Click here to return to the home page.

How to play Chordsweeper

Basic rules

When you run the program, you will see the Level One game board.

Click the Next button (or press N on your keyboard) to play a chord.  If you hear a pleasant, "major" chord, click a dog.  If you hear a strange messy sound, click a tomato.

When you click the matching tile, it turns blue.  If you click a different tile, that tile changes to match the sound you just heard.

Continue to click Next.  Each time you click Next it will play a new sound, and you should click the tile that matches that sound.  When you have three blue tiles in a row, they will disappear.  Keep clicking Next, followed by matching tiles, until all the tiles are blank and the board is clear.

If you clear the board in a certain number of moves, you will "unlock" the next round.  In each round, you will meet a new animal, each with its own sound.  Be sure to click this new animal every time you hear its sound.

Sometimes you will hear a sound for an animal that is not on the screen.  When this happens, you must decide where to click in order to add the animal back into the game.

Menu options

Game menu

New Game (CTRL-G) resets the counter to zero and refills the game board with animals.

Choose Level... brings up the level selection screen.  Click the up and down arrows on the screen, or press the up and down arrows on your keyboard, to change the game level.  Each new level has a different set of animals.  You must pass Round Four to access each new level.

Round 1-4 (CTRL-1, 2, 3, 4) changes the size of the game board.  Round One is 4x4, Round Two is 6x6, Round Three is 8x8, and Round Four is 8x13.  You must get high scores in each round to access the next round.

Benchmarks... launches the benchmarking screen.

Quit to Interval Loader transports you to the Interval Loader game machine.

Quit Chordsweeper (CTRL-Q) shuts down the game board.

Options menu

Auto Play saves you from having to keep clicking Next.  Check Auto Play "on" and it will produce new chords for you every time you click a tile.

Show Only... is active for Level Two and up.  When selected, this changes the game board so that it is full of animals only from the current level.  This is useful if you want more practice with the new animals alone.  High scores are saved separately in this mode.

Customize... allows you to select which specific animals you want to see on the screen.  No high scores are saved in this mode.

Help menu

High Scores... displays your current high scores.  (Or low scores, you could say.)

Show Hint displays a hint for the round in play.

How to Play... brings you to this web page.


In order to measure your progress, you can create benchmarks for each level.  It's a good idea to create a benchmark just before you begin a level and then again after you finish a level, although you can make more benchmarks at any time.  Read more about benchmarking.

Additional strategy

When you get more than three blue tiles in a row, Chordsweeper always clears the tiles that are above and to the left of the tile you click.

Each three animal types (dogs, cats, rodents, etc) represent a different key signature, and the yellow, blue, and brown animals are the major chords of that key.

You can allow yourself to recognize each chord any way you want to.  Maybe one chord sounds like the beginning of your favorite song.  Maybe another chord reminds you of an old banana.  Maybe one is just the lowest- or highest-sounding.  Any way you choose to recognize a chord is a good way, if it works!

It's a good idea to click Auto Play and take your time.  Don't rush yourself!  Your mind will naturally hear the structure of the chord first.  That is, you may immediately recognize which type of chord it is (yellow, blue, or brown), but you should wait a moment before making a decision.  Let your mind figure out what kind of animal to choose.  If the tiles you click keep turning into different animals of the same color, you might want to try going more slowly.

If you're repeatedly confusing the same animals with each other, try playing a few games with just those animals (using the Customize... option).  Include one or two additional animals for context.  Take your time, and your mind will gradually decide how the confusing chords are different from each other.

Often, if you aren't certain what chord you've just heard, you can point your mouse at a tile and take a moment, before you click, simply to feel whether or not this is the matching animal, without trying to think about it.

In Rounds 1 through 3 (after Level One), each new animal is "weighted" to appear more frequently than the others.  In Round 4, every animal has an equal chance of appearing.

The scores you need to pass each level are deliberately set very low.  In order to pass them, you will need to match all the tiles very carefully.  In Round Three, for example, you need to get 70 or less, and there are 64 tiles altogether!  Don't be discouraged if it takes you a long time to finish a round.  While you are playing, your mind is learning, even when you stay on the same round.

Round 3, on each level, will probably be where you'll spend most of your playing time.  This is because, in order to pass it, you need to be so familiar with the chords that you can solve the puzzle without losing moves to mismatched tiles.  But the more you play, the more confident you will become.

GO SLOWLY!  After a while, you will discover that you recognize the structure of each chord instantly.  If you respond too quickly, your mind (and hand) will click the nearest animal of matching color.  But you'll be surprised when you click-- because instead of turning into a note, the tile will become a different animal of the same color.  Blue dogs will turn into blue squirrels, yellow cats will turn into yellow dogs, brown rabbits will turn into brown cats, et cetera.  If, however, you force yourself to stop and experience the chord for just that one extra moment, your mind can move past the structural information and recognize the chord's absolute sensation.  It's not easy to interfere with this natural impulse... but it is necessary.

Learning goals

Chordsweeper has two primary objectives:  to improve your sense of pitch and to help you start to recognize "key feeling" for different key signatures.  This is accomplished through principles of perceptual learning which are parallel to those used in phonemic awareness.

Each set of three animals (dog, cat, etc) represents the three major chords of a key signature (I, IV, V).  When you listen to these chords and make qualitative judgments about them, your mind searches for the characteristics which makes the chords different from each other.  Because these chords have some pitches in common, your mind will automatically start to hear the different pitch sounds within the chords in order to tell them apart.  Furthermore, as each new animal group is introduced, you should begin to recognize when a chord belongs to the "dog group", the "cat group", or whichever group, which is the key sensation of that group.

This process is parallel to how we learn letter sounds.  Imagine listening to the three words "cane, coy, call" repeatedly; you'd start to recognize that they all begin with a c sound.  In Chordsweeper, even on Level One, you should start to hear the "root" of each chord quite plainly.  Then, if you listened to the words "bane, boy, ball", your mind would compare them to the first set of words and understand that the b and c are what makes them distinct.  That's what Chordsweeper is designed to accomplish.

Remember that this happens automatically, without your having to actively "learn" anything.  All you have to do is keep playing the game.  Your mind wants to figure out how to recognize these chords.  The more you play, the more comparisons your mind will make, and the more refined your hearing will become.