Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Happy Birthday Chord Melody Arrangement

Happy Birthday Chord Melody Arrangement

You’re out playing a gig with your combo at a packed jazz club, and during the bass solo you notice someone eagerly waiting to ask you something at the edge of the stage.

After the song has finished, the person comes up to you and politely asks “it’s my friend’s birthday tonight, can you play happy birthday for us?”

You pause for a second and confront the rest of the band to ask if they know it only to awkwardly reply to the person who requested the song “Sorry, none of us know it, but we can play Giant Steps in 7!”

While musicians can’t be expected to play every request they get asked on gigs, one tune every musician should know is how to play is happy birthday. This short melody is worth learning so you’re prepared at gigs for requests, or if you just like to play for your friends and family.

As a gigging musician, I’ve had some nice tips over the years for been able to play this while busking or on a gig, so it’s worth having it as part of your repertoire.

In today’s lesson I will show you how to play the tune a happy birthday chord melody arrangement, but I have also included a simple lead sheet incase you want to make your own solo piece. If you don’t learn the melody it’s well worth printing off the lead sheet and putting it in your guitar bag.



About The Song


This song is a short piece in ¾, so I have decided to include two versions of it in today’s lesson.

The first version is a chord melody arrangement of the tune so you can play it as a solo jazz guitar piece. To learn more about chord melody arrangements and jazz guitar chords check out this 30 day series.

The second version is a simplified lead sheet that you can just print off and stick in your guitar case for gigs if you don’t have the time to learn it. You can even use this lead sheet to create your own chord melody arrangement of the piece.


Happy Birthday Chord Melody Arrangement


happy birthday chord melody


Things to Notice About This Arrangement


  • The use of quartal voicings almost every bar. To learn more about quartal voicings, check out this article
  • The use of major and dominant 7th drops 2 voicings
  • There are some tricky jumps in the melody, so play it rubato style a few times before playing it in tempo. Because it’s only a short song, playing it slow helps span it out a little too. Check out these tips on solo jazz guitar arrangements to help you harmonize a melody.


Happy Birthday Melody

happy bday

 Happy Birthday Melody Reharmonization

happy bday jazz reharmAudio


I hope that you enjoy learning this short little Happy Birthday Chord Melody. Have you ever been asked to play Happy Birthday on a gig and not knew it? Share your stories in the comment section below.

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edouard adjiman

thanks i was looking for that arrangement since many time


guitarist amateur

Jamie Holroyd

No worries thanks for checking it out

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Brian Towell

Not bad, but a little flat/repetitive on the voicings/harmonic structure. I have a beautiful version that plays a lot more on the predictive harmony side of things, and which also uses the entire guitar, not just the upper quartal voicing. I might share it, but fear that I will have to pay the copyright fees.

Jamie Holroyd

That's great fella, please enlight us with your self proclaimed beautiful version.

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Greg Huntington

Thanks for sharing this. Sounds very nice on UKULELE, too!

I like learning chord melodies on uke and then trying them out on guitar (classical, steel string and baritone acoustic), and vice versa when the guitar arrangement is focused on first 4 strings. It's like "getting 2 or more songs for 1". The reentrant/high G 4th string tuning, higher key and timbre of uke gives the song a unique feel vs. the various guitar versions. In your Happy Birthday arrangement for guitar, when played on uke, I just leave ignore that 5th string/7th fret note in the 4th full measure.

Ukulele popularity is rivaling acoustic guitar popularity (based on unit volume), so maybe this "guitar + uke" 2-for-1 arrangement concept is something to feature in your future posts. Many guitarists do not realize how easy it is to reapply their "chops" to uke. Thanks again.

Jamie Holroyd

Thanks, that's a cool story. Please let us know if you post a video of yourself playing it on the ukulele!

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hi, I watched your video lesson and read this article - it was a great learning experience for me, thanks a lot!
I made a video of myself playing around with some arranging ideas, if you'd like to have a listen:

Jamie Holroyd

Thank you, loved the video!

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Sweet. I'll commit to memory and use it at gigs. Thanks.

Jamie Holroyd

No worries glad you enjoyed it!

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