down, so you can switch keys if you are feeling in rough voice due to a cold or something. Just as a precaution, don't switch unless you need to but it's good to be able to! Like for me, I am most comfortable in G, but if my throat were sore or dry and I were stuffy, I would go right to the key of A because as a soprano I would worry about losing those bottom notes (and for me the top notes are easy in both G and A, haven't tried in B yet but C is too high lol)
Jonas - Mar 23, 2015 10:55:33 — Excellent suggestions! The point is that you're preparing for the performance by thinking about these things - the key, the range, your abilities, the environment, etc.  Too many singers just start off acapella without thinking about where they need to go at the end.  You don't want to lose notes at either end.  Ideally, you want both low and high notes to sound "easy".  If you're okay on the high end, yeah, by all means, take it up a step so that one low note (the third note of the song) comes out.  Remember also that if you sing acapella, you can start immediately as you're introduced - no delay - and there will still probably be enough ambient noise at that point to cover those first few notes.

To answer your opening question...many of those who are invited to sing the national anthem are not professional singers, or even trained singers.  They may feel more or less comfortable singing acapella.  I think it's more important to keep in mind what the goal of the performance is, and do whatever it takes to reach that goal.  Since you seem to be a planner, why not provide the sound techs with the track(s), and if you feel like singing acapella at the last second, just let the sound tech know.  (Don't do it the other way around, though!)

Here's an option: There's software I use called Audacity.  It's "free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds."  It allows you to import audio tracks and do all kinds of things with them, such as change the key and/or tempo, add effects, etc.  So you can easily create a version in G, A, and any other key(s) you might need.  You can also export your work in WAV format.  Don't use mp3!  Mp3's work fine through personal headsets and earphones, but when you play an mp3 through a professional sound system, all the imperfections and limitations of the mp3 recording are amplified, and basically, it sounds very bad.  You'll just need to find a high-quality source to import first, such as a CD track.
Jonas - Mar 23, 2015 10:57:08 — Get more information on Audacity here:

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Buddy Buchanan - Apr 9, 2015 10:52:27 — Sing from the heart. As Americans we tend to believe that our rights as citizens allow us to place our creative registry on a song that many of our citizens have died for. That often allows them to butcher a very beautiful melody. The song is a hard piece and if you don't have the range don't attempt it. Most of the time before beginning the song I ask everyone to "take a moment of silence to remember the men and women, past and present,who have given the ultimate sacrifice" to be at whatever event we might be attending. We take for granted what these people did for all of us. Even though I've had professional training I never take the song for granted. I get goose bumps as I stand with my hand over my heart when ever it is performed by me or others and I cringe when people desecrate it. Honor America, "our song," and treat it with great pride and joy.
Rebekah  - Apr 9, 2015 04:05:52 — https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3vXzSa2JcCo Singing it this Sunday...constructive criticism would be really appreciated. I'm already cutting down the last note. ;-)
Jonas - Apr 9, 2015 05:55:08 — Well said, Buddy!  Thanks!!
Jonas - Apr 9, 2015 05:58:06 — Okay, Rebekah, here we go...

Nice voice.  Good dynamics.

Read rule number 8 regarding the word "perilous".  (According to some dictionaries, it is pronounced per-uh-luhs, but that is when spoken.  When sung, it should be per-ih-luhs.  IMHO.)

Don't lose consonants at the end of words.  For example, you may need to emphasize the "g" at the end of the word "flag" in the phrase "Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."  You can emphasize the "g", and even break for a split second immediately after it, if necessary - just don't breathe there.

Breathing is good, except one breath that caught my attention: "Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet [DO NOT BREATHE HERE] wave?"  All one breathe.  Also, the last word of that phrase is "wave", not "waved".

I prefer a much faster tempo, but with your voice, dynamics, and I'm guessing you're going to sing a capella, go with it.  I think you'll do well.

