They Might Be Giants – Birdhouse in Your Soul (Tab)

TMBG – Birdhouse in Your Soul

There is a lot going on in this song. Slate claims it has 18 key changes in it. But you have to be very generous to get that high. For the most part I think of the song being in C but using both C major and C minor. That’s not too unusual in a rock song. But it is unusual just how much they do it and how far they stretch things before returning home.

The one real key change comes in the solo/middle section where the F#m and E set up a repeat of the intro but this time in the key of A rather than C.

I’m throwing a whole bunch of different techniques at this song. In the smooth sections (the intro and middle) I’m using fake strums. In the loud bits (like the start of the chorus and the bridge) I’m strumming. In the bouncy sections (like the end of the intro and the, “Not to put too fine a point…” bit of the chorus) I’m using thumb and two finger picking. And at the end of the chorus, in the verses and the solo I’m using one finger per string picking.


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Bonus: TMBG – Older (Intro)

Older (Intro Uke 1)

Older (Intro Uke 2)

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View Comments


  1. Brice October 13th, 2017 2:43 pm

    This is a great song and you make it looks so easy. This is not an easy song, at least not for me.

  2. Woodshed October 13th, 2017 6:23 pm

    Brice: Thanks! Not for me either. I’ve been working on it for a couple of months.

  3. juleto October 15th, 2017 12:18 am

    I feel like I have been waiting my whole life for this.

    Great job Woodshed. Fantastic.

  4. Woodshed October 15th, 2017 11:35 am

    juleto: Thanks so much! Have fun with it.

  5. Joe October 23rd, 2017 11:37 pm

    Hi. That’s a really skilful arrangement. Thanks.

    I’m glad that you resisted the claim from Slate that it includes 18 key changes. That is a little silly. To my reckoning it has two or possibly three key changes. If we allow three, these are (1) the start of the instrumental passage which, to my ears, has a minor key feel, so I’d say that’s a shift to the relative minor (if a shift to the relative minor counts as a key change), (2) the second section of the instrumental which is an undoubted key change, giving F#m, and (3) to the repetition of the intro but in A rather than C (as you mention)

    Clearly the writer at Slate wants to include the shift in the chorus from C to Eb (I think you suggest that it’s Cm but I would suggest that it remains in a major mode – though I’m happy to defer to your superior ear on this matter). Certainly the chorus is adventurous harmonically, but that change – where they sing “not to put too fine a point on it” represents a very “active” change but not a full modulation, and, indeed, it quickly resolves back to the home key.

    But if you treat that harmonic shift as a key change, you could get to 18 in all. But then, if you followed that logic, how would analyse something like Kern’s “All the things you are” which would, by a similar rationale, include dozens of key changes?

    Well, however you cut it, “Birdhouse” is an excellent and very imaginative song. Thank you for wrestling with it and sharing the results!

  6. Woodshed October 26th, 2017 9:40 pm

    Joe: Thanks! Yeah, Slate were definitely cooking that number!

  7. Dr R January 9th, 2018 3:25 pm

    Hi – I LOVE this! Birdhouse is my favourite song of all time, nd I have performed it on steelpan hundreds of times, bug now I can learn it on the uke too! I just wonder – do you use the re-entrant tuning or is your G-string low-pitched? Some of the chords sound like they would work better if I used a uke not in re-entrant tuning. Thanks again for the TAB and can I share this with other TMBG fans?

    PS you are also right about Slate being wrong….

  8. Woodshed January 13th, 2018 7:19 pm

    Dr R: Thanks very much!

    I’m using re-entrant. But I think the arrangement should work on low-G without any problems.

    I’d be delighted for you to share it!

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