How to Play ‘Happy Birthday’

As a musician there are some things you just have to do and playing ‘Happy Birthday’ is one of them. Trouble is it isn’t that easy to do !

First it is in 3/4 time which means there are 3 beats in each bar. It is hard to get 4/4 or regular time out of your head because 4/4 is all you hear mostly. Step 1 then is to count to yourself  “1_2_3_1_2_3_” to try and get that 3/4 feel into your head.

Playing it in the key of G is a good idea – ‘Happy Birthday’ has an octave range in it so can be hard to get the high note if you don’t start low enough.

The first note for singing ‘Happy Birthday’ is D which is the 4th string on your guitar ( Find the 4th string if you are not sure by counting up 4 strings from the 1st or thinnest string ) so pick that note for a start and try and get everyone who is singing ready to start on the same note. The first singing note “Happy…” is the 5th of the chord G so can be tricky for people to find by themselves if you just strum the chord G for them – better to give them the note.

Remember this is the only time a lot of people ever sing so it is up to us musicians to try and help them through it and up to us to try and make it as tuneful as possible.

P.S. remember that your family needs a plumber, your family needs a doctor and every now and then your family needs a musician and hey, we’re ready !!


43 Responses to “How to Play ‘Happy Birthday’”

  1. Hi there. I just found this site, and the Happy Birthday video. I just wanted to offer my profound thanks to you for making this video. I have been playing (so to speak, more like practicing) guitar for only 3 weeks, and my wifes birthday is in 2 days. I am no longer worried about it. In fact, I could play it for her right now, just from having watched this video a few times and practicing it. It’s the first actual “song” I have played! Thanks again! :)

  2. Hi JD.

    Thank you for this video. Your explanation was very clear and easy to follow. Thanks to your tuition I’ll be playing my first “public” performance of this essential song in a couple of weeks at a firend’s 50th birthday.

  3. This video was so helpful… i was learning how to play the guitar 2 days ago and today is my uncles birthday. i really wanted to do something to suprise him. now i can play the whole song. im so happy.

    thank you so much!!

  4. cheers

  5. ty it was easy for me coz i been playin for about a year im 14 so i knew the D G anf C chords but u didnt explain them. apart from that it was great thank u

  6. ty it was a great help

  7. thank you for this video it rocks it was a reall help

  8. Thank you so much! my daughter 3rd birthday is in a couple of weeks I really hope I can get it right in front of her little friends. your video was a huge help!!

  9. wow!! i just took 10 minutes to learn the whole song!!
    now i can play it really well!!

  10. cool

  11. geras cia buwo, greit ismokau

  12. Hi.
    Thanks for this video,it was grait.
    Now can i play this song on the piano and on the guitar.
    I’m sorry,my English isn’t so good.

  13. thankyou soo much you had a nice voice and a nice guitar

  14. Thanks for this wonderful video. Is it possible I can get the tab for it. I am a slow learner. Thank You so Much!

  15. Have to thank you very very much. Watched and learned in less than ten minutes. What else can you teach us???

  16. hi that was great . might be playin this in front of my best friend on her birthday. thanks again

  17. i dont have a guitar yet,

    but i do know how to play,

    happy birthday song,

    thanks!! :D

  18. awesome man! thanks soo much. i needed to know how to play to badly and you show a easy and good way to play. thanks!

  19. hey, this is great! thanks, keep it coming if possible =)

  20. for some reason mine dont sound as good as yours but your great

  21. hey dood, thanks a million, this be the first song ive ever played b4 and i intent to play it for me sis’s bday, wich happens to be 2moz, so i gotta rpactice, practice, practice, thx again, i owe u one, cheers!! X}

  22. thanks man; now i can play for my grandmother!

  23. Playing this song for my wife today for her birthday. I have been playing three months and know how to play a bunch of country and religious songs, so this was a nice simple change. I appreciate the video! VERY easy to follow-

  24. awesome song i am plaing it on fri. withh my brother and cousin for my uncles b-day$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ it rocks

  25. I bought acoustic guitar Yamaha FGX720SCA last christmas and started to learn chord and progression, I found this website and try playing this Happy Birthday.

    It is an Exellence! way of teaching to play the song. Now I can play with smooth timing and changes chord, I even can play with chinese lyric.

    I wanted to play my favourite song “When you say nothing at all”- Ronan Keating for my wife.

    Could you do a video demo how to play this song with an intro of finger picking and goes into strumming.

  26. Best Video and help ever on WEB for this song!!!

  27. thanks, man i can play simple chords and this is helpful for my boys (6 and 3) who are interested in music and they wanted mom to play the happy birthday song in a guitar and i have not done this for a very long time and this just brought back some of my skills!appreciate the video…… thanks from mom in Florida

  28. Hi Mr JD,

    Thank you very much, this video of yours is really very helpful,
    and you are very friendly and good in teaching, once again, thank you very much, i wish you all the best in your everyday :D

  29. How do you strum this song? Is it down down down? Im a beginner and cant seem to get it to sound right.

  30. thanx

  31. can i get the chord sheet to that

  32. nice song i’ll be playing it!!

  33. IT ACTUALLY ISNT THAT HARD

  34. Thanks so much!!!

  35. this was great ,thanks,made a lot of sens now

  36. i really love this website..good job mate…

  37. whew..for two months i have been looking for a nice video on happy birthday..thanks for the rescue mate

  38. I need to learn how to play happy birthday!!!

  39. :) :) =) >:O

  40. how to wish happy birthday to my friend arisha give me tune please

  41. Thank you, JD. I have 4 months to learn and practice this before I play for my grandson.

  42. :D nice!!

  43. First song I’ve ever been able to play!!!

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