T. Wishart, Sounds Fun

Available here: http://www.trevorwishart.co.uk/publ_bks.html
or: http://web.archive.org/web/20211127170124/http://www.trevorwishart.co.uk/SoundsFun.zip

There's so much to say about this book, although currently what's being said refers to the author's scans that are available at the link above. Differences with the paper versions are likely. The scans present a book hand-written, but quite readable, with hand-drawn diagrams and a perfect layout, all very well-organized including "hypertextual" inner references that somewhat put the actual hypertext of our wiki to shame…

Content overview

Don't skip the Introduction! It has insightful subchapters on how to lead and prepare a music game session. In this section we also learn that the main source for Sounds Fun is improvisational theatre. Inspired by this kind of improv, Trevor Wishart develops and then presents in the main part of the book 15 games intended for musical education of children (seemingly in a context of a not very formal, performance-oriented curriculum).

In accord with this usage, all items presented are "free-form activities" rather than "well-defined games" with player counts of 10 or up. The presence of a facilitator is assumed and most often necessary, and each activity has numerous variants to choose from. This factor makes the actual number of games hard to specify and "15" is the minimum number.

Downtime — A situation during the game when a player is not engaged in play.

Book's publishing date closes to 50 years ago, so naturally there are a few features that show age design-wise. Maybe the clearest is a strong tendency towards player elimination/dropout mechanic which is now rarely in favor because of downtime considerations. Riding another player or going around with a bag over one's head are also very niche design solutions.


Interestingly, long after the first publication, in 2012 the book was published also in Japan. But alas, this version is not yet investigated for a comparative review.

Games in detail

Here is a list of all basic games presented in the book. Not every one falls into our library scope, and some we already have. In any case, here the descriptions will be short but some additional details may be on the activity's subpage. The great value of the book is that it presents the introduction process for the "leader" and also shows you how the title relates to other games in the book, this will not be replicated.

  • Hello! — With a repeating clapping pattern (three claps, pause of the 3-clap length, three claps, …) players one-by-one put their own sound into the pause.
  • Clappers! — Move the sound around the circle, a broad premise present in the library as Bounce-the-Sound, but also as warm-ups like The Ping Pong Ball or Pass the Clap.
  • Sonar! — Locating a partner in the room by listening while blindfolded, similarly to Musical Brouhaha but the sounds are not inspired by cards.
  • Echo! — Repeat a sound after your partner.
  • Plug! — Fill in the pauses in the rhythmic pattern with your sound; possibly a useful intro to Musical Tetris lvl 1.
  • Slapdash! — A spatial framework for clapping games with fixed patterns.
  • Adder! — One-by-one add a new improvised sound at the end of the chain of sounds, but first perform the whole chain that accumulated so far and you lose a round if you forget.
  • Divider! — A proposed melody for the round is sung by consecutive players each singing only one note.
  • Tortoise! — A physical activity that involves riding a crawling singer.
  • Riff-Raff! — One by one add a riff to the piece; kind of like making a circlesong or beginning a Loop Cycle.
  • Soundtrack! — Musically illustrate the narrative told aloud by one player, and acted out silently by other participants.
  • Pass the Sound — « An invisible "thing" is passed around the circle — each person mimes a different object when he is passed the "thing" e.g. typewriter, baby etc. and then passes it to the next person. The person opposite must make appropriate sounds. »
  • Conductor (T. Wishart) — Players present sounds they'll use, then the conductor signals play/stop individually to make a piece.
  • Harmony-Tag! — Each player has a single pitch to hold, their singing may be switched on and off by one other person who creates harmonies.
  • Supersound! — One by one make a sound that hasn't been made before in this game.

Dropout activities

On a few occasions it is hinted in this review and in notes for games, how the, abundantly used in the book, player elimination is a design solution that lost on popularity (and rightly so). But Trevor Wishart's take on that is specific, and the book encourages for any eliminated player to join in on a chosen activity, with a list of potential such tasks presented after game chapters. Here, the book doesn't provide a method of introducing the activity, and just seven paragraph provide seven different tasks.

AMAPFALAP — As much as possible from as little as possible.

Some are just amapfalap, listening-based, or acting out the scene. With final task "Invent your own new sound-game", while being also interesting, maybe shows that Wishart prefers games that won't require much playtesting. At G4M, we find inventing new games more suitable for at least a full-day game jam if not years of hard work…

Generally, the task-based solution to dropout indeed skips the downtime problem of player elimination, but introduces other, like leading two activities at once (two separate rooms needed?), also people are constantly joining an activity, at an uncontrolled pace. But maybe for your specific circumstances this "active dropout" method will work.


The final pages of the book show how all the games relate to each other on the large chart, which is a reminder about how well-organized and thought through the book is. There are also further suggestions, which confirm that for Wishart games might be rather simple jumping-off points towards more complex musical adventures, and not complete works of art (like they might be treated in other areas of our wiki).

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