Ladders

Duration: 5 – 20 minutes, depending on appetite

Age range: 8+

Players: 7 – 25 but 15 is optimum

The purpose of this game is to demonstrate how a beautiful piece of music can emerge from a disciplined application of rhythm.  It is fairly advanced and should not be attempted until some of the easier games have been mastered, but it is a fine reward for all the hard work of learning the basics.  It can be played using instruments or voices or a mixture of the two.

  • Stand in a circle and explain that you will establish a steady, audible pulse.  The pulse will be divided into groups (bars) of eight beats.  The first person sings or plays notes on beats 1, 2, 3 and 4, one note per beat.  The next person in the circle plays on beats 5 & 6 without a pause and the third person plays on beats 7 & 8. 
  • This sequence repeats as you continue around the circle with the fourth person playing on beats 1, 2, 3, 4, the fifth on beats 5 & 6 etc.  Unless the number of players is divisible by three, everyone's position in the sequence will change as the pulse moves around the circle. 
  • The idea is to create a mesmeric and evolving piece of music.  To begin with it may well lurch along with players pausing as they realise it's their turn or else rushing in too quickly.  When mastered it can have a very calming, even meditative, effect.

Note:  Any parameters can be set e.g. everyone’s phrase must descend from their first note or everyone’s first note must be the same as the previous person’s last note.  Change the parameters: e.g. everyone sings on beats 1, 2 & 3 of a three-beat bar.  Specify a scale or key to be used.  Change from major to minor.  In a large group try sending two phrases around the circle at the same time.  This game will also work on percussion instruments: it is always possible to extract two or more different sounds from any instrument with a little exploration.