Today’s lesson was a highly-requested one: How to play Happy Birthday on piano. This seemingly easy song is not as widely known as you think by the pianists out there. This tutorial is here for you!
Get the free printable of this tutorial here: https://brendaearle30.activehosted.com/f/37
“Gary will play while we sing Happy Birthday!” GULP
I’ll never forget the party I attended, where several high-level classical pianists were unable to sit down and bash out Happy Birthday. They could play Rachminanoff, but were unable to play this simple song!
I’m sure you’ve been in a similar situation. Someone says “Hey! Gary plays piano – he’ll play Happy Birthday while we sing!” And you slink away, totally embaressed. Those days are over – let’s learn this sucker!
Happy Birthday Piano Basics
The first thing to understand is that Happy Birthday is in 3/4 time. That means there are three beats in each bar.
Most groups singing Happy Birthday sound like mooing cows – have you ever noticed this? Unless all of your besties are in the New York City opera, then you’ll probably want to pitch the song on the lower side so you don’t strain any voices! The key of C is the perfect key for people to sing in and is nice and easy to play!
Happy Birthday Lyrics and Chords
This is a simple starting point if you just want to learn the basic shape of the song. Notice that the chords are written where they are played in the lyrics.
Happy Birthday Piano Music
In this fully notated piano music, you’ll see that I used smooth voice leading to move from chord to chord. Your left hand will play the root (bass note) of each chord, while your right hand plays the chords.
Happy Birthday with the Introduction
In this version of Happy Birthday, I give you a short and snappy introduction. This will help to get everyone singing in the same key and indicate when it’s time to start singing. Feel free to ham it up a bit!
Happy Birthday with the Introduction – Pulsing Chord Accompaniment
In this final version of Happy Birthday, we will play a more march-like rhythm in the right hand. This will add to the drama and help to better lead the rhythm with your wild-and-crazy friends. Notice I have also included the introduction to get everyone in the right key and singing at the same time!
Every pianist from beginner to professional should have a few songs in their hip pocket to break out at parties. You never know when you’ll be asked to sit down and lead a singalong!
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