Monday, 25 February 2013

3-Chord Songs, part 5: Happy Birthday to You on the Ukulele

Every ukulele player should know how to play Happy Birthday. It's the one song we are all guaranteed of singing at least a few times a year, and it's one of the easiest to learn.

Here are three simple versions, all in the key of F. Playing in F means that the lowest note in the song is also the lowest note on a reentrant-tuned ukulele: the open C string. Thus we can pick out the melody using the three bottom strings and very little hand movement.

Method 1: Chords Only

This is the most basic arrangement of the song. Strum the chords and sing along.

F                 C7
Happy Birthday to you
                  F
Happy Birthday to you
                      Bb
Happy Birthday, dear (you)
      F        C7  F
Happy Birthday to  you
  

Method 2: Picking the Melody

Here is a simple melody version. It is laid out as if you are holding your uke ready to play, but have your fretboard turned toward you; thus, in GCEA tuning, the top line of dashes represents the "A" string, and the bottom line is the "G" string. A "0" indicates plucking the open string, and numbers show where you fret the string while plucking it.

|--------------|--------------|--------------|--------------|
|--------------|--1--0--------|--------------|--3---1-------|
|-0-0---2---0--|--------------|-0-0---2---0--|--------------|
|--------------|--------------|--------------|--------------|
 Happy Birthday  to you        Happy Birthday   to you

|-------3---0--|--------------|-1-1---0------|--------------|
|--------------|--1----0------|-----------1--|--3--1--------|
|-0-0----------|----------2---|--------------|--------------|
|--—-----------|--------------|--------------|--------------|
 Happy Birthday  dear (yo-u)   Happy Birthday   to you


Method 3: Picking + Chords

Finally, we can combine the two methods of playing. The melody is picked, as above, but chords are also strummed at the end of each phrase.

                  F  C7                         C7 F
|--------------|--0--1--------|--------------|--1--0--------|
|--------------|--1--0--------|--------------|--0--1--------|
|-0-0---2---0--|--0--0--------|-0-0---2---0--|--0--0--------|
|--------------|--2--0--------|--------------|--0--2--------| 
 Happy Birthday  to you        Happy Birthday   to you   

                          Bb                    C7 F
|-------3---0--|----------1---|-1-1---0------|--1--0--------|
|--------------|--1----0--1---|-----------1--|--0--1--------|
|-0-0----------|----------2---|--------------|--0--0--------|
|--—-----------|----------3---|--------------|--0--2--------| 
 Happy Birthday dear  (yo-u)   Happy Birthday   to you


Extra: "And many more..."

The arrow (->) shows a slide from the 2nd to 3rd fret; the tilde (~) is for vibrato.

|----------------|
|----------------|
|-0--2-0--2->3~~~|
|----------------|
 and many more...

If you want to get extra fancy, make that slide into an F7 chord:

             F7
|------------0---|
|------------1~~~|
|-0--2-0--2->3~~~|
|---------1->2~~~|
 and many more...

A printable .pdf file with all three ways of playing Happy Birthday in F can be found here.

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