Nightlife of Machines


Shorten your riffs in sync for fun that sounds like prog-rock or minimalism.


Basic version does not require preparation, but for some variants you might need dice or cue cards.


Make a riff in 6:4. It doesn't have to be a hit, for the first game let it be simple and not syncopated. Assuming that more that one player plays this game, everyone's part can be jammed out by stacking.

Agree on the person who shows the shortening (free hand needed) and on a person who signals the change (clearly visible to others, might just be nodding). This change should be signaled the same way regardless of the time that is being played — two nods (and the entry at "three") may be used. These conducting/prompting duties might be done by members of the ensemble or by non-playing participants. Signalling the shortening is easy, but for cuing the change you need rhythm skill.

Used signals with free hand are:

  • numbers from 1 to 5 (fingers),
  • 6 (closed fist),
  • ending the piece ("waving loose open hand horizontally").

Gameplay instructions

When number N is signalled, the riff should next be played together on cue in its shortened version (just first N measures of the riff, in N:4 time). This loops until the next round of signals is shown.

Game end

It's up to the signalling player when the piece ends. Then after the cue the music stops.


Instead of signalling gestures you can use numbered cue-cards or read the result from a dice.

You can also set a chain of numbers to shorten consecutive bars and attempt to play it together.

Variant much harder to play on the spot is the when you loop number of beats from the end of the measure not from the beginning. In this case you can have even longer riff and play it all at every change with then looping the set amount at the end (see the example below).


Variant with shortening from the end is used in:
(at about 1 minute into the tune)


This is the arrangement used by Signal to Noise Ratio band for some of their composed music.
As a game, here under Creative Commons, CC BY 4.0 with attribution: "Signal to Noise Ratio, snrband".

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