Sunday 19 September 2010

Happy Birthday!

A few weeks ago I did the same winery gig that I did last year, and something happened that I had planned for many years ago, but hadn't kept up with - it was someone's brithday and I got a request to play "Happy Birthday". I couldn't even remember the chords!

Basically if you ever play to an audience you need to keep "happy birthday" in your bag of tricks, because it will come up. Fear not, I dusted off some old notes, did a cross check with other tabs on the net (many had parts that I liked but none were enough by themselves...besides, nobody should ever play a tab exactly as someone else has written it! :))
                                 HAPPY BIRTHDAY

 3/4        C          G                     C

             F(b5) F     C     G     C                   ~~~~~

Here, have a listen to me play it. It's short, mostly in chords, and easily remembered. Only two parts may cause you some frustration: in the first two bars I'm holding a C shape but I bend my second finger backwards to fret the A second fret third string. I do this sort of mini-barre quite often so it comes reasonably natural to me.

The F(b5) chord may throw you -  do it as and F barre chord but don't lay your first finger for the full bar, just fret the low 6, leave the top strings un-barred. Then clamp down the barre for the full F in the same measure.

The rest should be easy for a fingerstyler...don't worry about running up the fret board for the last G and C chord if you don't want to; as with all tabs, make them your own!

...oh and make sure you throw in the heavy vibrato on the end note of "And many more..." I love a bit of comedy in guitar playing, it's not easy to put comedy into guitar playing, so anywhere you can do it you should! :)



  1. Hi JAW, it's good to hear from you again!
    Comedy in playing: I think it's a must have ability for _real_ stage performers.
    Iggypres, one of my favourite fingerstyler is a real master in that!
    Besides his appearance with the clothings and moustache, he does funny things in playing Lady Gaga's songs:
    in "Telephone" he picks up a phone while playing the guitar :D , in "Bad Romance" he plays a bit from Boney'M's "Rasputin", in "Poker face" a snippet from "Ma Baker". He's way too cool :)

    Oh, you gave me inspiration, I'm working on Troubleclef's Something, I'll put it on youtube soon!


  2. Yep, Iggy is great - his talent is on par with Naudo's, his style is quite different though - even though he is playing the "same style". Funny, and yet not suprising...I used to think, a long time ago, in terms of the ability to play a piece say from a tab, and that everyone who practised enough would basically be playing it the same once they are there. But now I realise that everyone plays a piece totally in their own style - even if they are playing note for note the same thing. Yep, it's not suprising, the guitar is just an extension of yourself, and we are all different.

    I've got at least 4 songs that I play, when ending in C or D I might finish off in Jingle Bells - Naudo style. Now I've got Happy Birthday to slip in somewhere too. Comedy in guitar is a must! ;)

    Something - I've just about finished my version/copy of Naudo's version. Troubleclef's version is much truer to the actual song, a more direct arrangement, which I think is brilliant, but even in his masterful hands it still doesn't have quite the same flow as Naudo's version, which is why I targetted Naudo's version to start from.

    But then it comes back to everyone having their own style...if we all thought and played the same way, what a boring world that would be!

    Good to hear from you too Lefty,

  3. Hi Jaw, your version of Happy Birthday sounds really good. I've had to play happy birthday as well, and I found a comedy trick, in the last part it goes like "happy birthday to you ...(name of the person)", you can "say" the name with your guitar, just play each syllable, it makes it funny especially if it's a long name, like Veronica, in which case it's 4 notes, played quickly following the same rhythm as when sung, if you play those notes louder than the rest, it works.
    About you tab, there's one mistake, just in the name of the chord, so it doesn't affect the actual tab.
    It's not Fmaj7, that would be an F chord with an E (normally played on top). What you're playing is an F chord with a B on top, the note B in an F chord is a flat 5th (the normal 5th being C).
    So the chord is Fb5 (F with a flat 5th).

    I know, I'm showing off... But I'm groaning under the weight of all that theory I have ! :-)

    By the way I've had Jazzguts commenting one of my old fingerstyle pieces on my blog, I'm not planning to record some more in such fashion, still aiming at Youtube videos.

  4. I was suprised that I couldn't find a tab for Happy Birthday anywhere on the net that felt good - all were close (how hard could Happy Birthday be?) but none did it justice. Heh, doing Happy Birthday justice, can't believe I just said that :)

    Chord naming - well done. I don't fully understand chord naming, you have inspired me to go and read up about it. I figured because the chord Fmaj7 133200 was the same except with the additional E on top, so I called it that. I will edit. It's good to have some theory, or at least know someone who does!

    I like your name comedy - I'll use that one :)

    Just read Vic's comment. It's always nice to get a review from someone in the scene we admire hey. Keep hacking away at the youtube video - what's the show stopper at the moment? I know you aim for perfection, I hope that's not getting in your way...remember, we must all forgive ourselves!


