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What is Musical Chairs?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 21, 2024
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Musical chairs is a game that involves music, movement, and listening, and is primarily used in schools and at parties for children. At parties, it is often used among a set of games, such as pin the tail on the donkey, and blindman’s buff, that provide an opportunity for the hosting family to give gifts to the guests. Typically, the winner of a round will receive a small prize or token.

Playing Musical Chairs
To play musical chairs, you need to have some device to provide music. This can be a piano that someone plays, a CD player, or any other device. A grown-up controls the starting and stopping of music.

The game set-up requires that one less chair than the number of players be arranged in a circle with the seats facing outwards. They can also be arranged in two long lines back-to-back. When the music starts, children form a single-file line and march around the chairs in one direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise. The grown-up allows them to get the feel of it, then suddenly stops the music. This is a signal for each child to sit in a chair as quickly as possible.

One player will be left without a chair, and is out. A chair is removed, the children stand up and reform their line, and resume marching when the music begins again. The game continues until one of the last two players sits in the only remaining chair, and is declared the winner.

Reference to Musical Chairs in Advertising
Musical chairs is referenced in a 2007 KIA Motors commercial in which a group of cars are circling around an empty parking lot, with circus type music playing on the loud speaker. At a given signal, the cars are allowed to seek a parking space, but there is one space too few for the number of cars, so one car is left out. It drives away and as the commercial ends, the cars back out, the music begins again, the cars form a circle driving around the empty spaces again, with the implication that round two of the game is about to begin.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for BeautyAnswered, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On May 06, 2014

@turquoise-- I don't think that musical chairs is such a bad game. Multiple rounds can be played, so there can be more than one winner. We played this at my son's birthday party and the kids had a lot of fun. We played may rounds with many winners.

By turquoise — On May 05, 2014

@RoyalSpyder-- I'm not much of a fan of this game, I never was. I agree with you that it's frustrating. There is only one winner and sometimes there is a lot of pushing and pulling to get to the remaining chairs. I don't think that it's the most fun game for children as children feel left out and only one child receives the prize.

I think games like hot potato, Simon Says and pass the parcel are better. Pass the parcel is really the best game because everyone receives a small gift and no one feels left out. Hot potato, Simon Says and Statues are also elimination games but at least there is no pushing and pulling for chairs. Everyone has a fair chance in these games.

By ddljohn — On May 04, 2014

I've only played musical chairs a few times in my life, and it was at school. I remember that it was a lot of fun. The first time I ever played it was probably in elementary or middle school. It was such a fun day for me that I kept telling my mom about the game when I got home.

I wish I could play it now! Why do adults usually not play musical chairs?

By Hazali — On May 04, 2014

Musical chairs can be quite fun when you play your cards right, but in all honesty, I'm a bit of a spoiled sport, especially when it comes to games like these. As a previous poster mentioned, you never known when the music is going to stop, and then as the game goes on, it just gets harder and harder, especially when the chairs are removed. Despite the frustration, it's all in good fun though.

By Euroxati — On May 03, 2014

@RoyalSpyder - Not surprisingly, I'd say the hardest part of musical chairs is the fact that you just never knows when the music will stop. It could stop in two seconds, or even ten seconds. One piece of advice is to always be as close to a chair as possible when you're anticipating that the music will stop. Also, anticipate the movements of other as well. Remember, you're not the only one who is playing this game.

By RoyalSpyder — On May 02, 2014

Musical chairs is a really great game, but I often found myself getting very frustrated when I was a kid, ha ha. Still tons of fun, though. Anyone else?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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