Wednesday, 27 February 2013

3-Chord Songs, part 6: The Happy Birthday Chord Pattern

Knowing how to play Happy Birthday is useful for more than just birthday parties. The chord progression happens to fit a very common pattern, which might be thought of as:


The I-chord in parentheses is sometimes absent, but typically the song follows the Happy Birthday phrasing of:

I                 V
Happy Birthday to you

V                 I
Happy Birthday to you

I                 IV
Happy Birthday to you

      I        V  I
Happy Birthday to you

Notice how the first line rocks from I to V, and the second line rocks back again from V to I. (I've written the V over start of the second line, even though it is not strictly necessary, to illustrate this symmetry.)

Then the new element of the IV is added, and the last line brings back a brief amount of tension with the V again before resolving.

(If I, IV and V aren't making sense, please refer to the first chart in this post to find ukulele chord substitutions.)

The same, or at least a similar, pattern can be found in all or parts of the following songs:
  1. For He's a Jolly Good Fellow
  2. Brahm's Lullabye
  3. If You're Happy And You Know It
  4. Goodnight, Irene
  5. So Long, It's been Good To Know You
  6. When The Saints Go Marching In
  7. Sloop John B
  8. Glory of Love
  9. Don't Fence Me In
  10. Save The Last Dance For Me
  11. The Ballad of Jed Clampett (theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies)
  12. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
  13. Under The Boardwalk
  14. Tiny Bubbles
  15. When I'm 64
  16. Ob-La-Di
  17. Hey Jude
  18. Song Sung Blue
I would love to be able to round that list out to an even 20. If you find any other Happy Birthday-type songs, please leave them in the comments and I'll add them with credit to you, of course. Thanks!

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