The Songwriter's Notebook


players.png ~1-1
time.png 15 min

You've let 4 days of this month go by already, but it's time to get to work! The record label you're signed to has demanded a charting song by the end of the month or you'll be dropped from the label. Can you write a song that pushes past 800,000 streaming listens? Time to pull out your trusty notebook and find out!


You will need:

  • a standard deck of playing cards,
  • the game sheet printed out,
  • a pencil.


Set the Jokers aside and shuffle your deck. Now you're ready!


Every turn you will flip two cards from the deck and use them to fill My Song and Radio sections. Once used, cards don't come back to the game. Continue through the deck in this fashion. When you reach the green preview column in the Radio section, score any Preview Bonuses. After you've been through the entire deck, score and tally all your streams (they're counted in thousands!).

End of Game Requirements. After all the cards in the deck have been used, you must have:

  • A note in all 8 measures of your Hook.
  • A suit/theme in each of the 5 Lyrical Theme boxes.

If you do not fulfill both of these requirements, your song goes unreleased and you score zero streams for the game.

Gameplay instructions


On Your Turn: Draw the top 2 cards from your deck. Choose 1 card to write something in the My Song section on your game sheet. The other card will be used to fill in a part of the Radio section of the game sheet.

My Song

In this section on your turn you use 1 card to either:

  1. Write a suit in a Lyrical Themes box, or
  2. Write or edit a note in the Hook.

1. Choosing Lyrical Themes

When choosing to fill in a Lyrical Themes box, write the suit symbol of your My Song card in the first empty box moving left to right. You must fill all 5 Lyrical Themes boxes by the end of the game (one symbol per each box).

2a. Writing notes

Notes will be written on the musical staff lines in the Hook section. When choosing to write a new note, you may write a circle (whole note) on the line that matches the value of the card you are using. The allowable values for each line are listed to the left of the staff. For example, using a 5, 6, or King would let you write on the middle line.

The note must be written in the next empty measure on the staff, moving left to right. A measure is the space between 2 vertical lines. There are 8 measures on the staff. You cannot skip over measures. You cannot write a new note in a measure that already contains a note. You must have a note in each measure by the end of the game.

2b. Editing Notes

Instead of writing a new note you may choose to edit a note already written. To edit a note it must be on the line that matches the value of the card being used. Editing notes follows the arrowed diagram under the Notes section of the game sheet. You may add a line (stem) to a whole note to make a half note, fill in the circle to make a quarter note, and connect 2 quarter notes with a beam to make a pair of eighth notes. To make the paired eighth notes, you must choose to edit a quarter note that is adjacent to a measure that also contains a quarter note. Draw a beam to connect the 2 notes.

There is no development beyond a pair of eighth notes. You cannot use a measure again once it contains an eighth note.

You receive a Missed Note when you choose to use a card for My Song that cannot be used to write or edit a note and all of your Lyrical Themes boxes are filled (or you are electing not to fill one). Mark it on a sheet if you might forget it.

Radio section

The Radio section will be filled with the other card you drew this round. Each turn mark at least 1 box in this section.

Lyrical Trends. Mark a box in the row that matches the suit of the Radio card being used, moving left to right across the sheet.

Melodic Trends. If the Radio card being used is a face card (K, Q, J), mark a box on the corresponding row in Melodic Trends.

Preview Bonuses

Fans and reviewers always love getting a taste of songs in the works. Can you drum up excitement for your upcoming release with a well-timed preview?

When you mark a box in the Radio Lyrical Trends section that is in the green column marked with "1P", you have triggered a preview of your song. Finish writing the other Radio trend box if applicable for that turn and then score Preview Bonuses.

Chorus Preview Bonus. If you have a theme written in the Chorus box (3rd box) of your Lyrical Themes at this point and that theme is currently in 2nd or 3rd position (no ties for 1st or 4th) in Radio Lyrical Trends, you score a 100 stream bonus for the theme. This is written in the Chorus Preview scoring line. You may still score streams for the Chorus in the Lyrical Themes section as usual at the end of the game.

Melodic Theme Preview Bonus. If your Hook contains enough of the right notes to match the Radio Melodic Trend currently in the 1st position (most marked boxes, no ties), you score a 100 stream bonus.

Game end

Once you used all the cards in the deck, make sure you've met the End of Game Requirements (a note in each measure and all Lyrical Themes boxes filled) then score your Notes (and Missed Notes), Melodic Theme Bonus, and Lyrical Themes.

Scoring Notes

Whole notes are worth 50 streams, half notes are worth 10 streams, quarter notes are worth 10 streams, and a pair of eighth notes are worth 200 streams (not for each individual eighth note).

Missed notes are worth -100 streams. You may end up with multiple Missed Notes in a game.

Scoring Melodic Theme

The Melodic Theme refers to the placement of your notes in the Hook. Keeping in mind that you will need a note on each horizontal line, you will score a bonus if you can arrange your notes to match up with the most popular option (1st, no ties) in Melodic Trends in the Radio section.
Queen Trend — 5 of your notes are on the top 2 (high) lines of your Hook.
King Trend — 4 of your notes are on the middle line of your Hook.
Jack Trend — 5 of your notes are on the bottom 2 lines (low) of your Hook.

The Melodic Theme Bonus is worth 200 streams if you meet the requirements for the Melodic Trend with the most marked boxes (no ties).

Scoring Lyrical Themes

Lyrical Themes score based on how popular each theme is on the Radio that game. The theme/suit that has the most marked boxes in the Radio section is worth 10 streams. The themes with the 2nd and 3rd most marked boxes are worth 50 streams each. The theme with the least marked boxes is worth 10 streams. You want to use themes that are popular enough, but not already flooding the airwaves.

Ties score the lower stream value of the tied positions. For example, a 2nd and 3rd place tie does not matter as they both score 50. A tie for 1st and 2nd would mean both suits would score 10. Write the corresponding stream value for each theme in your Lyrical Themes in the scoring section below it. The theme written in the 3rd box marked Chorus is worth double its normal stream value.

Final score and performance

Add the totals from all pink-colored boxes in My Song section (end game scoring + Preview Bonus scoring) write your total under Final Score. Did you save your record deal with a charting song?
Streams (x1,000)
1000: All-Time Classic
900: #1 Hit
800: Charting Song
700: Your Fans Like It
Less than 700: Album Filler

Regardless of your success, you now have a main melody contour (bars may be disregarded) and moods/lyrical themes for your piece. Improvise around it. The result should have about 3 minutes of length, but not necessarily so.


Matt Hanna

For additional information and some performance recordings visit a BGG thread from the author.

Video Instructions

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