How to Sing Happy Birthday

Three Parts:Learning the SongPracticing the SongSinging “Happy Birthday” to the Birthday Person

"Happy Birthday" is one of the most popular and recognizable songs in the world.[1] Most people are taught how to sing “Happy Birthday” when they are young at birthday parties or even in school. However, it's also perfectly understandable if you were never totally sure about the rhythm or the words.

Part 1
Learning the Song

  1. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 1
    Learn the song’s tune. The tune of the “Happy Birthday” is very simple and has six notes. [2] The easiest way to learn it, especially if you can’t read music, is to listen to a recording of the song online. Hum along as you listen to the song. You don’t even need to know the words yet.
  2. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 2
    Learn the rhythm of the song. Try snapping along to the beat as you learn the tune of the song. This will help you figure out when you’re supposed to sing what word.
  3. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 3
    Learn the words of the Happy Birthday song. Just like the tune, the words to the “Happy Birthday” song are very simple. There are two common versions people use, one that is personalized for the birthday person and another that is just general, for example if there is more than one birthday person. Depending on which version you choose, it is composed of either four or six total words sung over four lines.
    • The first version’s lyrics are: Happy Birthday to you (slight pause), Happy Birthday to you (slight pause), Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday - Happy Birthday to you.”
    • The second and more personalized version is: Happy Birthday to you (slight pause), Happy Birthday to you (slight pause), Happy Birthday dear (name of the birthday person) - Happy Birthday to you.”

Part 2
Practicing the Song

  1. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 4
    Decide the context of the event. Are you singing to your ten-year-old daughter at a birthday party with a few other friends? You'll probably want to keep it simple. Are you singing alone to your husband or wife? Maybe you should sing more softly and romantically. Are you singing with a huge group to your father at his 80th birthday party? Maybe you guys should all practice, or at least decide when you are going to sing. It’s important to understand the context of your event so you can figure out what’s appropriate.
  2. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 5
    Figure out the strengths and weaknesses of your voice. If you’ve got a deep voice, don’t try singing Happy Birthday in the traditional singsong way. Use your deep voice! Stay within your range and don’t try to hit the high notes. No one is expecting you to be an expert.
  3. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 6
    Practice singing the song alone. Practicing often to yourself, for example at home, will allow you to work out any kinks that may be in your voice and also help you to remember the song. It will also allow you to add special flourishes to the song, like a “cha cha cha” after every line.
  4. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 7
    Practice with others. If you’re performing with a group of other people it’s always a good idea to rehearse. Designate one person to act as the conductor and start on their cue. You don’t want to start at different times or end at different times. Otherwise, everyone should easily fall into line.
    • If you’re singing with a group and you aren’t going to have time to practice before hand, don’t try doing anything special. It’s assumed that everyone knows the song.

Part 3
Singing “Happy Birthday” to the Birthday Person

  1. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 8
    Choose which version of the song you want to sing. Pick one of the two traditional versions of the song that you want to sing for the person. If you are only singing to one or two people you should use the personalized version. If you’re singing at a school party to a whole group of people who had birthdays over the summer, use the less personalized version.
    • If the person comes from a different country or is interested in languages, you could also use a version of “Happy Birthday” that’s been adapted into another language. For example, Germans sing the same song, but with German lyrics. They are: “Zum Geburtstag viel Glück! Zum Geburtstag viel Glück! Zum Geburtstag liebe ...(add the name of birthday person) Zum Geburtstag viel Glück!”[3]
  2. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 9
    Determine the correct time to sing. Generally you want to start singing happy birthday right before they cut the cake or whatever celebratory dish you are having. It could be before opening presents too. Try to figure out when you’re going to sing happy birthday ahead of time so that everyone is on the same page.
  3. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 10
    Consider giving a small introductory speech. If you’ve put some effort into learning the song for a special birthday or an event, consider giving a small introductory speech before you sing the song. Keep your comments short and light to draw in your listeners.
  4. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 11
    Consider using an instrument. You could start off by playing one note on a piano or another instrument. Cue your listeners in that you’re about to start the song by playing one note on a piano. If you don’t have a piano where you’re singing, you can use another instrument.
    • For example, recorders or harmonicas are great, simple, and easy instruments you can use to start off your song.
  5. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 12
    Sing the song for the birthday person. Sing to the birthday person to the best of your ability and make sure to have fun with it so that others do, too. Make sure everyone can hear you.
  6. Image titled Sing Happy Birthday Step 13
    Clap for the birthday person at the end of the song. When you’re done singing “Happy Birthday,” it’s always a good idea to clap for the birthday person. This lets your audience know that your performance is done and that the song was a fun gesture.


  • Happy Birthday used to be under copyright, but this was recently lifted. The happy birthday song is now in the public domain - free for all to enjoy and use. [4]
  • Try not to get nervous before singing. Remember, it's a really simple song and you're celebrating someones birthday. The spotlight is on them, not you. Don't worry!
  • Don't be afraid to ask for advice. Most people know the happy birthday song pretty well and will happily help you out.

Article Info

Categories: Birthdays | Singing