  5. Spot on, Jaw! Aiming at perfection is what stops me I have to admit, although in this case, I'm not even starting as I know, because of this perfectionist thing, that it would require more time than I have at the moment (although if I was laid back about it, I would just plug-in the camera and let it go, I certainly have enough time for that).

    I will tell you my view on chord naming:
    it has to be done for a purpose, and sometimes it is done for no other purpose than making the music look more sophitiscated than it is. If you include the melody note into the chords name, yes you will have most unusual chords, when in fact without the melody note the chords would all be regular major and minor chords (in a lot of pop/rock/folk music). Of course it's a fact that the melody note is often part of the chord notes anyway, but I mean there are much more notes in a melody than there are chords to harmonize it, and what I'm saying is that you shouldn't try to match each melody note with a variation of the chord. Let's say you have an F chord, and for a split second the melody note goes E, well you could insert a short FM7 in the middle of your F bar, then go back to F, but what's the point? It's better to see it as a plain F chord, and see the melody as a different object.
    It makes sense to seperate the melody from the harmony, because in most context that's what you need to do: if you play solo fingerstyle you need the melody to come out. And if you consider an instrument that joins in for accompaniment, it doesn't need to play the melody notes, so having a simpler version of the chord sequence that is not cluttered with every single melody notes is a better basis to build harmony on.

    I think a chord is really worth being named 'differently' if it lasts for enough time, at least half a bar. Otherwise, it's not really part of the harmony, it's just naming for the sake of it.
    Of course, Jaw, I encourage you to learn chord names, because first, it is not complicated, secondly there are chords that are TRUELY unusual and require to be named a such, and also because it feels good, you can start writting endless essais about it like I'm doing right now...
    Take care,


  6. Aim for perfection, but forgive yourself and settle if you come up short. I don't think there is a single recording I've ever made that I really like, in fact, I can barely tolerate some of them. But, my early recordings as awful as they are (the first one the guitar was even out of tune!?!) have improved over the years, it's reassuring to see documented that I'm improving.

    ...if you get it perfect the first time, you aren't giving yourself much room to move in the future are you? :)

    Chords - totally agree, you wouldn't write a crazy chord just because the melody jumped out of a standard chord for a single note. But I felt compelled to chordify that particular one because there is definately a feel of dissonance in the song at that point, it doesn't sound like just an out of chord melody note over a "normal" chord. It's the only poignant moment of the song, I felt perhaps it deserved some extra recognition...

    Don't know. You've made me think that maybe I should just leave it as an F.

    You're good value Roman, you always get me thinking! :)

  7. For the perfection thing, I know what you're saying, and you're right, it can't make me change like by magic, but I think I'm slowly becoming more open to the idea of "non-perfection".
    And I've had this thought: some of your early recordings you can barely tolerate, ok that's one thing, but on the other hand many people still think they are worthwhile, it brings them something, so this gives you a different perspective, allowing you to put aside your personal feeling about the video. I think that's a healthy thing. So I also have to consider that.

    To finish with the chords, I had never had this thought before, it all came to me as I discussed the F chord of your tab, as an instantaneous reaction. In any case it's your tab you chose the chord name, and what you say about it being the only poignant moment of the song, it is SO TRUE, Fb5 all the way!!

  8. Exactly. Everyone gets something different from recordings, something I can't stand someone else might really appreciate. I was made to fully appreciate that after a few people had asked me to use the mp3 of my Canon in D recording for their weddings. "But it's so full of errors and fumbles, and there are so many other great recordings, why would you want mine, for such a special and important day?" They just loved it, and wanted it, exactly as it is. I understand, even if the perfectionist in me doesn't understand (get back in your cage, perfectionist!)

    Get the first video done to a point where you might not like it, but you don't hate it, and post it. It gets easier once the first one is posted. It does get harder again when you realise you've had nearly 5 million views, and any time you post a video you get so many views from subscribers that you hit the top 10 if not the top most viewed today category. I actually feel some pressure to put quality up now, not just any old hacked together thing. Lucky I've got this blog to slap up stuff that I reckon isn't good enough for youtube! :)

    Not quite letting our chord discussion go, I'm struggling to understand b5. It reads as "diminished 5th" doesn't it? Because a layman like me would look at Fb5 and read it as Fb (F flat) 5, and say "hang on, Fb is E!?". But diminished fifth (which means I think the 5th semitone from the root note is "diminished", ie flattened) also doesn't make sense - isn't C the seventh, so a B would make it a diminished seventh?

    I'm in this horrible stage of half understanding, but I don't get it, and it actually requires some work to get over the hurdle of understanding, and I'm avoiding doing that work :)

    We all have our strengths and weaknesses - I can (mostly) forgive myself for not being perfect, and you understand music...


  9. G'day mate?

    I'll do my best to explain. You'll see that you'll know as much as I do in no time, and watch out, I'm more and more accepting the idea of not being perfect! :-)

    Any chord is made up of (minimum):
    - the root (of the chord)
    - the 3rd (related to the root)
    - the 5th (related to the root)

    How do you find the 3rd in an F chord? Count the 3rd note going up the scale starting from the root F: F, G, is A!!!
    And the 5th: F, G, A, B, is C!!!!

