30/60 Happy Birthday to me

birthday google doodle

It isn’t my birthday just yet, but I am teaching ALL my piano and keyboard students to play “Happy Birthday” at the moment. Preferably from memory, as part of my “Active Repertoire” project.

Easy-Peasy, for beginners who know the letter names of the notes but not much else;

I just write out the notes, and show them how to play it using whatever fingers on whichever hands suits them best;

C C D C F E;   C C D C G F;       C C C’ A F E D;        Bflat Bflat A F G F;

There are a lot of technical elements, especially in the third phrase, for example;

  • jumping the hand to a new position (octave),
  • skips or hops, where you miss out one letter between notes
  • steps, where you play next door notes.

and the fourth phrase;

  1. playing Black B,
  2. semitones

It is also an opportunity to discuss dotted rhythms and scale fingerings.

Next Level Up

The student works out the notes, and then we add a simple LH using just F, C and Bflat

C C D C F E;   C C D C G F;       C C C’ A F E D;        Bflat Bflat A F G F;

F        C           C         F                Bb     F                            F    C  F 

and maybe write out the pitches on two staves, and discuss where the strong beats occur, and put bar lines just before them. I wouldn’t add the exact rhythm at this stage.

The Full Monty 

Having completed stage 2, I would use inversions to make a complete LH chord accompaniment, showing how the F chord( F A C) transforms so easily to a C chord (E G C) by just moving the two lower notes down, and then how F can move to Bflat (F Bflat D) by moving the two upper notes up. If the student is writing the notes out on a stave, now is the time to add rhythm and all the details, including time and key signatures, pause sign and double bar. Don’t forget to explain why the last note is a two-beat minim… because the song starts with an anacrusis… which is a crotchet’s worth of notes for the first “Happy” on the third beat of an incomplete bar…

I’m expecting to be “Happy Birthday’d” everyday for a week when my birthday finally arrives!

Poppy divider

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