Thanks for visiting!  Let us know how it goes!
Rebekah - Apr 18, 2015 05:12:20 — Thank you! It went alright! I was blessed to have the opportunity to do it!
Dutch - Apr 27, 2015 11:13:53 — Jonas - Thank you for your suggestions! Will be singing the National Anthem with a symphony orchestra. I've sung it before, in the bass part, at the Astros and other sports events, but will be singing solo, melody this time. I'm told it will be in B Flat. I'm retired military, so will be in my formal uniform, along with the formal wear of the orchestra and the conductor in his "tails". Hitting "free" is the most concern. We have a very large Flag that is lowered for the singing, and I had thought of gesturing, with an open hand, towards the Flag as I sing "Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave" and look at the flag while singing that part. I felt it would make the audience think, more than usual, about the flag waving over our Country.
Toni - May 5, 2015 10:38:47 — I have looked and looked for this answer and can't find it, but when singing the national anthem, do the performers place their hands over their hearts?
Jonas - May 5, 2015 06:05:39 — The reason you can't find the answer may be because there is no definitive answer.  If there were "rules", who would have had the authority to define them, and where might you find them documented?  Well, as far as I can tell, there are no rules, but there are guidelines in the United States Code Title 36, §301 (see my March 8, 2014 08:05:55 post).  The guidelines apply to "all persons" with some exceptions.  Performers are not included in the exceptions.  Would it be reasonable to assume that these guidelines then apply to performers?  Some might, some might not, but I would conclude that performers have more leeway, and that the guidelines would not apply if they interfere in any way with the performance.  I think the answer to your specific question would be that if you want to show respect by placing your hand over your heart, and that does not negatively affect your performance, you certainly have that option, but you are under no obligation to do so.  No one can tell you it must be done or may not be done.

Thanks for visiting!
Toni - May 7, 2015 01:35:57 — Thanks so much!! :0)
Kenadee - May 20, 2015 03:23:11 — Fun to sing
Issy - Jun 9, 2015 09:51:35 — Hi Jonas. I'm 12 years old and I'm singing in an 8th grade graduation tomorrow with a band. This is the first time I'm singing the USA National Anthem. I'm nervous and excited at the same time, but this isn't the first time I'm singing in public tho. I sang in a choir for like 7 times and I know there is a difference between singing in a group and singing solo. There is about 80 students watching plus their relatives and parents watching. I do have the lyrics and the notes memorized, it's just that I need some tips on how to sing the right notes while looking at the crowd because whenever I sing in public, my voice is shaky. Thanks! And also, loved your article!! :)
Jonas - Jun 10, 2015 02:45:14 — Hi Issy!

Thanks for your kind words.

By the time you read this, your performance may be over.  I'm sorry I couldn't respond faster.

Unfortunately, I can't offer much advice in your case.  You have "the butterflies", and confidence is the best way to avoid that.  But confidence is something that's developed over time, not overnight.

Avoid looking at the audience.  If possible, look at the flag, if there is one.  If that isn't possible, look just over the audience's heads.  Avoid eye contact.  Your family/friends will wink, smile, giggle, wave, and do anything they can to distract you.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
Breanna Anderson - Jul 5, 2015 01:47:49 — I think its Amazing
Breanna Nichole Anderson - Jul 5, 2015 01:51:03 — I think its Amazing do you think you have another one coming up
Stan - Jul 6, 2015 01:14:34 — The word banner is almost always sung wrong. The note change is on the ner. That was taught to me by my high school chorus teacher when we all sang it wrong. Look at the sheet music.
Andrew - Jul 13, 2015 05:08:48 — Hi Jonas, Great website-- love it. I will be performing the SSB at a pro tennis event this Thursday and potentially a few more nights over the next couple weeks. I was hoping you could provide feedback (positive or constructive) on my acappella performance at a pro tennis event last year. I hope to do a better job this time around.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3o76WwN_cE Thanks, Andrew
Jonas - Jul 13, 2015 09:44:44 — Thanks, Andrew!

