• GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World - Exhibition Overview
  • GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World - Exhibition Overview
  • GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World - Exhibition Overview
  • Carnegie Science Center is closed on Nov. 26.

GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World

Presented by:

Exhibition Overview

Saturday, June 16 - Sunday, Sept. 30

The guitar evolved from European and Asian instruments during the Middle Ages (oud, sitar, and lute). Here, these instruments are displayed side by side next to the guitar as we know it today, with its signature hourglass shape.

Wood and string samples-from maple to catgut-let visitors handle and hear the materials that give each guitar a distinctive sound. An acoustic guitar is spliced open to reveal the intricate woodwork that goes into building a sturdy "box with no nails."

From bowls to flat surfaces to slightly curved lines, guitar makers have experimented with hundreds of different shapes looking for the perfect blend of beauty, physics, and sound. European luthiers who emigrated to the United States changed the guitar's structure to make it louder and sturdier.

Turn of the century guitars are shown and placed in historical context, along with interactives that show how strings resonate on wood, as well as the stress that the wood is under. Strings may vibrate, but visitors will find that strings by themselves don't make much noise. The soundboard of an acoustic guitar, not its body, enhances the strings' vibrations and those vibrations project out to the listener.

Audio/video presentations play the music that was written and played on the guitar, while the guitars on display show the works of revered 19th century American craftsmen C.F. Martin and Orville Gibson.

Technicians, luthiers, and musicians attempted to make guitars louder for band members who couldn't hear their guitars above drummers and horn players. They began using electricity in the 1930s to amplify the guitars. Visitors will see how, instead of using a large hollow sound box, the electric guitar uses magnetic coils to capture the vibration of the strings and turn it into amplified sound, making the guitar one of the loudest devices ever created.

Wide-scale production of the electric guitar started in the 1950s and has continued unceasingly to the present. Inventors and designers like George Beauchamp, Leo Fender, Les Paul, Ted McCarty, and Paul Bigsby came up with radical body shapes that also changed the shape of music. Attendees will see these guitars-Rickenbackers, Fenders, Gibsons, and more-and hear how the electric guitar was responsible for the creation of entirely new styles of music.

As the guitar evolved, so did the equipment that supported it, especially amplification and sound modification gear. See through an amplifier stack, 6-feet tall and capable of producing sound over 120 decibels, and experience what gives modern music so much volume. The physics of amplifiers (the creation of a signal, the electrical generation of sound, the movement of speaker cones) will expose visitors to the ways in which sound can be modified to produce music.

Having viewed the evolution of guitars, visitors can see what role memory and senses have in playing the guitar. They can test their memory by playing riffs on a virtual fretboard that tests the ability to remember complex patterns.

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