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All About Musical Chairs: How to Play, Rules, Variations,… (Easily Explained)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Kids playing game and sit fast on chairs outside

Today we’re going to talk about an all-time favorite: Musical Chairs! Most people are yet to meet others who don’t enjoy a few rounds of this game. Sadly, there are those out there who have never played the game and therefore never experienced the fun and excitement that it can create in groups of adults and children.

If you haven’t had much experience with the game or are trying to teach others how to play it, you’ve come to the right place. We’re about to take a closer look at how to play the game, what the rules are, and what variations of the game exist. 

Musical Chairs involves the elimination of players round by round. Chairs are set up (one less than the total number of people) in a line or a circle. Players must move around the chairs while the music plays, but when it stops, they must sit on a chair. Whoever ends up without a chair to sit on in the end, loses the game. The game is played until one player is left.

Of course, this is a very simplified and summarized explanation of the game and its rules. There’s a lot more to know, if you have the time and inclination (which, let’s face it; who doesn’t?!). If you are interested in learning a lot more about the game in order to have a better understanding of it, read on. 

First: A little piece of advice about playing Musical Chairs

The game of Musical Chairs must be played correctly in order for it to be enjoyed by all. Strangely, some schools have sought to ban the game from being played because some children become quite aggressive during play. 

Regardless of whether you are playing the game with children or adults, always keep a close eye on how people are playing, so that you can avoid upsets and injuries. That being said, let’s jump right into everything you need to know. 

How to Play Musical Chairs

As already mentioned, Musical Chairs is a game for a group of people, and it involves eliminating a player in each round. In order to play the game, the number of players must be counted. Chairs are gathered – one less than the total number of people playing – and set up either in a circle or in lines. There is no definitive way to set up the chairs, and people can get quite creative with their setups. 

To start the game, players must move around the chairs while a piece of music plays. There is one player in charge of the music, which is somewhat in control of the game. 

When the music controller sees fit, they stop the music, which is the signal for all players to grab themselves a chair. Players typically make a mad dash for the nearest chair and must sit down on it in order for it to be considered “theirs”. When the dust settles, one player will be left without a chair. This person is then considered “out”.

To start the next round, one more chair is removed, and the music is started once more. The game continues in this manner until one chair, and 2 players remain. Then it is a fight between the 2 players to see who will get the chair and be the winner of the game. 

Children go around playing musical chairs outside

What are the Rules of Musical Chairs?

The rules of the game are really just the gameplay instructions; however, there are several no-no scenarios that should be observed throughout the game. These are typically followed in order to ensure nobody gets hurt and that people play fair. These can be considered the “rules”. 

  • The player who is out can help with the music or simply watch for the remaining rounds. 
  • A play must never pull a chair out from underneath another player. 
  • Chairs must not be pushed, pulled, or moved in any way. Players must simply sit on the chairs without trying to “get” the chair in any other way that may cause injury to another player. 
  • In most versions, if someone sits on a chair while the music is still playing, they are eliminated from the game. 
  • If 2 players sit on the same chair and claim it was theirs, look to see which player has more space on the chair. If you can’t decide, the round should be played over.
  • Anyone who physically hurts or harms someone to win should be eliminated from the game. It’s probably a good idea to have a firm stance on this if you are supervising the game with children.

Five Variations of Musical Chairs

Over the years, the game of Musical Chairs has been altered and changed to create a variety of variants. These new variants are just there to bring some added interest or unexpected fun to the game that’s already thoroughly enjoyed by so many.

If you’re interested in incorporating a twist to the game, consider opting for a variant of the game instead of simply playing the original version. Below are 5 of the most enjoyed variations of the game for you to consider:

1. Extreme Musical Chairs

This is a version of the game that is considered demanding. Instead of just claiming a chair when the music stops, players must complete a task before they can claim their chair. This adds pressure to the situation, which results in much hilarity and fun. 

The task can be anything. Popular options include doing star jumps or squats. Other variations of this could be to complete a simple mathematics question or to complete a puzzle. 

2. Non-Competitive Musical Chairs

For groups that don’t want anyone to feel like a loser or be left out, non-competitive Musical Chairs is a viable option. It’s a great deal of fun too. In this version of the game, the chairs are still removed in each round, but nobody is out.

Instead, players without a chair must sit on other players’ laps. This continues until all the players are trying to squeeze themselves onto one chair. It’s a great deal of fun, but if being played with young children, supervision is required to ensure nobody falls and gets hurt.

3. Dancing Musical Chairs

This is a great way to get kids to burn off energy and have heaps of fun while playing Musical Chairs. The game works the same as the traditional version, except kids must dance around the room while the music plays, showing off their best dance moves. When the music ends, they must run to a chair and claim it. 

4. Musical Hats

This variation of the game doesn’t require any chairs at all. Instead of chairs, you can ask children to bring a hat with them. They can make the hat or borrow it (you can even provide the hats if you wish). 

many hats

Place the hats in various spots around the room or in a circle in the middle of the room – your choice. The game is played the same as traditional Musical Chairs, except when the music stops, children must grab a hat and put it on their heads. 

5. Ownership Musical Chairs with a Twist

For a bit of an added challenge, this variation of musical chairs is great. Each person should write their name on a piece of paper and stick it to a chair, thus claiming it as theirs. 

When the music starts, players are given a new instruction, such as to walk backward or close their eyes while moving around. While the music plays, the music controller can move chairs around. When the music stops, players must find the chair with their name on it. The last player to find their chair is eliminated (along with their chair) from the game. 

Last Word

That’s quite a lot to learn about Musical Chairs, isn’t it? Now with your newfound knowledge, you can teach others about the game and ensure that you’re playing it correctly. Whether you’re playing by the rules or not, or playing a twisted variant of the game, one thing is for certain: you’re going to have heaps of fun!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.