Happy Birthday…

…to you! Chances are that at least one of the regular readers of this blog will have a birthday today and that the most famous song in the world will be sung to you.

If it’s not your birthday, well then whenever it comes around again I hope it’s a good one, and you too will probably hear that song on that day, and many times in the meantime no doubt.

Here’s one of my favourite piano players – Richard Tee – playing it in some of the sweetest ways you will ever hear.

It’s a short song, but a great song – one that has lasted the test of time and one to which people all over the world respond. Why?

Well firstly it has a great structure. Two short lines to start, using repetition, but the second being a slight development on the first. Brings a sense of familiarity yet also one of movement to the audience. The third line starts in a similar way again but goes in a different direction, higher than before, bringing us to the peak, approximately 2/3rds of the way through the song, and from then on we are on the descent, the winding down before the finish. All techniques that the world’s best songwriters use.

It also cleverly uses some of the strongest intervals we have in music – the perfect 4th, the perfect 5th and the octave. And the chords are strong ones too – the classic three chord trick – the 1, 4 and 5.

It all sounds easy until you go to try and write one, and then you realise that despite all the knowledge in the world you may have, writing something great is difficult.

PS if you have 23 people in a room, there’s a better than 50% chance that two of them have the same birthday. If you have 70 people, the chances are 99.9%.

Counter-intuitive but true! Read more here if you’re interested.