So I saw the pitch pipe, and I thought 'Great, he'll start in the right key.'  Then when you started singing, I thought, 'Oh, no, what happened?!  He started way too high.  This is going to be a disaster!'  When you got to 'And the Rockets' red glare,...' you transitioned well into the falsetto, and you pulled it off.  Nice job overall!

A few of things bothered me (as they almost always do). 

1. Pace.  Although I like 120bpm, it should really be 99bpm.

2. "Perilous" (rule 8).

3. This is the most important: Don't breathe in the middle of the phrase "O! say does that star-spangled Banner yet wave,"  Take a deep breath before that phrase and sing the entire phrase without breathing.  It'll take some conditioning 'cause you're used to doing it your way.  Make sure when you sing "star-spangled Banner" it clearly comes out as a single, smooth, unbroken phrase. It IS the title of the song, after all.  It will make a difference!

Thanks for visiting, and we wish you the very best!
Andrew - Jul 14, 2015 05:44:08 — Thanks so much your feedback. Your rec on "O, say...." makes sense-- I'll have to see if I can be relaxed enough to bring it out all in one breath!
Andrew - Jul 17, 2015 08:35:08 — Well, here is how it went. I was able to comply with Rule 8, however I couldn't attempt the others. My backing track helped to mask my inability to make it through "O Say" in one breath. Thanks again for your feedback. https://youtu.be/iVL5cEDcEsM
Jonas - Jul 17, 2015 12:47:10 — Well done!  Breathing and phrasing takes practice and conditioning.  It's not easy.  Start thinking about every phrase you sing, where each breath should be, and more importantly where a breath should not be.  (If you want to find out how not to breathe, listen to Taylor Swift.)

Thanks again!
Keith - Jul 30, 2015 06:11:52 — Hi Jonas: I just sang the star Spangled Banner for the 1st time in public in March at a local 5K race. since then I have been asked to sing several more times and have now sung at 4 races and earlier this week at a AA baseball Game. I do not have any real formal voice training so read your tips and suggestions to people with much interest. I know now about your rule 8 which I will fix and know I need to work on my breathing. I have been asked to sing at several more events now and am always looking to improve. I would like for you to look at my latest performance and give any pointers that you see where I could improve. One thing that happened to me was I had my key and note to start on in my mind just fine,but the mic was not on and when it finally came on I had lost my starting key and ended up starting a couple of notes lower than I usually do, so my low notes in the song were almost too low so I rushed through that part. https://youtu.be/EtD48B2A0es Thanks in advance, Keith
Jonas - Aug 2, 2015 12:49:54 — Hi Kieth,

The key was okay despite the mic issue, meaning there were no obvious problems with the key.  Yes, those first few notes get kinda low, but that's normal.  Like you said, "almost too low".  But you got those and you got the high notes at the end, so you didn't miss anything.

You did not "rush through that part", but you dragged through the rest of the song.  I think you were around 85 bpm; the music reads 99 bpm.  I like it even faster.

A few minor pitch problems, but you have a good ear so you're able to make corrections.

"Perilous", you mentioned already.

The strength of your voice starts to come out in "...red glare...".  It would be nice to hear that power through the entire piece.

The breath in "O! say does that star-spangled [here] Banner yet wave," was almost not noticable (but I was looking for it).  You know about breathing, so try to get this phrase in one breath.  Then apply this to every phrase you sing.  Always be concious of where you should/shouldn't breathe.

Nice job!  Thanks for visiting, and for caring enough to want to improve!
Allen - Aug 3, 2015 10:52:11 — So, I disregarded your sage advice to run screaming and I'm singing at Wrigley field this week. I'm a singer in a band and was a music major (percussion, ooops), but I'm decent. I'm most worried about the time delay of what I'm hearing versus singing. Thank you so much for this site. I've followed everything else. Any thoughts?
Jonas - Aug 3, 2015 11:24:44 — What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?

