One of the most easily recognizable songs that we all know by heart is the Happy Birthday song. Because of this familiarity with the melody, it makes it the perfect song for beginner guitar players to learn to play.
We will start learning this song in a simple key and then as we progress, I will show you how you can change keys to suit your singing voice. Ready to jump in? Let's start with the basics, the chords!
Happy Birthday Guitar Chord Chart
Happy Birthday Chords
To make things easy we’re going to play this in the key of G. This is a good key for the guitar. We’ll start off with a three finger G chord. I like to use my pinky.
Another benefit of this chord is it changes to the D chord very well.
Upgraded Chord Versions
This is a good alternative G chord to know. It starts as the three finger G chord. From there you add your ring finger to the 2nd string, 3rd fret.
The Upgraded C chord (also known as Cadd9) is an easy transition from the G. Just move your 1st and 2nd fingers over one string to the 5th and 4th strings.
The D chord is the same.
Throughout the chord movements keep the 3rd finger anchored on the 2nd string, 3rd fret. This makes all the chord changes easier and faster.
By the way, if any of these chords are new to you, spend a few minutes just getting used to playing them. A good technique is to form the chord, then release it without strumming. Form the chord again, and release.
Once that feels comfortable you can add in strums. Adjust your fingers as you need to if you get any buzzing or muted strings.
How To Play Happy Birthday On Acoustic Guitar
Now let’s put the chords together to play the song. Use whichever G chord sounds the best to you. The song is in 3/4 (three-four) time. That means there are three beats per measure.
Here is the chord pattern. Each chord represents one measure (three beats):
(Check out 5:05 in the video to play along and see how it sounds)
In this version there was one strum per beat. You can also add a different strumming pattern to this song to make it more interesting. Check out 6:04 in the video to learn this version.
When you’re ready to play the song all the way through with the melody and the strum, fast forward to 8:06 in the video!
Bonus! Change The Key To Fit Your Voice
For many people the key of G works for their vocal range. But sometimes you’ll find that a key is either too low or too high for your voice.
If it’s too low we’re going to use something called a capo. A capo lets you raise the pitch of your guitar one fret (or half step) at a time. You play the chord shapes the same but they’ll sound higher in pitch.
If you have a capo, put it on the second fret and play the song. You’re still using the G, C, and D chord shapes. But the actual chords are different (A, D, and E) since you’re a full step up (two frets).
But what if the song is too high for you without a capo? You can’t make the capo lower than your standard tuning. What you’d do is use the capo and sing an octave lower. Keep moving it up until you find a spot that works for your voice.
Try it on the second fret. If singing it an octave lower sounds too low, move it up a couple frets and try that. Keep doing this until you find a key that works for you.
Get The Download Here
Was it helpful to show you how to change the key of the song with a capo? Let me know in the comment field below, and let me know what key works best for your voice!