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Music Theory Card Games

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Musicards has been enjoyed by preschoolers to adults.  To build familiarity with the cards and improve recognition of the notes and symbols, you can play such basics as Memory, Go Fish, and Old Maid.  However, we have also created some unique games that teach and reinforce foundational music theory concepts that are necessary for further development.

 

If you are a more experienced musician, don't miss our Tools section 

 

Commonly played games

Most Common Games

The Distance


The Musical Alphabet is only 7 letters: A-B-C-D-E-F-G. Then it starts over again. THE CARDS: You may use all 54 cards of the Musicards™ deck, including the four "?"s and two "Chromatic Scale" cards which function as wilds. The octave, color, and suit do not matter.
SET UP: (For 2-5 players) 1. Deal out 7 cards to each player. Players may look at their cards. 2. Place the remaining cards face down in the middle of the table as the stock. 3. Flip the top card of the stock over to start the discard pile beside the stock. -If the card you flipped over to start the discard pile is a wild (“Chromatic Scale” or “?”), the first player may choose any card to play on top of it. -If the flipped card has two letters on it, (for example “G#/Ab), the first player can choose which of the two letters it is and play up from that. OBJECTIVE: The first player to run out of all their cards WINS! PLAY: 1. Play proceeds clockwise, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. 2. On each turn, you are to put the next letter up above the last card played onto the discard pile. 3. You may choose to put down more than one card, but they must be the same letter (and have the same number on the cards). -Example: If you’re going up by Seconds* and the last card played is an “F” (an F or F#), the next player must play a “G”. It may be a Gb, G, or G# (but not a mixture of these). 4. A wild card ("?"s and "Chromatic Scale"s) can always be used as a substitute for a needed card. Wilds may be played as part of a group of cards, too. 5. When playing your card or cards, you must ALWAYS say the letter you are playing. If you put down the wrong card OR say the wrong letter, you must take your card(s) back into your hand AND draw two (2) penalty cards from the stock. 6. When you get down to the last card in your hand, you must say, "Musicards™!" to let others know you have one card. If another player says "Musicards™" before you, you must draw two (2) penalty cards from the stock! (But you don't have to take back the card you played.) PASSING: 1. If you don't have the card you need, you must draw from the stock. If that card works, you may play it. You must draw at least 3 cards in order to be allowed to pass. If you pass, the next player puts down the letter you were supposed to play, (unless they need to draw, etc).
2. If the stock runs out, shuffle and turn over the discard pile (except for the top card) and use it as the stock. *At the beginning of each game, decide which interval you will be going by. For this game your choices are Seconds, Thirds, Fourths, Fifths, Sixths, or Sevenths. When figuring out the interval, you must count the letter you start on, the letter you end on, and the letters in between. Example 1: From any F to any G is a Second. F-G. (1-2) Example 2: From any F to any A is a Third. F-G-A. (1-2-3) Example 3: From any A up to any D is a Fourth. A-B-C-D. (1-2-3-4)




Steps


The Musical Alphabet is only 7 letters: A-B-C-D-E-F-G. Then it starts over again. THE CARDS: You may use all 54 cards of the Musicards™ deck, including the four "?"s and two "Chromatic Scale" cards which function as wilds. The octave, color, and suit do not matter.
SET UP: (For 2-5 players) 1. Deal out 7 cards to each player. Players may look at their cards. 2. Place the remaining cards face down in the middle of the table as the stock. 3. Flip the top card of the stock over to start the discard pile beside the stock. -If the card you flipped over to start the discard pile is a wild (“Chromatic Scale” or “?”), the first player may choose any card to play on top of it. -If the flipped card has two letters on it, (for example “G#/Ab), the first player can choose which of the two letters it is and play up from that. OBJECTIVE: The first player to run out of all their cards WINS! PLAY: 1. Play proceeds clockwise, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. 2. On each turn, you are to put the next letter up above the last card played onto the discard pile. 3. You may choose to put down more than one card, but they must be the same letter (and have the same number on the cards). -Example: If you’re going up by Seconds* and the last card played is an “F” (an F or F#), the next player must play a “G”. It may be a Gb, G, or G# (but not a mixture of these). 4. A wild card ("?"s and "Chromatic Scale"s) can always be used as a substitute for a needed card. Wilds may be played as part of a group of cards, too. 5. When playing your card or cards, you must ALWAYS say the letter you are playing. If you put down the wrong card OR say the wrong letter, you must take your card(s) back into your hand AND draw two (2) penalty cards from the stock. 6. When you get down to the last card in your hand, you must say, "Musicards™!" to let others know you have one card. If another player says "Musicards™" before you, you must draw two (2) penalty cards from the stock! (But you don't have to take back the card you played.) PASSING: 1. If you don't have the card you need, you must draw from the stock. If that card works, you may play it. You must draw at least 3 cards in order to be allowed to pass. If you pass, the next player puts down the letter you were supposed to play, (unless they need to draw, etc).
2. If the stock runs out, shuffle and turn over the discard pile (except for the top card) and use it as the stock. *At the beginning of each game, decide which interval you will be going by. For this game your choices are Seconds, Thirds, Fourths, Fifths, Sixths, or Sevenths. When figuring out the interval, you must count the letter you start on, the letter you end on, and the letters in between. Example 1: From any F to any G is a Second. F-G. (1-2) Example 2: From any F to any A is a Third. F-G-A. (1-2-3) Example 3: From any A up to any D is a Fourth. A-B-C-D. (1-2-3-4)




