Review: Noteability
Publisher: Tiger Games
Year: 1990
Tagline: The name the song game

Noteability cover showing small piano

how we met

I found Noteability only days ago in a thrift shop near Milwaukee. We were running errands and buzzing around wasting time before meeting up with friends. I was attracted to Noteability by not recognizing it, by the cover and then by realizing it comes with a baby grand. I was sold.

I sometimes argue for my purchases. It’s fair; I have too many board games. But this was one of those cases. At one point Bill even placed Noteability on a high shelf to discourage my purchase. But in the end I paid my $1.99 and left with Noteability in my hands.

how it plays

In Noteability, individuals or teams must play songs on the provided mini grand piano for your fellow players. The player to your left can guess the song within two plays. If they are not successful, the other players may also guess. The player that successfully guesses receives four points and the successful musician receives two points. The first player to 50 points wins!

The keys of the baby grand are numbered, so knowing how to read music is not necessary. The song cards use a very simple approach to play: numbers with spaces should be played without pause, while the dashes between numbers should be treated as pauses. One dash is one pause, two dashes is two pauses, and so on. As someone that does not understand music in the least, it works. Really well.

Close up of piano with song card on it

My Way, an easy one!

The song card deck

200 cards, 3 songs per card

We played with enough house rules that I feel more comfortable putting them in the how it plays section than the how it went section. Here is what we did: 1) Based on the sage wisdom of those that came before us, we used the common house rule that if you don’t recognize a song on the card you may draw another and 2) We didn’t start this way but pretty quickly allowed any number of plays and 3) Anyone can guess. I highly recommend these house rules.

how it went

We played Noteability after the town beer fest. We were tired, grumpy, dehydrated, sunburnt and hungry. Some of us sober, some of us not. But we loved it. Well most of us. We loved it.

Scorepad showing our game

Myth: all games that come with a scorepad suck. BUSTED

The common complaint on BGG is that players do not recognize the songs. This was truly the reason I expected to hate the game. I anticipated hymnals and snapshots of another time. But the songs were actually pretty okay. Snapshots of another time, sure, but mostly very classic songs. I am going to go out on a limb and assume some of us rejected song cards due to the difficulty of playing them rather than not actually knowing them.

8 song cards, each card with 3 songs

More song examples picked randomly from the deck

The piano is an old electronic keyboard. It is not very responsive, and the most difficult songs did not have to do with how recognizable they are but whether you can even create a shadow of them using the tools at your disposal. The fast songs proved the most difficult. And the most frustrating since the player was often very familiar with the tune and just couldn’t make the piano respond quickly enough.

It was interesting, too, to see which songs some of us knew but not others. For example, at one point John really thought he nailed it – and he probably did – but he was playing some song called Tiptoe Through the Tulips which I have never heard of in my life.

Hands playing the piano

A snap from our play

Playing the songs is not easy. It can take focus, concentration, even practice. This is all very unforgiving in the original rules where you get only two plays. But playing the songs was actually pretty addictive. After Bill won most of us picked out some more songs and tried to play them.

I wish I had video of our play but alas I do not. But it was pretty much exactly like the commercial so you can reference that if curious.

play or pass

Play. I legitimately thought this game would be a quick pass through my household to warn all of you. Instead I think it may be years before we see how it has fully effected my buying habits. Not all games that look bad are bad! It’s a new world.