Animal Sounds

Choose an animal. Play an interpretation of it. Others try to guess what it is! A simple, but an extremely fun game that can be enjoyed by everyone from kids to adults!


Have all the players, or audience if you have a decent sized one, write down three different animals - one animal per one piece of paper.
When finished, everyone folds their papers and drops them into a hat (or bucket, or something).

Gameplay instructions

Choose a first player.
This player picks one piece of paper from the hat without looking.
Without showing anyone else the first player takes a look at the animal written on the paper.
Now the player must play something to represent the animal.
Everyone else must yell out guesses of what animal is being played.
If it’s hard to hear people yelling then stop playing to listen. Start playing again if the answer was wrong.
When the correct animal is guessed the player stops playing.

The winner now joins the first player but picks a new piece of paper. They both look at the animal and start playing.
Continue the same process, building the playing group, choosing different animals, until there’s one person left who didn’t guess correctly.

Now this round is over.
Everyone except for the person who didn’t guess gets a chip.

Choose a new first player and repeat the whole thing again.

Continue playing more rounds choosing a new first player each time until there are no new first players left.

Game end

Players count up their chips at the end to see who has the most chips. The one with the most chips wins!

If there’s a tie you could have the losers pick an animal and perform.
Whoever guesses right is the winner.


Repeated animals are fine. It's always nice to hear how different players, or combination of players, interpret repeated animals!


For a much simpler version: each player takes turns. Think of an animal and play an interpretation of it. Whoever guesses wins that round.

You can also try other topics besides animals. Human feelings for example.

Game Designer

Marcus Staniec (notrightmusic)


Quiet Rite. Scratch Orchestra's improvisation rite with a bit of math at the start.


Set a time limit and display a timer.

Gameplay instructions

Rule 1: In the first third of the piece approx. 1 in 6 sounds to be loud and short (P); approx. 1 in 6 to be long (up to 20 secs) and quiet (Q); the rest to be short and quiet (R).
Method: let x be the time available in minutes, and y be the number of players participating. 2x/y=z = the number of sounds (nearest whole number) to be made by each player in the first third of x. If z≥12, each player to make 2Ps, 2Qs and the rest Rs (all freely distributed). If 12>z≥6, each makes 1P, 1Q and the rest Rs. If z=3, 4, or 5, each makes 1P or 1Q and the rest Rs. If z=1 or 2, only the occasional player to make a P or a Q, the rest make R only, If z<1: either ½ Rs may be attempted, with an occasional ½P or ½Q. […]
Rule 2: Proceed smoothly from the first third through the remainder of the piece.

Game end

Game ends with a timer.


This is one of the Improvisational Rites of Scratch Orchestra from 1969.
Attributed to Cornelius Cardew (full notes).

Editor's notes

You can now read all Improvisation Rites from Nature Study Notes as digitized at the wiki.

Hand Piece (With Memory Function)

When time comes, will you be able to recall what you were playing?


You need to sit (or stand etc…) in a way that allows every participant to see every other, as anyone can signal with gestures at any moment. Unless you have mirrors, you will probably sit in the circle.

Gameplay instructions

Everyone can show cues that oblige whole ensemble. Hand down gesture in the cue marks the exact moment of introducing the change into music.

During the game, you use 4 cues, which meanings are defined as follows:
A. Wave your hand down (don't separate fingers): change music in any way you like.
B. Show 1-3 fingers with your hand and nod with your head: memorize your music (without changing it until next cue).
C. Show 1-3 fingers with your hand and wave it down: start playing music that was "recorded" under that number after cue B.

Game end

D. Show 5 fingers and wave your hand down to end the piece.


Gamemaster's notes

Difficulty of this game grows very fast with increase in number of players. It's about high-intermediate with 4 players, and nightmare for 10. Still, all players need to be very careful when playing this game, especially to avoid showing conflicting cues. By default, additional body language is allowed.

As it's not exactly specified in the score, the music gets more diverse when you agree that the player that signalled the change has freedom whether to follow his/her own gesture or not. Also if you wish, you don't have to enforce the exact repetition of "recorded" patterns and allow for the approximate recall, where only some aspects or a general feeling of previous music is preserved.

Editor's notes

Original score can be found in International Improvised Music Archive, where you can find more "serious games" for music to learn about. (More playable scores will probably be imported to our wiki in some time).


Shiba Tetsu, しばてつ

Submitted with kind permission from the author. (Thank you Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen for contacting us with the author).


Scratch Orchestra's improvisation Rite. Watching, waiting, listening.

Setup (see notes)

Each person takes a number, between 1 and x (the nmber of people taking part). Numbers are chosen starting with the highest and counting downwards. If there is a disagreement about who should have a given number, it may be decided by tossing coins, by voting, or any other method. Each person must know who has the number immediately below his own, and all must remember who has the highest number.

