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With necessity as the impetus for inspiration, aspiring musician and computer/sales & marketing professional Mark Sanderson embarked on an idea to create a set of learning tools that would aid anyone of any age or skill in learning the language of music easily. Traditional learning outlets, i.e. lessons only frustrated the adolescent further and he spent endless hours pondering a better model—or rather a concept to supplement those avenues. With that impetus in mind, he created the Chromatics Music Cards—an award-winning complete set of playing cards consisting of tone cards representing four octaves of the chromatic scale—designed to help you learn the basics of music even when you don’t have an instrument handy to practice on.

“I was 42 years old when, as a professional computer programmer fluent in several software languages, it occurred to me that music is really just a language that twelve unique ‘letters’ that we call ‘tones’ to spell the vocabulary of music that in scales and chords,” Sanderson explains. “Living in the 21st Century, it is common to see many people both young and old clicking away at a computer or cell phone with a proficiency that any musician would love to have with their favorite instrument.  It occurred to me that very few of these people that played their computer or cell phone like a maestro ever sat down to practice on their instrument of choice, which in many ways is much more complicated than a guitar or piano.  I believed the answer was that they literally knew the language of how to say what they wanted to say before they ever picked up that instrument. Hence, playing a cell phone or computer is easy if you know the language. From my way of thinking, that was a very good analogy of what is wrong with the conventional manner for teaching how to play music. A student begins with an instrument to play without knowing or understanding the alphabet and vocabulary of music.  Can you imagine learning to play a computer or cell phone without knowing your A, B, Cs and English—or whatever your preferred language happened to be?”

As Sanderson studied the problem, he came to believe that there are really three basic challenges to learning to be a proficient musician: learning to think with the alphabet and vocabulary of music, knowing scales and chords, so as to consciously be able to coordinate listening, play and the manipulation of an instrument; learning to manipulate an instrument with sufficient proficiency that the instrument becomes a natural extension of the players body; learning to listen… and genuinely being able to hear the distinctions between various tones and chords.

“So where to go from here,” he muses. “Getting an instrument is certainly a fairly trivial exercise, however learning all the scales and chords is still a significant challenge.  Simple drills to memorizing them, whereas certainly possible, is certainly not an appealing approach. Since I spent so much time on airplanes going to various clients, I began carrying twelve index cards, one with each of the twelve tones in the Chromatic Scale.  I’d play various Solitaire card games, building scales and chords while on an airplane. Eventually, each time I had five tones in my hand while building a ninth chord, it occurred to me that it felt like a poker hand. Being a mild math geek, I spent some time coming up with all the logical ‘music’ poker hands and began computing the probabilities of these new poker hands if I had a whole deck of music tones.   Those eight new poker hands are what gave me the confidence to believe there would be value in making an entire deck of four octaves of music tones.”

Once he became convinced of the value of a deck of music cards, Sanderson bought a hand-operated card-cutting machine and built some demonstration decks, which he used to train himself. That quickly accelerated his music education and skills, and with those newfound skills he was able to join a band. At this point, the seed for his company Knowledge of Music, and his educational cards Chromatics Music Playing Cards, were sown.

The Chromatics Music Playing Cards are an award-winning set of playing cards consisting of tone cards representing four octaves of the chromatic scale. These cards are designed to help you learn the basics of music even when you don’t have an instrument handy to practice on. On each card, the numbers and jack-queen-king have been replaced with the 12 musical tones (E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, etc.). This allows you play musical versions of familiar games like War, Go Fish for 7th Chords, Music Gin Rummy and Poker, or any game you like, and helps you learn and become comfortable with the 12 unique tones and their wide variety of combinations. Each card contains the frequency of the tone and the major or minor scale and chord built off that tone. Black suits have major scales and chords; red suits have minor scales and chords. The deck is completed with “K”nowledge cards and jokers with music and game related reference notes.

Chromatics Music Playing Cards are available for purchase at select music stores [MSRP: $9.99]. Please visit our website for a list of participating retailers. Additionally, you can purchase these directly from us online at Because we are confident that you will love the Chromatics Music Playing Cards, we offer a full One-Year Money Back Guarantee. If you are not completely satisfied, simply contact us for an RMA# and return your complete deck to Knowledge Of Music Inc within one year with proof of purchase.

A “How To Play Chromatics” guide providing detailed instructions for multiple games is available as a booklet from the online store or as a FREE PDF from the website.

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