    So an F chord is F A C, where F is the root, A is the 3rd, C is the 5th.
    I repeat: C is the 5th :-)
    So the note B is a diminished 5th (yes that's what the "b5" means). Don't see it as a 4th, it is possible to have a 4th in a chord (they are called suspended, written "sus", another scary thing), but that would be the note Bb... B being just a semi-tone below C, it is a diminished 5th.

    Now you were also confused with the 7th.
    A 7th chord has one more note, the 7th. However, there are two types of 7th chords, the one with the minor 7th which you just write F7, and the one with the major 7th that you write FM7.
    F7: F A C Eb (where Eb is the minor 7th)
    FM7: F A C E (where E is the major 7th)

    I REALLY hope it's clear.
    Oh I forgot, you were right, "Fb5" looks confusing indeed, how do we know that the "b" doesn't apply to the F? I've sometimes seen it written "-5" instead, so that fixes the problem. Although strictly speaking, the "b" has to go with the 5 for the simple reason that the 5 would never be there on its own, if it's a regular 5th you don't write it, you only do if it as altered.

  10. i'm a fan of the happy birthday fingerstyle blues

  11. Hey!
    Quoted from the post:

    "Basically if you ever play to an audience you need to keep “happy birthday” in your bag of tricks, because it will come up"

    So true!! Few days after reading this post it was a friend's birthday. I played it and somehow she totally loved it. She seemed to pay way more attention to this than any advanced stuff, hahahahah.

    Thanks so much JAW! This is genius. That's why I gotta ask... what other tricks have you got in your bag? Share them, please!


  12. By the way Jaw,
    I've been following this blog for quite long now and playing your songs for even longer.

    You know... when I was a half-song guitarrist (^^) and I didn't know much what I wanted to do... I found you and followed your path.

    I really couldn't believe it back then: loads of high quality, free tabs of some of my favourite songs and bands (pink floyd, the beatles, ...)!!

    Well, I had to get it out (xD). So, you might not know, but you are my guitar daddy.

    Too bad our ways broke up some time ago :P. Lets say that if you aim to play like Naudo, I aim to play like Tommy Emmanuel. :P So your recent style doesn't fit me as much, but I still learn a lot in this blog and you will always be my guitar daddy.


  13. Hey Nil, that's great to hear! It sounds like I helped inspire you to get you out of that strange messy time we go through where we aren't a beginner but we've still got beginner tendancies (like half song playing) and onto a path where we know what we want. The fact that we may have parted ways doesn't matter; every guitarist needs to be his own guitarist. Tommy was a major break-out-of-a-rut for me about 10 years ago, a great inspiration and still is, but after fervently following him and then noticing Naudo I realised it was that slightly different style of Naudo that inspired me just that little bit more. Well in fact it went Tommy->Michael Chapdelaine->Naudo.

    But we're all fingerstyle players, so we're all brothers! :)

    Now have you posted on youtube yet? Well if you are playing gigs then it doesn't matter, but if you've read my blog then you know the path I map out from beginner is to firstly master complete songs and then onto performances, with youtube being an excellent step in between. Forces you to really learn a song like it was for a performance, and then perform it...just for an audience of one camera. It is suprising how intimidating that can be - a good prep for a real audience.

    (If only I could find a good avenue for a regular audience that fits in with my rather hectic life of work and family)

    Anyway I'm rambling. Is the name of the blog though :)

    Answering your other comment - glad to hear Happy Birthday worked out for you. Did you morph it into your own version or play it pretty much as the tab?

    Other things in my bag of tricks...Hmmm, nothing that I can think of quite as obvious as that. Seeing as I play nylon string classical I do get asked to play a flamenco song from time to time, and I've got one great song but alas it is only a half-song (although I can make it last for at least a couple of minutes if necessary). It's on my list to do, but because I half learnt it about 15 years ago I'm not totally inspired by it anymore. But, JAWs Laws say that isn't good enough; either put in the hard yards and learn it properly or don't bother! Although, I half-learnt it when I was still in my half-song learning days I think I can get a general a reprieve on it...

    Great to hear from you Nil, you've cheered up my day!

  14. "Well in fact it went Tommy->Michael Chapdelaine->Naudo."
    Interesting. I've actually only been playing for a year and half, so there is a lot of room for changes. And I'm already moving a bit to Chet Atkins... haha

    No I haven't played for any serious audience nor youtube. Closest I got was uploading some first-take videos to facebook (thanks a lot for the tutorial by the way, another reason why I love you). If I was to play for youtube I'd want to do it properly :P and I don't have time for that.

    "Did you morph it into your own version or play it pretty much as the tab?"

    In the case of high quality like yours, I try to stay as true to it as possible. I have no expectation whatsoever to improve your work xD.
    Only change I recall doing was alternating "Here comes the sun"'s bass line (root - fifth), but just because else my thumb got bored xD