Down A Rabbit Hole and Totally Confused - Happy Birthday transcribed melody

What started off as Ear Training has turned into, well, something else.

I started with Justin’s recommendation to Play What You Hear and start with Happy Birthday.

Next my goal was to map the notes and the intervals
Great - So I started on the C note and mapped it to the C major scale. Well, that all wonderful until my ear told me their was an A#. Ok. There are no A# in the C major scale.
I was doing fine until I hit that. Why? I thought I was using the Cmaj scale? But?

I then looked up the song on the internet in the key of C major. One of my other goals was to transcribe the notes off of the sheet music as an exercise in reading sheet music.
The melody (that’s what you call it correct?) starts on the G note! In the Key Of Cmaj?
Ok - Why?

I put it all on a spreadsheet to try to make sense of it. At least when I start on the G-note I can see the intervals. When I start on the C note??? (Confusion) Where does the A# come from?

Anyway - I’m confused for the moment. Really my goal was to understand the intervals between the notes in Happy Birthday and use them for Ear Training. But the I went down the Music Theory rabbit hole and got lost. Help! :rabbit:

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Well done, kudos and good vibes for transcribing and using your ears to find the melody.
You have all notes written out correctly for the key of C and for another key too.

Your confusion arises because you seem to think that the melody must necessarily start on the root note. It does not. It starts on the 5th scale degree = G. It ends on the root note = C

The melody you have written in the blue cells is good for the key of C in terms of notes BUT not in terms of scale degrees. Try naming them again with G = 5.

The melody you have in the yellow cells is also correct BUT not in the key of C. Rather than feed you the correct key I want you to correct the scale degrees for the key of C, bring those across to the melody starting on the note C and see if you can figure out what key it is in. Hint - A# needs to be called by an enharmonic equivalent name.

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Key Of F Major

I’ll toss another question tomorrow, but I’m burnt out on this for tonight. Thanks!



I am not following what you mean by G=5. Can you try to clarify that? G is the 5th in the C scale as was used, so I am trying to figure out what else you mean.

If you mean to adjust to G=1, then isn’t simply in a different key?


This is what Richard says in his post

Danial has it numbered as 1 or root.
Happy Birthday starts on the 5th interval of the scale.

OH! that last section in the sheet - I see it. thanks! :slight_smile:

I applaud you for doing this kind of exercise. It’s definitely something that I wish I had started doing earlier on in my guitar journey. The more of these types of questions you ask, the more you will be able to clarify your doubts and UNDERSTAND how music works (it seems hard now, but it’s the easy part). Once you UNDERSTAND how music works (i.e intervals, chord progressions, etc, etc,) then you just have to “make” it (this takes more time and lots of practice) , , . . .The sooner you understand it the soon you’ll be able to play it . . . or at least that’s my story and I am sticking with it. . . :laughing:

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Yeah, I have a bit of a compulsive nature when I start to study something. I’m doing a lot of learning “on-the-fly” as in attempting to learn and navigate music theory in order to accomplish whatever my current goal is. Last week I didn’t know much of anything about music notation - this week I do. It just seemed that understanding the basics of reading sheet music would help in understanding intervals, which in turn helps my ear training as well as expands my understanding of music theory. And then apply it.


Back to questions as I’m doing ear training and PMT today.
The chart above maps the Scale Degree for Happy Birthday in the key of C major.
I’ve just found the definition of a “scale degree.” "In music theory, the scale degree is the position of a particular note on a scale relative to the tonic." So this chart is relative to the tonic (root note).

Now, what I was attempting to investigate was the intervals relative to the first note of the song Or for that matter, relative to any note that starts a musical phrase (not sure if that is correct terminology or not).
Because I’m doing ear training, and ear training, at least at Grade 2/3 level (it seems to me) is an exercise in picking a starting point of a melody (again - correct me if my terminology is incorrect) and attempting to hear the relative intervals between the starting note and successive notes. This is where that first chart came from - these are all intervals relative to the “G” starting note.
Screenshot from 2023-10-07 14-50-34

So, is there such a thing as “relative interval” or relative scale degree in music theory?