4 Ways to Play Happy Birthday on Guitar (Part 1)

4 Ways to Play Happy Birthday on Guitar (Part 1)

In this lesson, we are going to look at how to play the birthday song on the guitar in FOUR different ways. The song will be arranged in ways that can be played on your own or with your friends. Moreover, this will serve as an illustration or brief summary of the previous topics we have looked into, i.e. rhythm vs. lead, strumming patterns and how to read a guitar tab.

1. Chord Solo

Chord Solo

With this tab, you play both the chord and melody yourself.

Is it tedious to play continually in this way? Let’s see how it can be re-organized.

2. Lead and Rhythm

Lead and Rhythm

Remember we have talked about the roles of a lead guitarist and a rhythm guitarist inside a band? This is very close to the concept of accompaniment for the theme in a composition. Accompaniment is the musical part (rhythm guitar) which provides the rhythmic and/or harmonic support for the melody or main themes of an instrumental piece, in this case, the melodic line that the lead guitar plays. Can you see how the rhythm guitar provides the beat for the music and outline the chord progression of the song?

Beat – Strumming Patterns

As you can see from the tab, the strumming pattern that used by the rhythm guitarist is a three-beat alternate strumming pattern, which shows that the song is in 3/4 time.

Strumming Patterns

Most songs, however, you hear are in 4/4 time, which means you count out four even beats. Those four even beats are quarter notes. Find out more on the 6 Ways to Strum in 4/4 Time and the 5 Essential Strumming Patterns in Pop Music.

Harmony – Chord

The rhythm guitar has created a harmonious chord progression simply with 3 chords, C, F and G. In the key of C major, the progressions are as follow:

Progression 1: I-IV

Example: C-F
Tonic (I)—C chord in the 4th bar changed into subdominant (IV)—F chord in the 7th bar.

Progression 2: I-V

Example: C-G
Tonic (I)—C chord in the 2nd bar changed into dominant (V)—G chord in the 3rd bar.

Along with the above progressions, the I-IV-V is also the most common chord progression in popular music. When people talk about “three-chord rock and roll,” this is the chord progression they’re referring to.

Embellishment – dynamics & rhythms

The third thing which makes the music piece more interesting is the dynamics and rhythms added, including the accents—emphases placed on a particular note, the fermata—the sustaining of a note or a chord longer than the indicated time value, the crescendo—a gradual, steady increase in loudness or force and decrescendo the other way round.



Crescendo & Decrescendo

Would like to learn more Notation Symbols in Tabs? Let’s look deeply into How to Read Guitar Tabs.

Now, you can play the birthday song on your own or with one of your friends. What if I have one more friend to join in? Try out the TRIO version! Click me >> 4 Ways to Play Happy Birthday on Guitar (Part 2) to get the tab! Enjoy!