I recently visited the Carnegie Science Center and checked out (among other awesome things) their exhibit called “Guitar: the Instrument that Rocked the World”. I’m a fan of all kinds of music, but my parents brought me up on rock. I got Black Sabbath from my dad, and Cowboy Junkies from my mom. So there’s no way I was going to miss this exhibit, and I wasn’t let down. The Science Center is known for its child-friendly and interactive exhibits, and on that front, this show falls a little flat. The exhibition is probably 80% guitars in cases with written accompaniments, more traditional museum fare than the Science Center usually takes on. Your little ones might not enjoy the show as much as you will, someone who can appreciate how awesome it is that Eddie invented Van Halen’s iconic sound from spare parts. Politely remind them who bought the tickets and stay awhile. (note: none of these pictures are from the exhibition, but all of the guitars shown here can be seen at the Science Center)

They have many guitars that pre-date modern guitars. This one is an armadillo. From mederic’s photostream on Flickr

This is a guitar sold in the Sear’s catalog. The case doubled as an amp. From Pedula Man’s photostream on Flickr

This is an awesome-looking all-metal guitar that gives it a distinctive tone. If it looks familiar, maybe it’s because it’s on the Brother’s in Arms cover, by Dire Straits. From Armin-T’s photostream on Flickr

One of the things I love about all the guitars is that it’s an example of one of my favorite parts of the design process. In school, everyone in your studio gets the same piece of paper from the same professor at the beginning of the semester. By the time final reviews roll around, there are 15 astonishingly different solutions to the exact same problem. This exhibit shows the incredible breadth that design of guitars can take on. Every one has strings, a way to tune them, and a way to amplify the sound, either through a sound box in the case of acoustic guitars, or pickups in the case of electric guitars. Beyond that, it’s all on the skill and creativity of the luthier (a word I just learned but am going to pretend that I knew forever) to come up with something that is both beautiful and (usually) playable.

This is one of my all-time favorite body designs. From Freebird_71’s photostream on Flickr

This guitar was designed for Steve Vai, one of the most gifted musicians ever. One of the things he wanted was a carrying handle. The one on display at the Science Center is way more green and pink, which is awesome. From Ayton’s photostream on Flickr

The Future is Now! From .JohnW’s photostream on Flickr

So what kind of guitar do I play? Well, you would have to be generous enough in your definition of “playing guitar” to include what I do with a guitar, which is make sounds that are sometimes “not noise”. But in case you’re curious, here she is:

Do not attempt to adjust your monitor. I just don’t use Instagram. Sorry.

Isn’t she pretty? Come to think of it, I don’t name my guitars like I name my vehicles. Stevie Ray Vaughan named one of his guitars “Lenny”, and had a song by the same name on his Texas Flood album. Maybe once I can play as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan I’ll start naming my guitars.


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