Winking Murderer: The Musical
players.png ~5-10
time.png 5 min

Someone in the group is a murderer. When he winks at the improvisers, they die (stop playing). But a detective is also at work, investigating, and ready to catch the Winking Murderer. Will he catch him in time, or will the bad guy prevail? A fast-paced, yet extremely fun music game. Based on the traditional kids game "The Winking Murderer."


Download the “Winking Murderer Card Set” from
Cut them out into cards. Shuffle them.


All players form a circle in a well-lit area.
Have each player blindly pick a card. Players must look at their card, but can’t show it to anyone else.

Gameplay instructions

After the everyone looks at their card they begin improvising.

There are 7 different cards:

MURDERER: Your job is to, as discretely as possible, wink at other players. Once a player is winked at they must stop playing within 5 seconds, while belting out a horrible scream of agony! They are then dead and con’t play anymore. The murderer continues to do this, attempting to kill every player off one by one. Except for the detective!
DETECTIVE: The DETECTIVE’s job is to find the murderer and call him out. If you see the murderer wink at another player, point to him and say something like, “I got you murderer!” You could even get dramatic and wrestle him to the ground! But, be careful, if you’re wrong the MURDERER wins the game. Also, if the MURDERER winks at the DETECTIVE, call him and and the MURDERER loses.
LOW TONES: Improvise long tones. Some instruments (percussion, acoustic guitars, ect.) should tremolo.
RHYTHM: Improvise in strict rhythm.
WEIRD NOISES: Improvise weird sounds and noises.
HARMONY: Improvise harmony or chords.
HIGH TONES: Improvise around the high register of your instruments. Percussionists play higher sounding percussion (ex. small rotary toms, small bells, small gongs, whistle, ect.)

Everyone improvises according to their cards. The DETECTIVE AND MURDERER are free to improvise any way they wish.

Game end

If the MURDERER manages to kill every player except the DETECTIVE, then the MURDERER wins!
If the DETECTIVE catches the MURDERER then the DETECTIVE and other un-murdered players win!

Gamemaster's notes

The MURDERER should attempt to disguise himself as another player to try and fit in and not be found at by the DECTECTIVE. For example, play long tones.

If you have less than 7 players take out cards. Any except the Murderer and Detective cards of course!

Use repeated cards if you have more than 7 players.


I describe how we as a group came up with how to apply this traditional game into a music game here, with a video:


If you are comfortable with modding music games then try to come up with some of your own cards to be used with the DETECTIVE and the MURDERER.


Traditional. Arranged by Marcus Staniec (notrightmusic) and members of Nook Nook's Improv and Music Game Sessions.

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