A drummer.

(Thank you, I'll be here all week.)

I, too, was a percussion major until I realized it actually required talent.

Congratulations on your gig!  I've never performed solo in a large arena with delay, so I can't offer any advice, except to focus and don't let anything distract you.  Easier said than done, I'm sure.  Good luck!
Allen - Aug 8, 2015 12:25:47 — Your site was super helpful. Seriously helped me get through it and I was asked backed, so that's a win!
Jonas - Aug 8, 2015 02:11:13 — Thanks, Allen, and congratulations!
Julia  - Oct 1, 2015 06:17:00 — I really hate this website. Your telling people not to sing The National Anthem? Were here to get tips not to start doubting something they where pumped for.
Jonas - Oct 2, 2015 09:59:34 — Thanks for the feedback. (I really hate this website, too.)
Eric - Oct 16, 2015 11:59:56 — Hi Jonas, I just wanted in inquire more about the "perilous" pronounciation. My gf is a music major studing voice and has taken various classes on diction and she tells me that in English singing the words are pronounced the same as spoken. That being the case, the word Perilous takes the IPA /ÈperYlYs/ with the upside down e giving the uh sound. So where is it that the "il" or "ih" sound would come from? It seems I can't find any real scholarship on the discrepancy and was hoping maybe you could shed some light on my confusion. Thank you, Eric
Bill - Oct 17, 2015 08:53:37 — Thanks for the tips, but I have sung the Anthem twice in the past for cycling events and have two more invitations to perform this fall. I consider it a very grave privilege and honor to get the event started properly. I have a stage-rattling base, so I live for the low notes - but can hit the high ones too. My biggest fear is phloem in the throat!
Jonas - Oct 17, 2015 12:53:36 — First of all, Eric, I'm not an authority on anything.  I was a web developer at one time, and I built this site in order to test and experiment with code.  For content, I included some of the things that were emailed to me (before fb and twitter), and some of my own opinions.

What annoyed me when I started writing these "rules" were people who pronounced the word per-uh-lih-s.  With my limited education in English and chorus, I could tell by the spelling that that pronunciation would be incorrect, whether spoken or sung.  It just bugged me.  Still does.

After some feedback, I looked up the word (on dictionary.com), and it shows the correct spoken pronunciation is per-uh-luh-s.  I think the ih having been changed to uh is a matter of our lazy speaking habits, but what do I know?

Your gf's claim that "in English singing the words are pronounced the same as spoken" is not entirely correct.  It should be "in English singing the words are pronounced the same as [they should be] spoken".  The problem is that we Americans are very sloppy with our language, and we mispronounce words routinely, often from laziness.  For example, when you sing the word I, it should be pronounced ah-ee.  It should be pronounced that way when spoken as well, but few people do in everyday language.

Don't let this issue drag you down.  If you're even aware of pronunciation, and make an effort to improve in that area, you're okay.  My issue is really with people who just don't make the effort to be their best.

Thanks for the feedback!

Jonas - Oct 17, 2015 12:57:56 — Thanks for the comments, Bill.  The invitation can be an honor.  Just don't start thinking it's all about you.  It isn't.  So knock yourself out, and avoid milk before you sing!
Bill - Oct 28, 2015 07:25:12 — Thanks for bringing up one of my pet peeves, "perilous". Another I was reminded of in the first World Series game last night is singers who slide "wave" into "o'er", or else actually think the flag waves "for the land of the free...". Any opinion on how long it should take? I've heard an instrumental version in just over 45 seconds and it sounded great. Singing takes longer but probably shouldn't be over 1:20.
Jonas - Oct 28, 2015 08:05:37 — Thanks for writing, Bill.  I've had some visitors dispute the "perilous" issue.  (See Eric - Oct 16, 2015 11:59:56 and my response.)

