Since Happy Birthday is now free of dubious copyright claims, it’s time to do a few new arrangements of the tunes. In this post I’ve written up two beginner-level tabs. They’re a great place to start if you’re new to single note playing. All you need to know is how to read tab and you’re good to go.
For such a familiar and straightforward song, there’s some unexpected oddness going on. Vi Hart has an excellent video covering the weirdness of the now invalid copyright of the lyrics and the strangenesses of the tune that have developed over time.
But, in the spirit of keeping things straightforward, I’ve ignored her and shaved out some of the oddities (but I do at least feel guilty about it).
The tab for the solo version is all played with just the thumb on the picking hand. It’s very minimal and focuses heavily on the melody. It does incorporate some chords as well. For the most part you strum down across the strings and let your thumb come to rest on the A-string (so you don’t play it). You only strum across all strings at the start of bars 5 and 7.
The busiest bar is bar 7 where each beat has a new chord. You can simplify this if you like and drop the Dm chord and just play the E-string, first fret.
The lead line of the duet tab is very similar to the solo version but has all the chord bits removed. So you’re just playing one note at a time. It’s worth learning this version first so you have the melody down before moving on to the solo version.
The backing part plays the chords with just three downstrums per bar. No need for anything fancier than that.
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