Key's Corners


Key’s Corners is a fun, scale-spelling game that helps you remember what notes are in a key. DEFINITIONS: A scale is any set of musical notes ordered by pitch. Scales are built on interval formulas. Diatonic scales use only half steps and whole steps. An interval is the distance from one musical note (pitch) to another. A half step (semitone or minor 2nd) is the smallest interval between two adjacent notes in a 12-tone scale (e.g. from C to C#/Db or from E to F). On the Chromatic Scale clock, this would be advancing from one “hour” to the next. (e.g. from 12 to 1 or from 4 to 5). A whole step (whole tone or Major 2nd) is two half steps. (e.g. from C to D or from E to F#/Gb). On the Chromatic Scale clock, this would be skipping one “hour”. (e.g. from 12 to 2 or 4 to 6). The first note of a scale is called the keynote (tonic, root, or “Do” in solfege syllables) One common scale is the Major scale. This is spelled by arranging the notes using the following interval formula: Keynote - whole step - whole step - half step - whole step - whole step - whole step NUMBER OF PLAERS: 2-5 SET UP: Decide which scale you will be using for the current round. If needed, you may write down the scale for reference. Deal five cards to each player. Put the rest of the cards face down in the center of table to form the stock pile. Flip four cards face-up from the stock pile, and place them North, East, South, and West around the stock pile, to start four foundation piles. PLAY: The player to dealer's left goes first. Always first, draw until you have 5 cards. (You won’t need to draw on your first hand.) There are several possible plays: -Play scale notes in sequence, (starting with the keynote) in the corners. -Play scale notes in sequence on foundation piles. -Stack up to four non-scale notes on foundation piles. -Fill in empty foundation piles. -Move cards from one pile to another. -Discard a card that cannot be played on anything else showing. At the end of your turn, tell the next player that you are done. PLAYING ON THE CORNERS: The corner spaces (NW, SW, NE, and SE) always start with the keynote or tonic of the scale. For example, if the scale is D major, (spelled D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#) a D may be played in any of the 4 corners. Continue playing the notes in order up the scale. Whoever completes the scale by playing the final note (in this example, a C#) takes the entire scale as a set (book) to be added to their score at the end of the game. A player may move cards from a foundation pile onto the corner pile as long as the correct sequence of notes is maintained. Empty corner spaces do not need to be filled. PLAYING ON THE FOUNDATIONS: If a foundation pile is part of the scale sequence, you may play on the pile, continuing up the scale up to the last note of the scale (in this example, C#) If a foundation pile is not part of the scale sequence (non-scale tones), you can stack up to four of the same card. For example, “Ab” is not in the D Major scale, so you can stack up to four Ab’s. Whoever completes a stack by playing the fourth non-scale note, takes the entire stack as a set (book) to be added to their score at the end of the game. You may move cards from one foundation pile onto another pile as long as the correct sequence of notes is maintained. Empty foundation pile spaces MUST be filled first, from any cards in the current player’s hand. Then next, (if no more cards in their hand) from the discard pile (top card first). If the current player runs out of cards to fill the empty foundation piles, and the discard pile is used up, the next player must fill the spaces with cards from their hand. THE DISCARD PILE: Instead of playing on one of the foundation or corner piles, you may choose to play one card onto the discard pile (located off to the side of the main board). If you play a discard, that must be the only card you play for that turn (you may not play other cards and discard as well) The discard must not be a possible play anywhere else on the board. The top card of the discard pile may be used for any play showing on the board. But, empty foundation pile spaces must FIRST be filled with cards from the current player’s hand. Also, a player is not required to play from the discard pile even though it may be a possible play (except for filling empty spaces). OTHER RULES: A wild card (“?” or “Chromatic Scale”) can always be used as a substitute for a needed card (player must say what note they are using the wild as). You must play at least one card on each turn. A discard counts as a play. If there is a possible play showing on the board during your turn, you must play it. You are allowed to hold onto playable cards in your hand, as long as the board doesn’t require them. When the stock pile runs out, play continues as before (except for needing 5 cards) until every player has run out of cards or possible plays. SCORING: Each completed scale is worth 10 points Each non-scale stack of four is worth 5 points. Whoever gets the most points wins!