Gameplay instructions

When numbers have been assigned, No 1 begins performing. Some time after No 1 has begun, No 2 begins, sometime after this No 3 begins, and so on until all are performing. If desired a maximum and a minimum interval may be decided in advance [… otherwise] this is free.

Game end

To end: The person who begins last (i.e. the person with the highest number) decides when to end. When he ceases performing, everyone else stops.

Gamemaster's notes

The extended setup of this game seems to be intentional as artistic means, but with more casual approach, the game works fine with any form of order assuming method. It's worth noting though, that it's better to not keep a set order to be obvious during playing (like usually it is during games played in a circle).

Nice way to do it is to play this game after having played a turn-based game in the circle. Every player remembers a person to his/her right (if previous game was played clock-wise) as a predecessor, and then everyone moves to other place in performing space (in the circle or not).


This is one of the Improvisational Rites of Scratch Orchestra from 1969.
Attributed to Michael Parsons (full notes).

Editor's notes

You can now read all Improvisation Rites from Nature Study Notes as digitized at the wiki.

Photo used for decoration is "Can't wait to go back home" by sightmybyblinded, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Two teams, three moods. Musical rock-paper-scissors.


Choose two players to be two competing conductors for this game (restricted role). The rest of musicians will be divided in two teams that will play with these two conductors (care for instrumentation of equal volume between teams).

Conductors should stand or sit back to back without seeing each other. Each one has members of 'opposing team' in front and team players see both conductors.

Agree on the sound for conductors to signal start of the turn. Foot stomp is the usual (and used below).

Gameplay instructions


Choose one of the signals: open hand, two fingers, fist.
Afterwards, when you are ready to begin the next turn, stomp. Right after both conductors stomped (i.e. after the second stomp or after one double-stomp if you synced) you should immediately show your chosen gesture. This gesture will be musically interpreted by musicians standing in front of you:

Count your points for the game. You get a point when:

  • you showed (1) when opponent showed (3)
  • you showed (2) when oppoonent showed (1)
  • you showed (3) when opponent showed (2).

You know what your opponent showed by listening to musical interpretation provided by 'your team'.


Interpret signals of the conductor standing in front of you:

  1. open hand, "paper"; music: surrounding, background, soft,
  2. middle and index fingers, "scissors"; music: sharp, painful, active,
  3. fist, "rock"; music: solid, to the ground, steady.

You should see both signals and also (collectively and quietly) count points to assess the end of the game.

Game end

Conductors: If you counted 3 points for you or for your opponent, turn around.

Players: Play your last cue until both conductors turn around or one stomps when the other turns.

Assess if the conductor's turning was done at the proper time. If indeed someone got 3 points, additional 2.5 points are given to each who properly turned.

The final score shows the winner.

Gamemaster's notes

Be careful how you divide players into team. Teams should be possible to distinguish by sound, and should both have sound options that allow them to help conductors of their team. Yes, you kind of conduct the opposing team and not your team — any hindering or hiding your signals from them is disqualifying.

It's important for conductors to be disciplined with timing of their signs, otherwise it leads to possible cheating (showing your sign after hearing out opponent's sign) and it's also then hard to keep track of points.


You can also have a referee for this game who shows when conductor should make new gestures and who counts points.
Gestures may be timed to beat with a drummer-accompanist.

Editor's notes

Photo used for decoration is by Sean Proulx, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Simple game for pitched instruments that are able to sustain a note for some time (or at least do tremolo).


Agree on the order of players (preferably stand in a circle). Announce a number 1 higher then the amount of participants, unless they are less than 5, then the number should be 7. This number will be the upper limit of your melodies.

Gameplay instructions

In every turn active player will take a solo of a given length (counted in number of notes), and the last note of the solo will be held for next two turns as a context for other players.

First player plays a note and holds it. Second player plays two notes and the second note will be held (for two next turns). The third player will play a solo of three notes. When the last note of this solo is sustained, the first player should stop playing (cause two turns of their sustaining just ended).

Every next player in line will play longer and longer solo to a two-note harmony provided by two previous players. When the number called in a setup is reached (e.g. solo of 7 notes is played), consequent players play each solo one note shorter than their predecessors'.

Game end

Game ends when solo of only one note is played again to form a final trichord. If everything went well it should be played by the same player that began the game.


Consider making it an vocal only piece (a capella).
Making a 'tail' of long sounds longer than two players often gives interesting results although is a bit more difficult and less consonant.

Gamemaster's notes

To make following of longer solos easier, consider using smaller groups of notes (of 2 or 3) when planning your melody. If you want to play a few games in a row, it's good to switch the order of players.


Adam Izaak Wasążnik

The Audition

Quick solo improvised performances are auditioned to create 3 duo sets. The duos compete against each other to win the best performance. All conducted within a seamless stretch of music.


Choose one conductor.
Then make groups of 3 players each. If needed, depending on how many players there are, an occasional group of 4 will work.