I think the slide from "wave" to "O'er" is just artistic liberty.  The music is not written that way.  It's written in 6/4, and "wave" is a fermata.  It goes straight from B ("wave") to G ("O'er") with no rest or break in between.  (But I don't know if I'm looking at the original music.)

Originally, the first verse would take about 42 seconds without an intro.  I like that pace, but no one really sings it that way.  I think it was probably slowed down decades ago to allow the audience to sing along, and the slower pace just stuck.  I agree that it "probably shouldn't be over 1:20".  One of the best versions I've heard is about 1:15.

You can get links to some of my favorites under my Jun 16, 2014 01:41:45 post on this page.  Just click the "more" link to read the full post.
CARALYN PERCY - Oct 31, 2015 01:12:37 — I have sung the National Anthem at many events including Fenway Park in Boston. I'm a professional singer with recording and lots of live performing experience. Your tips about writing down the words IS KEY and in addition UNDERSTANDING THE WORDS. I used a dictionary as well as researching the story of Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, by the way, before singing it a capella for a friend's documentary, MEASURE OF AMERICA (directed by Tom Solari). That was in the early 80s. My rendition is much better now but that first one was good enough to put on film. The research, my skilled voice, not operatic, by the way, and my full and complete understanding of this song, enables me to phrase it correctly so that people usually come up to me and say they 'cried' or they 'understood the song for the first time' or they were 'emotionally touched'. In fact, the last 2 times I sang the anthem, last week, at 2 different events, people came up to me and asked me to sing it at their events. But it starts with my skill as a singer, the fact that I can sing 'anything' a capella and stay on key, and I love this country. All of these things plus my full understanding of the words is what makes me love singing this song and the audiences enjoy it as well.
Mama Rose - Nov 8, 2015 09:46:46 — I really enjoyed your comments. What I would like to know is whether you have any advice for getting the NA gig for my daughter (who really is a great singer).
Jonas - Nov 9, 2015 10:18:07 — I'm not an expert here, but I would suggest you start by recording a good quality video, and upload it to YouTube or any other website.  It doesn't really matter which website, as long as others have access to it.  Avoid sending DVDs or video files, unless specifically requested.  Make it as easy as possible, and the easiest way for anyone to watch a video is to click a link and the video plays.

Prepare letters introducing yourself.  Include the full URL (the address to the video, e.g., http://www.whatever.com/my_video.avi).  Then deliver the letters personally.  If you can get a face-to-face meeting with someone important, great.  If not, leave the letter and follow up later with an email that includes the URL.  After that follow up with a phone call.

You can contact the musicians' union, but they may require you to join.  You can also go through a talent agency, which may require an exclusive agreement, i.e., you cannot sing anywhere unless the agency gets a cut.

You can go directly to the various venues.  Try to find out the names of those who would make the decisions at each venue.  Try any organizations that have special events and that include the SSB in those events.  If they don't include the SSB, maybe you can suggest they start.

Finally, follow up, follow up, follow up - with phone calls and personal visits.  If you're video was good, you'll eventually start making progress.  If you're video was not good, they'll ask you to leave.  In that case, move on to the next meeting and don't look back.

Good luck!
Mark - Feb 8, 2016 07:47:50 — Stan That drives me nuts. Only 3 notes to "banner," not 4!
Michael - Mar 30, 2016 08:49:10 — Hi Jonas, it's been awhile since I've sung the national anthem. I'd like any suggestions you may have. Thank you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9c9eO5B3uc
Lindsey - Apr 5, 2016 10:50:22 — Repeatedly mentioning Whitney? She admitted she faked it. These tips are for people who sing the National Anthem AT THE EVENT.
Jonas - Apr 7, 2016 07:23:22 — You seem angry about it, Lindsey.  You do have a point.  But as we now know, recording the national anthem as a back-up for major events like the Super Bowl is not uncommon.  Whitney did sing it for the recording, and did an amazing job.  She was a great singer.  So we mention her version because we can still use it as an example.  Not always a good example, but one that most people are familiar with.

