Happy Birthday easy guitar chords

After playing guitar for 20 years, I would say that if I had to name 1 song that I've played most often in front of kids, it would be Happy Birthday.

If you want to learn how to play Happy Birthday on the guitar, I have great news for you.

It involves playing just a few simple beginner chords on your guitar.

And singing of course. Can't help you there, I've been told on occasion that my singing voice stings ears like needles 🙂

Let's get to it.

Here are the chords, after which I'll also give you the strumming pattern I use, then a surprise at the end.

Guitar chords to Happy Birthday in G

You can play this song in many different keys. Most people will choose the key that fits their voice better.

I like playing it in the key of G, I think this is the classic version:

  • G
  • D
  • D7
  • C

You can transpose these chords to different keys if you wish, I'll give you the chords in other keys as well in a second.

You can also use a capo to create a higher voicing.

G majorD majorD7C major
Gmaj-chord1Dmaj-chord1D7-chord1Cmaj-chord1
[/su_table]

Now let's learn to simultaneously sing AND play Happy Birthday on the guitar.

Keep in mind that Happy Birthday is in 3/4 time, which means that there are 3 beats to a measure.

Happy { G } birthday to { D } you
Happy { D7 } birthday to { G } you
Happy birthday dear { C } YOUR_NAME
Happy { G } birthday { D7 } to { G } you

There you have it, nice and easy.

The "secret" to getting the singing and melody of Happy Birthday right is the timing!

Notice that with each line, the first chord starts after the word "Happy", when you sing "birthday". If you start the chord at the beginning of the line when you sing "Happy", your melody will be off. I made this mistake for ages, before finally realizing what was wrong.

Here are some more voicings if you don't like the key of G.

Happy Birthday guitar chords in key of D

This one is in the key of D, which is also nice. It is a higher sounding version because of the starting D chord.

D majorA majorA7G major
Dmaj-chord1Amaj-chord1A7-chord1Gmaj-chord1

Happy { D } birthday to { A } you
Happy { A7 } birthday to { D } you
Happy birthday dear { G } YOUR_NAME
Happy { D } birthday { A7 } to { D } you

Happy Birthday chords in key of C

If you're looking for even more variety, here are the chords in the key of C. This one has a barre chord though, so it's not for guitar newbies.

C majorG majorG7F major
Cmaj-chord1Gmaj-chord1G7-chord2Fmaj-chord2

Happy { C } birthday to { G } you
Happy { G7 } birthday to { C } you
Happy birthday dear { F } YOUR_NAME
Happy { C } birthday { G7 } to { C } you

Strumming pattern to Happy Birthday

It's fairly easy to come up with a simple strumming pattern for this song. You could actually just strum the chords down-up non stop, and it would still sound good because of the shuffle rhythm.

Oh yes, that is important: you will need to use a swing feel, not straight.

Here is the strumming pattern I tend to use, but feel free to make up your own. It seems a bit complicated at first, but you'll get it with a bit of practice. It moves nicely with the rhythm of the song.

DU D DU UD D DU U
↓↑ ↓ ↓↑ ↑↓ ↓ ↓↑ ↑

Happy Birthday guitar melody notes + chords

Here is a real treat for you if you want to learn a nice fingerpicking melody version to Happy Birthday.

This one is in the key of C, meaning you'll be playing the chords from the key of C, and add melody notes that mimic the lyrics you would sing. Don't worry, you'll find the exact tabs below.

I really think you'll love this, it is a wonderfully full-sounding version that is easy to learn. Learn it, play it to your little ones on their birthdays, and watch their faces light up.

Remember that the song is in 3/4 time, and notice that the initial 2 plucks at the open G string don't start on the 1st beat of the measure, rather on the 3rd beat. Also, be mindful of the chords you're playing over. Even though you don't play entire chords, you're outlining them. Being aware of this makes the song easier to learn.

Here is the tablature to Happy Birthday, enjoy!

E|----------------------|-------------|----------------------|-------------|
B|----------------------|--------1----|--0-------------------|--------3----|
G|--------------0--0----|--2--0-------|--0-----------0--0----|--2--0-------|
D|----------------------|--2----------|--0-------------------|--0----------|
A|----------------------|--3----------|----------------------|-------------|
E|----------------------|-------------|--3-------------------|--3----------|

|----------------------|--3--0-------|--------------1--1----|--0----------|
|--1-------------------|--1-----1----|--0-------------------|--1--1--3----|
|--0-----------0--0----|--0----------|--0-----2-------------|--0-----0----|
|--2-------------------|-------------|--2-----3-------------|--------0----|
|--3-------------------|--3----------|--3-----3-------------|--3----------|
|----------------------|-------------|----------------------|--------3----|

|-------||
|--1----||
|--0----||
|--2----||
|--3----||
|-------||

Here is what it should sound like in the end. If you have GuitarPro 7, I tabbed it out for you, you can download it here.

And there you have it, you have just learned how to play one of the most popular songs in the world.

Regardless of where your travels may take you, take comfort in the fact that you'll be able to whip out your guitar and play an internationally renown song at any time.

8 Comments

Leave a Reply