Seamless music throughout
Group #1:
#1 SOLO (30 sec) -> #2 SOLO (30 sec) -> #3 SOLO (30 sec) -> #1 DUO (2 min) ->
Group #2:
#4 SOLO (30 sec) -> #5 SOLO (30 sec) -> #6 SOLO (30 sec) -> #2 DUO (2 min) ->
Reject Duo (2:00)

Gameplay instructions

In this example, we have 7 people. 1 conductor. 6 players with 3 players in Group #1 and 3 players in Group #2.

Start with Group #1.
Give each player in the group 30 seconds to individually solo improvise.
Keep the music going between players. When the 30-second mark approaches the conductor will point to the next player. That player comes in as the previous player stops playing. A bit of "bleeding" can carry over from one player to the next, similar to a crossfade - it doesn't have to be a strict jumpcut.

Continue until all 3 players have auditioned.

During each solo audition the conductor should be considering which 2 players would work best together.

Near the end of the 3rd player’s auction the conductor will choose and point to 2 of the 3 players. Leaving 1 out - The Reject.

Conduct the 2 chosen players to come in together.
The appointed players improvise together as a duo for 2 minutes.

So far the form will look like this:

Group #1:
#1 SOLO (30 sec) -> #2 SOLO (30 sec) -> #3 SOLO (30 sec) -> #1 DUO (2 min)

Nearing the 2 minute mark the conductor points to Player #4 in Group #2 to solo improvise as the duo stops playing. Repeating the same process as Group #1.

At this point the form will look like this:

Group #1:
#1 SOLO (30 sec) -> #2 SOLO (30 sec) -> #3 SOLO (30 sec) -> #1 DUO (2 min) ->
Group #2:
#4 SOLO (30 sec) -> #5 SOLO (30 sec) -> #6 SOLO (30 sec) -> #2 DUO (2 min)

At the end of Group #2’s duo (2:00), the conductor points to the 2 previous players who were left out, The Rejects. They play for 2 minutes at which point the conductor conducts them to stop. The playing part of the game is over.

The final form will look like this:

Group #1:
#1 SOLO (30 sec) -> #2 SOLO (30 sec) -> #3 SOLO (30 sec) -> #1 DUO (2 min) ->
Group #2:
#4 SOLO (30 sec) -> #5 SOLO (30 sec) -> #6 SOLO (30 sec) -> #2 DUO (2 min) ->
Reject Duo (2:00)

Game end

Now it’s time to vote for the best duo. Everyone votes, including the conductor. You can't vote for your own duo. The duo with the most votes wins!

If you like, you can change conductors, shuffle the groups, and play the game again!


Larger groups are possible.
This particular version focuses on duos. You can try trios or even quartets.

For a longer game with 6 players and 1 conductor, you can keep going after The Reject Duo.
Near the end of The Reject Duo, the conductor points to 3 players.
The Reject Duo is conducted to stop at the 2:00 mark and the newly appointed trio comes in and plays for 3 minutes.
The conductor conducts them out after the 3:00 mark and conducts the remaining 3 players in to improvise together for 3 minutes.
Finally, this final trio is conducted out and the playing part of the game is over. Vote on the best trio. This trios extended version is about 16 minutes in length, including 1 minute for voting.


Marcus Staniec (notrightmusic)

Volume Waves

A game based on emergence with unique musical effect and challenging gaming task for any instruments that can play dynamically.


(Each player will play according to the same rules).

Choose two other players and assigns them two roles: Max and Min. This selection is secret will be valid for the entire duration of the game.

Gameplay instructions

Set a slow, comfortable cycle (e.g. "inhale-exhale") to alter listening attention between your Max and Min (but be careful not to show anything with sight or posture). When listening to your Min, play a little louder than Min plays at the moment. When listening to Max, your volume should change to be slightly lower than that of Max (or silence if suitable). Changes between your levels should be as smooth as possible.

You may set a comfortable limit on the maximum volume and not exceed it during the game.

Start with the same time of attention directed to Min and Max. In the course of the game gradually spend more and more time with your Max and less time focusing on Min (still adjusting volume according to your state).

Game end

The music will finally come to a level of total silence. Here ends the musical part of the game and the guessing phase begins. Now, point to two people who you think might have chosen you as their Min or Max (it is also possible that nobody chose you, so you can bet on that option too, or one person).

When everyone has their types, you all tell whom did you have as Min and Max and everyone may check the correctness of their guesses.

Gamemaster's notes

Participants that are not ready to improvise by ear might constrain themselves to just few tones. This way they will provide context for improvising players.

With other amount of participants, the game is playable, but effects of emergence are less clear.

The game is suitable for electronic instruments.

Untied by the proponent. Similar to an activity from improvisational theatre.


Easier way of changing state between playing to Min and to Max doesn't require keeping any inner rhythm:
Gradually lower your volume until reaching Max level, then start to play louder and louder until reaching Min level.

Although easier to perform, this version usually produces less interesting musical effect and sometimes fails to provide playful opportunities when player's Min is louder then one's Max for too long.