Sheet Music

How to Play Happy Birthday on Piano

By Rebecca Carlson
How to Play Happy Birthday | Piano Sheet Music | Free Download

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Learn How to Play “Happy Birthday” on Piano with Sheet Music

Does someone you know have a birthday coming up? Why not surprise them with a special song on the piano! You can get “Happy Birthday” piano sheet music from the Hoffman Academy Store and learn how to play “Happy Birthday” on piano today!

How would you like to be able to play any song you want on the piano? Sign up for Hoffman Academy and get started!

Background information on “Happy Birthday”

The song “Happy Birthday” has been around for more than a hundred years. It is one of the most recognized songs in the English language. The tune is attributed to Patti and Mildred Hill, two sisters from Kentucky. Patti was a Kindergarten Principal and Mildred was a pianist and composer. They created the tune to be used as a good morning song that would be fun and easy for children to sing. 

A few years later, a new verse was added that wished a happy birthday to anyone having a birthday that day. This “Happy Birthday” song quickly spread throughout English-speaking countries all over the world. 

This simple song has an exciting history. In 1988, a global music company claimed to have acquired the copyright to the song by purchasing a smaller music company that had published it in the past. This large music company insisted that if anyone wanted to perform the song in public, they would owe the company money! Finally, in 2016, a U.S. Federal Court determined that the company couldn’t prove “Happy Birthday” was under copyright, and made the company pay everyone back.  The song has been in the public domain ever since.

What are the notes of “Happy Birthday” on piano?

This arrangement of “Happy Birthday” is in the key of F major. This means it uses the notes of the F major scale: F, G, A, B-flat, C, D, and E. “Happy Birthday” starts on the note C, steps up to D, steps down to C, and then leaps up to F before stepping down to E. This simple phrase repeats again, except the second time the leap is up to G before stepping down to F. Using a repeated pattern with a slight variation like this is a great technique if you are improvising or composing a song. 

The third phrase of the song begins on C like the first two phrases, but this time, instead of stepping up to D, you’ll make a big one-octave leap all the way to treble C and come down on the notes of the F major chord, C, A, and F, before stepping down to E and D. For the last phrase the rhythm is the same as the first two phrases, but the notes are completely different, starting on B flat, then stepping down to A, skipping down to F, stepping up to G, and then finally ending on F.

What are simple “Happy Birthday” piano chords?

The “Happy Birthday” song can be played with simple I, IV, and V7 chords. In the key of F major, these chords are the F major chord, the B-flat major chord, and the C dominant seventh, or C7 chord. 

A simple way to play these three chords without having to move your hand very much is to play the I chord in root position (F – A – C), the IV chord in second inversion (F – B-flat – D), and the V7 chord in second inversion while omitting the third (G – B-flat – C). It might sound a little complicated when it’s written out that way, but if you take a look at the notes on the keyboard and on the staff you’ll see that you can easily shift between these three chords if you use this pattern.

“Happy Birthday” begins with some pick-up notes, which means there’s only part of a measure at the very start of the song. If you like, you can play the V7 chord on the pick-up notes. In the key of F major, the V7 chord is a C7 chord. Here’s an easy way to play this chord that lets you comfortably shift to the other chords:

C7 chord in "Happy Birthday" piano sheet music.

The first full measure of “Happy Birthday” is on the I chord, or F major chord. Try playing this chord in root position, like this:

F chord - "Happy Birthday" piano sheet music.

Then there are two measures of the V7 chord, then two more measures of the I chord, and then finally the IV chord gets a turn for one measure. The IV chord is a B-flat major chord. Play it in second inversion, like this:

Bb chord - "Happy Birthday" piano sheet music.

The song ends with a chord pattern of I – V7 – I, which is a common way to end a song.

So if we’re playing the song in F major, why say “I chord” and “V7 chord” instead of “F chord” and “C7 chord?” This is so you can easily transpose this song into any key you want! If you learn the chord patterns by I, IV, and V7, all you have to do is figure out what the I, IV, and V7 chords are in a different key, and you can easily play the chords for the new key.

Where can I find “Happy Birthday” piano sheet music?

You can find a simple arrangement for “Happy Birthday” at the Hoffman Academy Store by clicking on the link below. This song is written in “lead sheet” style, which means the melody line is written out on a single staff with chord symbols written over the top of the staff. One great thing about a lead sheet is that you get to create your own accompaniment patterns! You can learn more about how to play music with a lead sheet here.

Interested in learning other ways of how to play “Happy Birthday” on piano? Browse more arrangements of “Happy Birthday” by checking out

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