by Jeremy Barnett

Jeremy welcomes each day as a new adventure as a grad student, fiancee, employee, tenant, pet owner, son, brother, and soon-to-be uncle. He sometimes finds himself overwhelmed and staring into the refrigerator wondering what happened to the cream cheese.

Instructional Objective The learners shall be able to name 16 common orchestral instruments and identify the four major instrumental groups (woodwinds, strings, percussion and horns) to which they belong. In addition, students will be able to use terminology relating to the grouping of instruments.

Learners/Context The learners are 3rd to 6th grade students in music education class.

Rationale As a means to supplement music appreciation, students will learn about the variety of musical instruments and their voices in a composition.

Through playing "Orchestration," students can learn about each instrument and the group to which it belongs in an informal environment in which students will learn from each other. Actual instruments should be shown and demonstrated in class prior to playing the game.

The card game provides an informal structure in which students can test their knowledge of the instruments and their classes while learning interesting facts about each instrument. As students become more familiar with the variety of instruments, perhaps they will be motivated to study one in greater depth.

The Deck

The deck consists of 36 cards. There are four groups of cards: woodwinds, horns, percussion, and strings. There are four instruments in each group as follows:

Woodwinds: bassoon, clarinet, flute, piccolo Horns: tuba, trombone, French horn, trumpet

Strings: bass, cello, viola, violin

Percussion: bass drum, timpani, snare, cymbal

Underneath the picture on each card are facts about the particular instrument called "Musical Notes."

There are also four special value cards: "Woodwind Ensemble," "String Ensemble," "Horn Section," and "Rhythm Section" which have values as outlined in the rules.

Rules The game is played by two to four players in the manner of 5-card draw poker:

1. Choose a dealer. The dealer shuffles the deck of 36 cards and then deals five cards to each player, beginning with the player to his/her left. The dealer is responsible for the remaining cards which are placed face down in front of her/him.

2. Each player studies her/his "hand" and organizes the cards by instrument group. (Players do not show hands to each other to maintain some mystery and competition).

3. The player to the left of the dealer begins the play with a discard and draw:

Discarding: Each player may discard up to 3 cards in exchange for the same number of cards from the dealer's pile. If the player holds a "Horn Section" "Rhythm Section ", "Woodwind Ensemble," or "String Ensemble" card, the player may exchange four cards.

(Discarded cards are put to the side and not to be used until the next shuffled hand).

4. Play is made in a clockwise direction. Once all players and the dealer have exchanged cards, each player organizes his/her hand by grouping like instruments (strings, woodwinds, horns, percussion).

5. The Next Play:

Starting again with the player to the left of the dealer, each player reads the "Musical Notes" on the bottom of each card in hand and then lays out his/her hand.

The player with most like cards wins the hand and assumes the role of Dealer .

(Players decide the # of hands to be played to determine an overall winner).


- two instruments in the same group

loses to...

- two cards of the same instrument

loses to...

- two instruments in the same group and

two of another group (2 pair)

loses to...

- three instruments in the same group

loses to...

- two pair of instruments (e.g. two trumpets and two violins)

loses to...

- two instruments in the same group and

three of another (full house)

loses to...

- four instruments in the same group

loses to...

- four instruments in the same group with an

"Ensemble" or "Section" card of that group

Note: "Ensemble" or "Section" cards are most valuable when used with four instruments of that group. This hand wins all. However, when a player holds the "Ensemble" or "Section" card and does not have four others of the same instrument group, it functions as a wild card: it can be traded in a special second exchange with the dealer deck or function as an instrument card in the group it represents.

In the event of a tie:

If two players have equal valued hands (eg., each has two of a kind in different instrument groups), the dealer draws the top card from the leftover deck. Without showing it to either of the players, the dealer reads the "Musical Notes" on the card. The first player to correctly identify the instrument and its group, wins the hand.

In the event of a tie in games of only two players:

As above, one player chooses a card from the unused pile and reads the "Musical Notes" to his/her opponent. If the opponent correctly answers, then he/she chooses a card and questions the other player. This continues until one player correctly responds and the other incorrectly responds.

Optional Uses The game cards can also be used in other ways for instruction.

* Individuals or teams of two can use the cards as flash study cards

* Students in the class can randomly select cards and group themselves according to instrument groups for other activities

* "Musical Notes" on the bottom of each card can serve as starting points for further study or research

Card Design


Design Process One of the primary concerns in designing this game was to create a group-learning environment. Music class can be a relief from the normal stand-and-deliver lessons and I wanted to enable students to interact and learn from each other.

One of the hidden objectives of this game is to encourage students to learn more about different instruments with the hope that they become interested in learning to play one. Though there are many types of music, instruments, composers, and components of music study, I chose to focus on common orchestral instruments because of their availability and prominence in school music programs.

The poker-style card game is a new way to learn about musical instruments and in its novelty should motivate students to learn and keep their attention. The card design, which features photos and interesting facts about the instruments in a simple and clean format, promotes recognition and recall. And, the cards' portability lends to learning in a variety of class settings. Perhaps even on the bus ride of the class trip to the symphony!