How to Play Happy Birthday On Ukulele

You don’t have to be a professional ukulele player to make beautiful music, and you definitely don’t have to be advanced to begin with simple, easy strumming.

The ukulele has been rising is popularity these past few years due to how easy and enjoyable it is to play. And there are some songs or melodies that you will definitely pick up when you start playing the uke. “Happy Birthday” is undoubtedly one of the tunes that everyone knows, everyone has sung along to once in their time, and the universal tone of wishing people on their birthdays.

So, for today’s lesson, we will be strumming the delicate melody of Happy Birthday so you can bring out your ukulele in the next birthday you are at and whip out a tune! And not just one method, we will be showing two with varying difficulty levels so you can take your pick.

Also Read: 7 Easy Songs to Learn on Ukulele for Beginners

Tuning

The pre-requisite to playing any song or melody properly is making sure your stringed instrument is properly tuned. Tuning the ukulele is fairly easy and you should learn to do it properly if you wish to keep on playing it over time. 

For Happy Birthday, the tuning of a uke needs to be the standard ukulele tuning, which is G C E A.

Chords to Play Happy Birthday

We will only be using three chords for this song and they are: C, G, and F – in the order of use.

Let’s take a look at how each chord can be achieved.

For C, simply place a finger on the first string of the third fret.

G major is a bit tougher than C, but it’s nothing you can’t accomplish with a bit of practice. Use your index finger to press down on the third string of the second fret, take your middle finger and press down on the first string of the second fret, and then take your ring finger and press down on the second string of the second fret.

C is the last chord needed for this song. To play it, take your index finger and press down on the second string of the first fret and then take your middle finger to press down on the fourth string of the second fret.

Moving onto the chord progression:

|C|G|G|C|C|F|G|C

The chord progression for the entire song goes: C for 3 beats, G for 6 beats, C for 6 beats, and then F, G, and C for 3 beats each.

G can also be switched out for G7 and the song would remain almost the same. To play the G7 chord on your uke, place the index finger on the second string of the first fret, the middle finger on the first string of the second fret, and the ring finger on the third string of the second fret. 

We recommend practicing the positioning of these chords regularly to really indent them in your memory.

Strumming Patterns

Throughout the entire song, the strumming pattern repeats at down, pause, down, up, down, up. In written terms, it stands at: |D – D U D U|

To end the song, we will ring out on the last C chord with a down strum.

image source: riffspot.com

Song Structure

             C                   G7    

Happy Birthday to You

            G7                    C

Happy Birthday to You

            C                        F

Happy Birthday Dear (NAME)

            C              G7  C

Happy Birthday to You.

          C                             G7

From good friends and true,

          G7                      C

From old friends and new,

         C                     F

May good luck go with you,

        C      G7     C

And happiness too.

Alternative Method

Maybe you’re a total newbie and the G chord has got you confused to the extent that you want to stop playing for a while and cry a little. Don’t. We also have a much simpler version that you can try out. Although this version sounds rather flat as there’s not much variation in tone or strumming, it is still enough and you will be able to play “Happy Birthday” with this alternative method.

Tuning

The tuning remains the same as the previous version – G C E A, the standard ukulele tuning.

Chords

For this one, you will need three chords in total: F, C7, and Bb.

We already reviewed getting the F chord on the uke, so let’s see how to play C7 and Bb.

C7 is extremely simple and will require you to press down first string of the first fret with your index finger.

For Bb, use your index finger to press down on two strings simultaneously – the first string of the first fret as well as the second string of the first fret. Place the middle finger on third string of the second fret while using the ring finger to press down on the forth string of the third fret.

Seeming a bit complex? Don’t worry! It’s actually very easy once you get the hang of it.

Also Read: Ukulele Books for Beginners

Strumming Pattern

It truly couldn’t get any less complicated than this. For the whole song, we are only going to strum down. 

Song Structure

This is what the song would look like with the chord progression:

            F                  C7

Happy birthday to you

            C7                F

Happy birthday to you 

F                                    Bb

Happy birthday dear “Daniel”

             F             C7  F

Happy birthday to you

When singing the birthday boy/girl’s name, switch to a Bb chord to achieve that slightly higher pitch that the song originally demands.

Ending Thoughts

We showed three methods to play Happy Birthday on the ukulele. Pick whichever you’re the most comfortable with and practice till you’ve got the routine by heart. Being able to play for a loved one or colleague on their birthday is a great feeling, and anyone with a ukulele should be able to experience it. With simple songs like this, slowly but surely, you will be able to player more complex, full songs that musicians play with confidence. Strum on!

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