Happy Birthday To You – Chords, Tabs and Sheet Music

happy birthday to you guitar

The song Happy Birthday To You is one of the most recognized songs in the English-speaking world. Everybody has already sung it to celebrate the birthday of a friend or a family member. The song has been translated in at least 18 languages, mostly in the Western world. Let’s get to know the origin and history of the song and then how to play it on the guitar. There are different ways to play it and we will start with a very easy version where you just need one string of your guitar! But we will also show you how to play Happy Birthday to you with easy basic chords and provide you some free PDF downloads like the sheet music for your practicing or lessons!

History and Origin of Happy Birthday

Originally, the song has been composed by two US American sisters, Patty Hill and Milfred J. Hill, who were kindergarten teachers. At this time the title of the song was “Good Morning to All” with completely different lyrics. Their aim was to create a song, which is easy to sing for young kids. So, initially the song was rather a nursery rhyme. It’s not known who changed the original lyrics after to the lyrics that we know nowadays. The first time the song has been published with the lyrics Happy Birthday to you was in 1912. Today the song is used to sing for somebody’s birthday when putting the birthday cake on the table.

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Tabs for Happy Birthday to You

If you want to play a song on the guitar there are basically two ways. Either you pick the strings individually, which is called fingerpicking, or you use chords and strum the string at the same time. We will start with a fingerpicking version because there is a very easy version for Happy Birthday to you! You can actually play it on just one string of your guitar. We will then explore a more advanced fingerpicking version where we use several string and for sure we also learn a strumming version of this song.

1. Level: Playing only on One Guitar String

guitar playing on 1 string

Since we find all the needed music notes for Happy Birthday to you on one string, we start with this easy version first. It’s a pretty good exercise for beginners since they have only to focus on picking one string and moving only one finger of the left hand up and down on this string. In this way, we also get more familiar with the notes of the string that we use. So, push down the string with your index or middle finger of your left hand. Pluck the string with the thumb of your right hand.

How to read Guitar Tabs

Using horizontal lines as strings and numbers on those lines to represent the fret you should play, tablature gives us the guidance we need to start picking away at songs and their melodies. The strings are “upside-down”, meaning that the high sounding E is the highest line on your tablature. A zero (0) means you play the string open without any fingers on any frets. Learn more about reading guitar tabs!

Here are the tabs for Happy Birthday to you on one string:

Happy Birthday - Guitar Tabs One String

Below is a recording of how it should sound. You can play along and if it’s too fast, just slow it down.

On the tabs above you see that we play it on the first string but you can actually play the same pattern on any other string as well. Try for example the 6th string (low E string) to have a pretty low version of the song.

2. Level: Playing on several Guitar Strings

guitar 3 strings

Could you master the melody on one string. Let’s increase the difficulty a bit and play it on the same melody on several strings. This is actually also much more common and efficient. And you have probably noticed that playing the song on just one string required nearly the whole guitar neck. We went up to the 12th fret. Playing this melody on just one string with a classical guitar could be already quite challenging. The advantage of using all your guitar strings is that you don’t have to move your left hand too much along the neck of the guitar but we stay rather close to the guitar head. Of course, you now have to use several fingers and pluck different strings, but this is an excellent exercise and you will get used to it!

Here are the tabs for playing the nursery rhyme on the first three strings:

Happy Birthday to You - Guitar Tabs

Again, you can listen to the recording to check your playing and see how it should sound.

Chords for Happy Birthday to you

Fingerpicking is a good exercise on the guitar and it’s beginner-friendly way to get familiar with the melody of a song. But if you want to sing and play at the same time then you should explore the song with guitar chords. You can find different ways to play this song by chords but let’s start with an easy version. This means we are using some basic guitar chords and the key of C, which is also easy to sing for most of the people.

The chords that you need for Baa Baa Black Sheep are the chords C and G and F.

C Chord Guitar
G Chord Guitar
F Chord Guitar

If you already master the C, G and F chord and know how to change between them it will be no big deal for to play the song! If not, practice first these three basic guitar chords individually and try to play the sequence C-G-F with simple down strums.

As a beginner we should always start playing a new song slowly. This means that we only do a down strum on each chord change. This gives us enough time for changing between the chords that we have just learned without worrying too much about a strumming pattern. Also, singing is much easier in the beginning if you just do one down strum on every chord change. Once you master it, you can apply a strumming pattern.


Happy CBirthday To GYou
Happy Birthday To D You
Happy Birthday To You “NFame”
Happy CBirthday GTo YCou
Make your Lessons more Fun!
Easy Chord Sheets designed for Kids
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coloring pages guitar chords
Make your Lessons more Fun!
Easy Chord Sheets designed for Kids
coloring pages guitar chords

Sheet Music for Happy Birthday to you

If you are not a beginner and you know how to play the guitar and understand music theory, then you probably know how to read sheet music as well! Especially guitar teachers and parents who are advanced guitar players prefer sheet music.

Happy Birthday Sheet Music Guitar

Free PDF printables for Happy Birthday To You

If you prefer to print the chords version, tabs or sheet music in order to practice or for your lessons, then feel free to download our free worksheets!

Happy Birthday Guitar Tabs Sheet Music Download

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