Thanks for visiting, Lindsey!
Joselyn - Jun 15, 2016 02:08:16 — This is a great page, and I think I hit all your tips (without knowing them; I did the anthem a few weeks ago for a Crossfit box doing Murph), but would love your feedback. My biggest beef is that I didn't have a pitch pipe, and my trick to find the pitch (sing the third note, then see if I can go down a minor third - if I can, try it a half step lower. When I can't go any lower, I'm in the right key to ensure I can belt all the notes - my version of your tip #3) didn't work because, unbeknownst to me, my voice was a minor third lower than usual that day. https://www.facebook.com/joselyn.schutz/videos/vb.671353663/10154203540228664/?type=2&theater I'm hoping to do it at a major college or a pro sports game, but only if I'm not just lying to myself about my ability to do it well. I'll likely go up several keys and used mixed & head voice in the future, but I wanted to belt it all the first time, since that's easier when I'm nervous. TIA!
Jonas - Jun 18, 2016 12:44:00 — Well done, Joselyn, although it was a little low.  That's better than missing the high notes, though.  You did very well on the top end.  Even with a pitchpipe, our vocal range sometimes shifts.  I learned that if I go cycling for two or three hours before I sing, I can sing much higher (not that I could ever really sing to begin with, but...).

Breathing was excellent, even through that long phrase, "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave..."  All one breath!  Very smooth and seamless.  Impressive!

Thanks for the compliment and for taking this song so seriously.  Good luck at future events!
Aaron - Jun 29, 2016 02:41:29 — I completely agree about keeping up the pace. I've sang it twice now for a few SF Giants baseball games, and let me tell you, the experience is MUCH different than in practice. The stadium echo alone was a beast that I had to manage as whole new variable while not losing my concentration and/or pitch. I had to keep the pace and do my best to listen to my live self, not the stadium echo. I think I managed to pull it off though :) What do you think? Apologies ahead of time, the person taking the video started late due to the other camera dying right in the beginning, so you miss the first few phrases... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC-Ykp_ks3g
Jonas - Jun 29, 2016 05:12:21 — Pace is one thing, but your tempo was not consistent.  Had the pace been a little quicker, that probably would not be a problem.

What was worse than "perilous" was "rockits" (it's rockets...with an "e", as in bet, yet, fret, etc.).

Admit it - singing "...was still there" an octave higher was a little on the selfish side.

Good ear, as far as pitch, but just a little wobbly at times, probably due to nervousness.

Overall, Aaron, I think the fans liked it.  Thanks for sharing!
Dorinda Stewart - Sep 15, 2016 10:04:59 — Here's my video singing the anthem for our local minor league baseball team. Curious to hear your thoughts.... I welcome a good, honest critique as my friends and family are a little biased. :) https://youtu.be/K5x6BNtj6FQ
Jonas - Sep 16, 2016 01:54:36 — Okay, Ms. Stewart, you asked for it.

First of all, you have a great voice.  But you didn't come here to hear me praise you.  I'll leave that for your friends and family.

At the start, low volume, probably due to the low pitches.  But the audience needs to hear the very first words.  A few other minor pitch problems throughout, but you have a good ear and made corrections quickly.

I don't need to say anything about "perilous."

Tempo is inconsistent, but that's your style.  Too much "artistic liberty" for this song, IMHO.

A few breaths (or pauses) that I think should be left out.  "Oh, say does that star spangled banner yet wave", I believe, should be all one smooth, complete phrase - no breaths, no pauses, no breaks.  Tough to do, I know, but that's my opinion.  Also, "O'er the land (no breath here) of the free," and "And the home (no breath here) of the (no breath here) brave?"

