Tonight I am "leading" the USA national anthem -- The Star Spangled Banner -- with my violin. There will be a single singer who will, for all intents and purposes, actually lead, but I will accompany. I will probably be un-amplified, or, if amplified, with a mic on a stand. I have done it before, but I would like to be a little more of an expert on it this time;

For example,

  • What key is it traditionally played in? (I figure the singer will have an opinion, but on the other hand, she'll follow me anyway and may not know the difference...)
  • Should I play melody or fool around a little? (I'm improvising, no sheet music... (unless you have any suggestions))

  • Any other random little things I should know about playing for a large group to sing.

Thank you,

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    National anthems exist in many, many countries. They are not all in the same key. This isn't a well thought out question.
    – Tim
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 20:15
  • @Tim Excuse me! I should probably tell what country I'm from. I'm referring to the United States of America. Commented May 1, 2017 at 21:01
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    "I figure the singer will have an opinion, but..." Getting a good range for the singer's voice seems like the only thing that matters to me, so if you can't get her to decide, I dunno, I might look up random youtube videos of performances by people with similar voices and see what they do? Commented May 2, 2017 at 1:25
  • We ended up going in D, with a choice between that and E. I played melody (I was afraid to screw up a countermelody...) I knew that it would have a lot to do with the singer, but I wanted to know if there were any "best practices" so that I could do my best to adequately perform my duties. Commented May 2, 2017 at 5:52
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    Written in Ab, taken down to G, with a range of just over an octave and a half. Various recordings in Bb and B, so your D was quite far away! But if she sung it, great. Don't know about everyone else though! Every vocalist should know their range, thus key for various songs. It's in their interest.
    – Tim
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 6:39

1 Answer 1



You need to agree on a key that suits the vocalist. You will need to play a short introduction, maybe just 'and the home of the brave', so that she knows what note to start on. The chances of you both hitting the same note, out of thin air, are not high! Here in Britain, the tradition is to play our National Anthem 'straight'. In the US, I note that there's a lot more freedom. Pop singers mangle it, and are applauded! So, if you fancied a bluegrass version, it seems you'd get away with it :-) But, as always, the advice is not to try anything complicated unless you're VERY sure it will work. So just play the tune, and hope she just sings the tune.


Have fun, and I'm sorry about Trump.

  • Thank you for the advice. We did of course have a brief meeting before the event. And yes, it never fails to amaze me how utterly awful some people can make the national anthem. As far as Trump, he's certainly kept me on the edge of my seat. Commented May 3, 2017 at 20:32

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