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Violin Lessons: Star Spangled Banner

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The American National Anthem, The Star
Spangled Banner, I like to play it pretty
close to the text, pretty close to the
original rhythms, and in the original key.
I don't like to play around and make it
overly expressive.
Now, this original key is B flat.
And, a lot of times with flat keys,
you'll find on the violin that it's very
useful to play in the even position.
So, two, and four.
And, so it's great to get some practice at
that early on.
So, why is that?
In flat keys, we get to use fewer of our
open strings, and
the patterns just work out better when
we're in the second and fourth position,
and this is gonna be an example.
This is also going to give us some
practice at reaching with the hand and
reaching with fingers and
following with the hand later, as well as
leaving fingers down to secure intonation.
One of the first things you encounter in
this tune is a dotted rhythm.
And, always, with dotted rhythms, you need
to think of the character.
Is it going to be really snappy?
Almost aggressive?
Is it going to be very gentle?
Is going to turn almost, into a triplet?
You have to decide that before you're even
gonna start this tune.
So if I were to play it more as a triplet,
very gently, almost no articulation.
To me, that
doesn't sound quite right.
Not to mention that it wasn't written as a
So, although it is written as a dotted
rhythm, it's still a song and
it sounds a little funny with words to
say, you know,
oh, oh say, can, so we stop short of
making it really snappy.
We just put enough articulation to get the
notes out and
to make it a true dotted rhythm.
So, now that we've got that settled, you
can look at the opening and
where I choose to use open strings and
fourth fingers.
I don't want to have a string crossing on
my very second note so
I do that as an open string.
Then the very next note, I play a fourth
finger and that one could go either way.
But I would rather not crossover to the G
string just for one note.
So, I play that second D as a fourth
And as long as you make some smooth string
no one's going to know the difference.
Well, it has to be in tune also.
Now these first fingers because we're in B
flat we've got low ones for B flat,
but you'll notice the third bar of A,
we've already got an E natural.
So make your low ones really low.
Make the high ones quite high.
Right up next to the second finger.
So one and two should
be right next to each other.
You'll notice too that I get my, when I'm
about to make a string crossing,
I get the new finger onto the string
So the two moves over early,
the one moves over early.
That's just going to be a general feature
of violin playing.
Because it takes some of the burden off
the arm to make a perfect string crossing.
And it, it just smooths everything out.
It helps intonation.
It helps, it helps everything.
Because in the end, violin playing is not
just like singing is not mechanical.
So when you're playing songs, you want
everything to move smoothly.
Look now at the pick up to B.
Here's where I'm going to move into second
We did the opening in first position just
to try that out, but
now pick up to B we're gonna be in second
get to reach back for
that E natural.
Now the pick up to C, we've got double
string crossing.
We're gonna skip over the D string
So lead with your arm, so that you're
looking at your arm level first.
Don't try to do
all of that just with the hand.
And now at two before D, that's another
chance to reach back for
an E natural, and you do it during an open
And then the hand follows of course.
D, figure D is a reach up to second
position and
then the hand follows, and now look at
three after D.
There you'll be shifting as you usually
would with a guide finger.
Your guide finger is
your first finger, and
it goes up to a B-flat.
And that's so it's right in position
when you actually play a B-flat with that
first finger.
So of course we don't want to hear the
shift and so
that motion happens in the space during
the bow change.
But it's great
to practice that shift,
hearing the guide motion.
Then you simply substitute
the second finger for
the first.
Reach over
with the two.
And now at letter E, got that first finger
locked back in on B-flat.
We've had it there for a little while, in
fourth position, still leave it there.
The biggest mistake you could make right
there, would be to pick up that one,
how are you going to get that same B flat
So, just leave it.
You hear me say it all the time,
but leave that one down, then you'll come
right back to it.
And finally, the bar before the end,
there's time for a little bow circle.
Almost every singer and
instrumentalist will make a retard there,
and so you'll need more bow.
So, you make a circle.
To end our anthem.