Musical chairs is a game of elimination involving players, chairs, and music, with one fewer chair than players. When the music stops whichever player fails to sit on a chair is eliminated, with a chair then being removed and the process repeated until only one player remains.
It is also a metaphor for pointless shuffling of personnel in a company; a fruitless, repeated scavenger hunt-like experience; and cyclic replacement of political leaders, as in multiple cabinet shuffles.
CCPC students playing musical chairs at Bandarban (03)
Women playing musical chairs in Bangladesh
Musical chairs is a game where a number of chairs, one fewer than the number of players, are arranged facing outward with the players standing in a circle just outside the chairs. Usually music is played while the players in the circle walk in unison around the chairs. When the music stops each player attempts to sit down in one of the chairs. The player who is left without a chair is eliminated from the game. One chair is then removed/eliminated to ensure that there will always be one fewer chair than there are players. The music resumes and the cycle repeats until there is only one player left in the game, who is the winner.
“Musical chairs” has formerly been known as “Trip to Jerusalem” or “Going to Jerusalem”; this can also be the name of a game where there is only one stopping place, like a mat or rug, and the player who is on it or will pass over it next is out. Laura Lee Hope describes it under that name in chapter XIII of The Bobbsey Twins at School, as does John P. Marquand in Chapter XXXI of Wickford Point.
Non-competitive musical chairs
The end of a game of the all-inclusive version, in which everyone plays but nobody loses
Instead of using chairs, one version of the game has players sit on the ground when the music stops, the last to sit being eliminated. This is known as ‘musical bumps’. In ‘musical statues’, players stop moving when the music stops, and stay standing in the same position. If any player is seen moving, they are out of the game.
In the all-inclusive version of “musical chairs” everyone plays but nobody loses, with one chair but no player eliminated each round until only one chair remains. All players have to “sit down” on the remaining chairs without their feet touching the floor.
A Cold Wind Blows is another non-competitive substitute for “musical chairs.”
The modern term for this style of game is “Extreme Musical Chairs”. Before the players sit down they must complete a task that the music person gives out before each round. For example before sitting in a chair, players must do five jumping jacks or run and touch the wall. Another variation is to have the players hop, jump, walk backwards, or dance while they are walking around the chairs.
Musical statues is a children’s game played at children’s birthday parties in the UK; in the United States it is often called “Freeze Dance” while the Philippine name is “Statue Dance”. It is similar to musical chairs.
Players stand in an area, usually a dance hall and wait for the lights to turn off (controlled by the game master / judge). When the music starts the players should dance to the music, the more spirited the better. The game master will then stop the music at a random point. When the music has stopped all players should freeze. The judge then walks among the players and watches to see who is still moving or doesn’t stop fast enough, those people are called out of the game. Play continues until there is only one person left, who will be announced as the winner.
If the game starts to get difficult to call people out, the players should be encouraged to get more enthusiastic so that it is more difficult to stop on time.
Sometimes the game master can also call a theme for the statues, so that the players must impersonate something such as an animal or activity.
In the Philippines, the game is one of many party games played in parties. Lights remain on or may be turned off for the music, depending on the game master. The rules remain the same wherein a player is eliminated if he/she fails to freeze once the music stops playing. Another variation of the musical statues in the Philippines is the “newspaper dance” wherein players are grouped into pairs and given a page of a newspaper. The players dance around the paper until the music stops wherein they have to stand on the paper and remain so until the music starts again. As the game progresses, the paper is folded in half for each round and each pair must make ways to pass each round. A pair which steps out of the paper is eliminated and the last team standing wins.
The world record for musical statues was set on 16 August 2013. Over 1,500 students at Mansfield State High School in Brisbane, Australia participated in the event.