Four Part Rummy
by Alan Silverstein
Current job is as a Band and Humanities teacher at Valhalla High
Instructional Objective The learners will be able to
construct ensembles of instruments capable of performing compositions
written in the SATB soprano, alto, tenor, bass style.
Learners/Context The learners are students in a elementary, or
jr. high school music appreciation class.
Rationale One of the most important concepts in the
understanding of how a composer arranges and organizes music is the
idea of four voice writing. This style is commonly known as SATB
(soprano, alto, tenor ,bass) composition. After receiving instruction
on the structure of the orchestra and the ranges of the various
instruments and the SATB style, students could use practice at
assembling various combinations of instruments into four voice
A card game is used for the following reasons:
- It will familiarize the learners with the instruments, their
family or classification and their range,
- It encourages creativity by allowing students to put together
non- traditional combinations of instruments
- It provides a fun activity for students who might otherwise be
"turned off" to classical music.
Process Student should first be given instruction on the
various instruments and their ranges, this should include the playing
of recordings of the instruments. The students will be given the card
game to help them remember and reinforce the concept of four voice
The next stage for more motivated or advanced students would be to
identify various instruments and their range from aural examples.
Rules The game is played in the following manner:
- First choose a dealer. The dealer shuffles the deck of cards
and then deals four cards to each player. The remaining cards are
placed face down for drawing during play. One card is turned over
to form the discard pile.
- This is a rummy type game. The players read their cards to
find the name, range and family of the instruments. After reading
the attributes on the cards, they organize their cards into four
part ensembles. The player to the left of the dealer begins the
- If the first player finds he /she has a set of four cards that
make a SATB ensemble they may lay them on the table and pull four
cards from the deck. If the player does not have a four part set
then they must draw a card from the deck or the discard pile and
place a card in the discard pile. The play then moves to the next
- The piano card is a wild card. Because it is able to
play in all ranges it may take the forth part in a set.
- When the drawing pile is depleted, the discard pile (excluding
the top card which is left as the new discard pile)is shuffled and
turned face down.
- The cards are reshuffled when one player has four ensembles
- The winner is the first player to accumulate 50 points.
Scoring The sets are scored as follows:
- An ensemble that contains instruments (including piano) from
more than one family is worth 4 points.
- An ensemble that contains instruments that are all in the same
family receives 6 points.
Optional UsesOther uses of an expanded deck could be used
to reinforce the instrumentation of other cultures.
Design Process The game was designed to be simple enough
for elementary students. The cards would consist of three sets of
sixteen cards (the four families of instruments) plus two piano
cards. A more complex version of the game could include instruments
found outside of the orchestra such as the guitar, bagpipes, or the
The needs assessment comes from my experience as a general music
teacher. I observed that many students did not understand the
different roles various instruments play. Since these are primarily
students who have never played an instrument and can not read music,
I looked for a way to teach the concept of four part composition
without those skills.
Some problems I would like to correct are a way to increase the
variety of cards. I believe that the game may be too easy the way it
An advanced version might be designed that could include
instruments from other cultures. Players could arrange the cards into
ensembles common in their native cultures.