Date: Sat, 12 Jul 1997 16:34:06 -0700
Subject: dominoes

Have you ever seen or heard of musical dominoes?

I have a set of musical dominoes that has been in the family for ever. The are in a wooden box, with the instructions, and have an invention and patent date of 1893.

Thank you
Irv Groden

Date: Tue, 11 Nov 1997 15:37:56 -0700
From: Blate Minkler (
Subject: Musical Dominoes

Dear Chertok,

Perhaps someone has already responded to your question about Musical Dominoes, but just in case they haven't, I think I can help.

I lived in England from 1993 to 1996. During, this time I became an avid collector of traditional games. London must be the best place in the world for someone with this kind of interest. I was able to acquire hundreds of original and replica games. One of these was a set of Musical Dominoes.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a collection dedicated to Victorian toys and games. In their collection is an original set of Musical Dominoes. In 1995, they produced for sale in their museum shop and catalog a replica of this set. I bought it for my wife to give me for Christmas that year.

Unfortunately, the set did not include a history of the game. The museum says that it originated in Victorian times (1884 is probably an accurate date), and that it was used to instruct children about the common time value of musical notes and rests.

I will give you the instructions as contained with the set. Unfortunately, I cannot include pictures, but bear in mind the following definitions:

The above can be "dotted", each of which adds half again as much time (i.e. a dotted crochet becomes 1 1/2 beats; a double-dotted crochet becomes 1 3/4 beats - 1 plus 1/2 plus 1/4).

There are also rests that correspond to each of the above time values.

If your set is like mine, each domino has two sides (divided with a line down the middle), and each side has a picture of note(s) and/or rest(s). Here are the instructions:

Musical Dominoes

As well as being as much fun as any game of dominoes, each player will learn the common time value of the musical notes involved, which makes this an excellent educational toy.

Played as standard dominoes, place all the pieces face down on the table and shuffle, after which each player receives a given number of pieces. (2/3 players - 8 dominoes, 4 players - 6). The remainder of the dominoes remain face down to form a pool to be drawn from during the game.

The dominoes should be placed in front of each player so that the notes are only visible to themselves.

Select a player to start, who can choose any domino to commence the game.

Having played the domino the player on their left can place a domino of equal notational time value next to it, this applies both to the notes and the rests, i.e. 4 crochets = 2 minims or 1 crochet and a minim rest = a dotted minim etc. Care must be taken to ensure that the piece is of the same time value.

The next player in rotation can add a domino to either end and so on.

Should a player not have a suitable domino to play, one must be drawn from the pool. When the pool is exhausted, the player with no suitable domino misses a turn.

The winner is the one who disposes of all his dominoes first, or the one with the lowest time value on the pieces held in his hand at the conclusion of the game.

Although the value of the note is determined with the tails in a downward direction, they do not have to be placed in this fashion during play; this adds to the skill of the game - ensuring your opponent is playing the correct value.


The Treble Clef equals 0 beats and is equivalent to a Blank

A beat can be divided into three equal parts called a Triplet. A Quaver Triplet equals 1 beat and is displayed as 3 quavers with a 3 distinguishing them from ordinary quavers. A Crochet Triplet equals 2 beats and has 3 crochets and a distinguishing 3.

That concludes the instructions. My replica set was produced by Bramhall Woodware Ltd., Sheffield S1 4RT, England. The dominos are made of plastic that resembles yellowed ivory.

The set is fun to play with according to the instructions above. However, my family and I prefer a variant that we created. No domino side in my set contains more than 4 beats. So, instead of matching domino sides of equal time value, we match domino sides that sum to 4 beats, making complete measures in 4/4 time. A 4 beat side is matched with the Treble Clef, a 1 1/2 beat side is matched with a 2 1/2 beat side, and so on. This variation is a little more tricky, requiring a bit more strategy in the way one plays the dominoes.

I hope this helps you. Have fun!

Blate Minkler
Cedar City, Utah

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell