28 balloons are given out to audience members; they are told these two rules: pop a balloon when you are bored, and try not to pop a balloon at the same time as anyone else. The 1st cello part (beside the number 1) starts when the first balloon is popped and repeats the bar continuously. The violin begins its bar when the 2nd balloon pops, and repeats. The viola begins after the third balloon pops and the 2nd cello after the 4th.
When the 5th balloon pops the 1st cello part switches to its next bar (labeled #5 for 5th balloon) the next balloon pops the violin switched, and followed by the viola and cello when the 7th and 8th pops are heard.
The piece continues in this manner until there are four balloons left. Then upon pops (if played correctly) the players finish their bars and drop out one at a time per pop, the last balloon popping ends the 2nd cello last bar.
When a player’s turn to switch bars comes, you do not switch half way through the bar, you finish the bar before switching. A sniff, or jester cue is helpful to keep track of who is switching when. So performers do not need to count balloon pops but rather be aware of whose turn it is next.