Hey is about improvising together.

I volunteered to be the first person in the circle, and I started by silently counting from one to eight over and over again, like I was playing Count Circle with myself. Most of what I played was just to establish a rhythm for everyone else, and I came up with a little musical “wiggle” to play over and over again as part of my repeating 8-beat cycle. 

As the game progressed around the circle, people found their own sound patterns to add on top of mine. One person even used their mouth to make a farting sound for one of their beats and everyone thought that was great.

Stand or sit in a circle, get close together.

One person creates a repeating sound pattern. With their voice, with their hands, or with an instrument of any kind. Take a few moments to find a pattern that you will like to play over and over. Make it clear to everyone else that you are searching for your new rhythm.

As this player explores to find their pattern, every other player “psychically” transmits their support and trust to them.

And when you do settle into the groove, make it clear to everyone else that you are done searching for your pattern by saying “Hey”. Feeling good with your groove? Say “Hey”.

By the way, if you can’t quite figure out how to make this kind of musical pattern, there is a great game for that called Count Circle

Once the rhythm of the first player is firmly established, the next player going clockwise in the circle, contributes a new pattern that somehow complements the first player’s sound.

The main rule is this: once you say “Hey”, don’t change your pattern until the “Hey” comes back around the circle and it is your turn again. Groove on your pattern, and enjoy what the others are doing as they find their “Hey” and pass it on.

There’s no rush.  Once you find your pattern, you may find it even more deeply. Everyone else is supporting you, so relax and feel the support and the sound of the entire group. It’s great to repeat the pattern you found at least six times before you say, “Hey”.

You may very well feel internal resistance to keeping the same groove for a long time. That is actually an incredibly deep and important feeling, adjacent to meditation. Don’t ignore that feeling. What is interesting is that if you play the same pattern for a long time, at first it will be fun, and then it will be terrible, and then it will be delightful. There’s a great game about this called Over and Over.

As you settle into your pattern, try to lock in with the group and the overall sound pattern. Listen to the entire sound. Sometimes it can help to imagine yourself listening to the sound of the entire group as if you were floating in the air twelve feet above the center of the circle. Or close your eyes and pretend that you are in the audience listening.

A new pattern doesn’t need to fill all of the silence. One player might fill one gap, accentuate one beat, or even choose a cycle that lasts two times through the first player’s cycle. There are limitless possibilities. Listen as you introduce your rhythm into the existing sound, and try to lock in with the other players.

Continue around the circle, clockwise, with people joining in with their own interlocking patterns.

At all times, try to listen, so that if anyone were to yell “stop” at any instant and point at you, you would be able to recall their individual sound pattern.

Also. Try getting very quiet together while continuing to keep your pattern.  Try getting really loud, and then return to quiet again.  Enjoy your deeply connected and interlocking rhythms.

As you go around the circle a second time, each player leaves their old pattern, changes to a new pattern, and locks in with the group.  As each becomes very comfortable with their new pattern, they say “hey” and pass to the next player.

Play Hey until you have gone around the circle a few times.

Eventually you will be able to go around the circle quite smoothly, creating a kind of music that gradually changes and evolves.

Rhythm Hey becomes Melody Hey if you play with little melodies (motifs) and not just rhythms.

Also. It can help to pass around an object, a smooth stone or an interesting piece of wood.

Also. There is a variation to Hey called “Hey Home”. Here’s the difference. You go around the circle once playing Hey. When you get to the last person in the circle and they add in their pattern, and they say “Hey”, then everyone slowly slowly slowly slowly and gradually morphs what they are playing to match this person’s pattern. Ever so slowly! When that person feels that everyone has completely arrived on top of their pattern, they say “Home”. It can be an incredible feeling to be the Home person. It’s difficult to describe, but you feel like the entire world loves your music. You feel so supported!

Also.  Try this with a restricted set of notes like a pentatonic scale.  If the set of notes is small enough, just 3 or 4 notes this can create an experience of compression and energy creation.

Also. You can play this game alone with a multi-track recorder. It is a great way to create new music. After you have multiple patterns overlaid, consider erasing the first few tracks you laid down, only leaving the tracks that were created later.  This is a truism of the group game as well, the first few player’s patterns might be disposable, the really good part is once you have gone around the circle a couple of times. Best not worry too much about those first few.

Also. Hey works quite well in a large group format. Break your large group into smaller groups of 2-4 players.  Each of these smaller groups acts like a single player in the ordinary game, sharing a single pattern.  Each small group can decide who among them invents their pattern, and they can take turns as the pattern inventor.

Also. There is another variation of Hey, which we might call “Hey Thieves”. Instead of going around a circle, any person can jump in to change their pattern. But the rule is only one single person can make a change at a time. If two people try to change at the same time, they both have to go back to what they were doing before an wait awhile before they make another change. You have to psychically feel if anyone else is about to make a change and know it is not your time. You have to psychically feel when it is your time to change. There is a nice game to practice this kind of sharing of the space and time, called Listen/ Play.

One person starts a pattern, and everyone else joins more or less simultaneously and settles into a groove together.  Now, when you hear that everyone has completely settled in and locked in with everyone else, you say “Hey.”  Since you are all listening to one another, everyone should say “Hey” at the same moment.  If someone says “Hey” when you are still searching, they are basically telling you, “I’m not listening to you.”  So this encourages you to always be listening to everyone other than yourself.

We went around the circle about twice, and when it was my turn for the third time, I said, now let’s play Floor Head Hum while we keep our musical patterns going on our instruments!

Playing both Floor Head Hum and Hey turned out to be really cool and also a bit tricky.  It used so much of people’s attention to keep all of those parts going at once that people got really absorbed in the musical experience.  Since people were making rhythmic patterns with their hands or instruments while humming long notes with their mouths, they eventually ended up singing rhythmic melodies, and the whole game evolved into a long song.  By the end, everyone was really into it, and the evening ended in a huge bout of laughter when the some silly sounds came back for a reprise.

If you are enjoying this, then a good next game is Over and Over.