Phrase Dealer


An open call-and-response activity with a little attention-grabbing twist.


The convenient seating for this is to have one person (the soloist) facing the rest of the players who are in a semicircle. The soloist will change during the game — if you can't change places, the loose circle is okay.

Choose the first soloist. As usual, the facilitator, if present, might be the best at the start to demonstrate the process.

Gameplay instructions

Soloist: At the start of your round, present a very short, simple phrase for others to memorize and repeat. The repetition needs not to be precise — rhythm and melody contour are enough. Let's call it the hook for this round.

When the hook is clear and picked up, then starting from the leftmost player in the semicircle, play short calls-and-responses with each player consecutively. Assuming S for the soloist and the players in the semicircle as A-B-C-D, the default order of playing is:

S, A, S, B, S, C, S, D, S, A, S, B, …

Players: On your turn, answer the phrase of the soloist with your own short instrumental or vocal statement. The musical character of those exchanges is free/open.

(and now for the catch)
All: Instead of playing any phrase for the current player to repeat, the soloist may from time to time choose to play the hook. Then every player in the game should repeat it (answer with the hook as it is adapted to responder's instrument).

Soloist: If all is going according to the rules, continue the call-and-responses after the hook with the player whose turn it currently is. But when someone misses their round to play a response, or misses the hook, then point out the mistake and either continue the round if this was the first cycle or, if later, swap places with the offender, who is now the next soloist.

Game end

Repeat ad libitum. Then stop.


This activity is an adaptation of many ball-catching games (popular in different cultures) where you play over colors, countries, or names, etc. In music form it is related (possibly indebted?) to John Scalici's Drum Talk game (played with drums, with player elimination, and with three even short strokes for the unchanged hook).

alias: Drum Talk / Phrase Dealer

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