When singing the well-known Happy Birthday song, is there a standard or official way of having two names? The measure has to be elongated, and there's a question of which note to sing the first name on.


Should I change the time signature for that measure to fit the required notes? Or should the tempo be drastically reduced for the names and fit them within the standard two-quarter-note length?

Time Signature

Time Signature



First name's note

As a second question, does the first name stay on the same note as the preceding "dear... ", or do both names get sung at the half step below?

Same Note


Step Below

F Sharp

I'm trying to find the right way to notate the music for two names. Is one more correct over the other? Or is this all opinion based?

  • 1
    It's going to depend a lot on the number of syllables in each name. There are a lot of combinations. 'Happy birthday to the twins' fits quite well... Or - sing it twice; in order of birth time.
    – Tim
    Nov 15, 2015 at 8:10
  • 6
    2 cakes, and sing twice, or be prepared to deal with "She blew out my candle".
    – James K
    Nov 15, 2015 at 10:22
  • 7
    In my limited experience with any double party, people tend to say "Hyppolita and Aristosthenes" as fast as they can to fit into the original meter. :-) Nov 15, 2015 at 13:02
  • 1
    … with a rubato to get their breath back ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 15, 2015 at 14:30
  • 2
    There may not be a standard, at least not in published form, because of copyright claims (which were largely thrown out last September).
    – hpaulj
    Nov 16, 2015 at 0:06

2 Answers 2


If performing solo (or with rehearsal), I'd go for a melismatic approach. If for a group singing, just hold on the note until the crowd thinks it's finished. There doesn't seem to be any standard.


Personally, I would prefer sticking to the 8.-16 pattern with the step-down in the melody at each name's last syllable. For the line "Happy birthday, dear Elizabeth and Annabell", it would mean:

d8. d16 d'4 b g8. g16 \time 5/4 g8. g16 fis8. fis16 fis8. fis16 e4\fermata

With an additional rest, the time signature does not even need to change:

d8. d16 d'4 b g8. g16 g8. g16 fis8. fis16 fis8. fis16 e4\fermata r4

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