Other games

Squeeze


Squeeze is a chord-spelling game that helps players remember what notes are in a chord and which ones are not. 2-5 players Before starting, determine which type of chord you will be spelling and make sure you have a list or chart of all those chords available if you need it. There are several different kinds of chords (Major, minor, augmented, diminished, 7th chords, and more). For charts you can go to the TOOLS page. Deal: Deal five cards to each player. Put the rest of the cards face down in the centre of table to form the stock pile. Play: The first player plays any card (except for a wild). Based on that card, following players take turns adding notes until chords are spelled. For example, lets say As more cards are added, the possible notes are narrowed down (and other chords are “squeezed” out). Play proceeds clockwise, starting with the player to dealer's left. ?-13 and Clock (chromatic scale) cards are wild but can only be played as the note that completes the chord. Whoever completes the chord by playing the last needed card, starts off the next play. If a player does not have a card that can fit into the chord, they must draw a single card. If the card they pull is usable, they may play it. Otherwise they must pass. Whenever a player runs out of cards they draw five more from the stock pile unless the pile is gone. Variation 1: The first card played indicates the root note of the chord that is being spelled. Example 1: If playing Major chords and the first person plays a C, then the next card must be either an E or a G since a C Major chord is spelled C-E-G. Say the next player puts down a G. So the final card must either be an E or a wild card. Example 2: If playing Minor 7 chords and the first person plays a D, then the next possible cards are either an F, A, or C since a Dm7 chord is spelled D-F-A-C. Again, the final card may be a wild card.
If there are no more cards to draw from the stock pile and a chord cannot be completed after every player has passed, the cards are discarded. Whoever had played the first card of the chord will start off with a new card. When one player plays their last card, it signals the last hand of the game. Whatever cards still held by players after this hand are discarded and not counted. Scoring: Every chord spelled is 1 point. Whoever gets the most points wins! Variation 2 (more advanced): The first card played can be any note in the chord that is being spelled. Example 1: If playing Major chords and the first person plays a C, then the next card may be an E or a G for a C Major chord (C-E-G), an Ab or a Eb for an Ab Major Chord (Ab-C-Eb), or an F or an A for an F Major chord (F-A-C). Say the next player puts down a G. We now know the chord cannot be Ab or F, so the final card must either be an E or a wild card. Example 2: If playing Minor 7 chords and the first person plays a D, then the possible chords are Dm7: D-F-A-C Bm7: B-D-F#-A Gm7: G-Bb-D-F Em7: E-G-B-D If the next card played is a G, then that squeezes out the Dm7 and Bm7 chords (since they don’t contain a G) so we’re left with Gm7 or Em7. If the next card is a B then we know that the chord is Em7 (Gm7 doesn’t have a B) and that the final card must be an E. Again, the final card may be a wild card. Variation 3: Deal out all of the cards at the beginning so that all players have an equal number of cards. Any extra cards are not included in play. Everything else proceeds as above except if a player doesn’t have needed card, they simply pass. If a chord cannot be completed after every player has passed, the cards are discarded. Whoever had played the first card of the chord will start off with a new card.




Progressions


Progressions is a chord-spelling game that helps players become more familiar with chord progressions and how to remember which notes are in a key or not. 2-5 players Before starting, determine which chord progression you will be spelling and make sure you have a list or chart of all those chords available if you need it. For charts you can go to www.playmusicards.com/music-theory-tools/ For these examples we will use the progression: I vi IV V7. Deal: Deal five cards to each player. Put the rest of the cards face down in the center of table to form the stock pile. Play: On each turn, a player has three options. They can play the next chord in the progression, draw a single card, or exchange cards from their hand. For exchanges, player may only put down cards that are not in the key and then will pick up the same number of cards that they had put down onto the discard pile (beside the stock pile). Once a chord in the progression has been played, then everyone moves on to try and play the next chord. And so on. So, if the I and vi chords are already played, then the next chord to spell would be the IV chord. If there are no more cards to draw from the stock pile and a chord cannot be completed after every player has passed, the round ends. For the next round, a different key is selected but the same chord progression is used. The player to the left of whichever player played last in the previous round goes first in the new round. Scoring: Every card played is 1 point. ? cards are 2 points and Chromatic cards are 3 points. At the end of each round, each player will add up the points they had played and subtract points from their hand. Non-key cards in the hand are each -1 point. Cards in the hands that are in the key are not counted. ? are -2 and Chromatics are -3 points. At the end of each round, all players will keep whatever cards they have in their hand. All the played cards, discarded and stock pile cards are shuffled and set as the stock pile for the next round. Again, the player to the left of whichever player played last in the previous round goes first in the new round. Whoever gets to 50 points first wins! Example: Fist key: C major. Chord progression: I – vi – IV – V7 Scale: C-D-E-F-G-A-B I chord: C-E-G vi chord: A-C-E IV chord: F-A-C V7 chord: G-B-D-F





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