Overall, excellent job!  Thanks for sharing!
Jenny - Sep 21, 2016 05:29:32 — I LOVE how over and over again individuals are told to not stray and get carried away with how to sing this song. My hubby and I always say we would LOVE the simplicity of the song, it's beauty in words to shine apart from someones overly creative kick, that is unnecessary, when the song itself is just beautiful. I hope many of you will just allow your voice to show it's raw emotion simply with your beautiful voices, singing the beautiful lyrics, without the thrills, or whatever they are called. It's like a crisp, delicious apple, just let us enjoy it...seriously, nothing else is needed. Sometimes, we must restrain ourselves, this is one of those times.ddd
Jonas - Sep 22, 2016 03:03:33 — Couldn't agree more, Jenny.  Thanks!
Annika - Dec 2, 2016 08:31:07 — I have sung the National Anthem several times (I actually have singing it at a pro football or pro baseball game on my bucket list), and I'm seventeen (I even sang it for a minor leafie baseball team, and for my high school football and basketball games).I have also listened to many others sing the National Anthem. What irks me is when they change keys during the Anthem. I heard that you're not supposed to change keys. Are you allowed to do that?
Shivani  - Mar 13, 2017 06:45:46 — Hi! I'm in my high school choir and have been in choir for about 3 years now. But, to move onto the next level of choir we must audition with the Star Spangled Banner. I only have a one octave range (F-F) so this song poses a threat. Is there anything I can do to get the high notes? Also we have to sing it a cappella and my pitch is really bad on some parts of the song. I really want to make the next level, and will anything to do so! Please help!
Barb - Aug 11, 2017 06:41:48 — I have sung the National Anthem literally hundreds of times. One stadium I have been singing at for 10 years is for spring training baseball games. Then this year, for the first time, something changed and now there is a DELAY! ARRGGHHH! I struggled the first time, went back for a 2nd time and struggled again. I'm going to give it one more shot but do you have any suggestions? I don't have the option of purchasing monitors at a baseball game! Maybe I should fill my ears with cotton?? !!! Any advice would be appreciated.
Jonas - Aug 11, 2017 07:29:32 — I've never had the delay or echo effects I hear about so often.  But I've often performed in places where I absolutely could not hear anything.  I used the Hear Back system from Hear Technologies (http://www.heartechnologies.com/hb/hearbacksystem.htm).  This system allowed each individual performer to mix the instruments/vocals for their own headphones or individual monitor(s).  I used headphones, so it blocked out just about everything except what was coming through the headphones.

Maybe a local music store has something similar they can rent to you.  But before you do that, check with the engineers at the stadium to see what they recommend, and how you might be able to tap into their system.

Otherwise, maybe the cotton will work.

Good luck!
Barb - Aug 12, 2017 05:13:45 — Thx Jonas. The delay really is a challenge but hopefully I can work it out. You would be proud of me tho...I SING IT STRAIGHT! And get compliments every time for doing so!
Lachie - Oct 2, 2017 10:20:44 — Hi I'm lachie I'm 16 and I really want to sing on stage but I feel so nervous
Candice Boston - Feb 15, 2018 03:00:22 — I have been singing the anthem at a local ball field for our minor league team. These tips are spot on! I sing a capella, but have been singing for years and was a vocal major in college. The staff at the ball field stress that the anthem should be sung "military style"...you have to sing it in 90 seconds or less. I am glad that they have this criteria. It keeps people from attempting to re-create what they hear on TV.
Ben Phung - Sep 3, 2018 11:28:13 — Check out the National Performances. Please see attached links for past National Anthem Performances: " Grace Symphony Orchestra - (Estimated audience: Less than 1000) https://youtu.be/uQWXUhr9LZc " Houston ISA Organization - Chili Cook Off Outdoor stadium (Estimated audience: Less than 2000) https://youtu.be/AoJIi_C60UU " Philippines Restaurant - (Estimated audience: Less than 50) https://youtu.be/SmbLO_lLYbw

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