The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key is a national treasure… and a BITCH TO SING!
Growing up, I could belt out the Star Spangled Banner like it was a simple nursery rhyme and I could never understand why everyone said it was so difficult to sing. You see, back then, I took my voice for granted and didn’t understand that, vocally and musically, I was a bit more gifted than the average joe. But now… now that years of abuse have taken their toll, I understand.
Why is the national anthem so difficult to sing? For a number of reasons!
But one reason trumps them all: a 12 note difference between the lowest note in the melody and the highest note in the melody. Imagine this: you’ve just sat down in the blistering heat or freezing cold waiting for the first pitch or kick-off; you’ve already consumed beer and something covered in cheese (chips, pretzel, hotdog, fries… the cheesy goodness at an American sporting event is endless ). You hear the familiar announcement and you stand (or kneel, or sit) for the national anthem. If you choose to participate in the singing, you, the average joe with the maybe less than average voice, are now required to tackle one of the biggest ranges in national anthem history (we’re talking world history here). It’s insanity – you’re not Whitney Houston (still THE GREATEST performance of the anthem EVER. Prerecorded or not!).
There are so many other reasons: the use of notes outside of the song’s key, the common use of “skips” and larger intervals, poor vowel placement… the list goes on. The question is not ‘Is the national anthem easy to sing?’, the question is ‘Should the national anthem be easy to sing?’ There is an argument for both sides, without a certain difficulty level, we wouldn’t have the appreciation for performances like that of Whitney.
Watch the video below and get a music lesson on why the Star Spangled Banner is such a difficult song to sing: