Coming Soon: GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World

One of the most enduring icons in American history is ready to rock Cincinnati. GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World takes the stage at Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) on September 21.

From its early predecessors in the Nile River Valley and the royal courts of the Renaissance, to the instrument that rocks the dingy walls of dive bars and thousands of fans at sold out arenas, the guitar is one of history’s most important cultural icons. GUITAR is a fully immersive exhibition that explores the instrument’s evolution and history, the science of creating sound with wood and steel and the cultural impact on cultures over the past 5,000 years.

“The guitar is the most enduring icon in American history,” says HP Newquist, founder and executive director of The National Guitar Museum. “It has been around longer than baseball, basketball, soft drinks and sports cars.”

Nearly 100 artifacts, including over 60 instruments, trace the guitar’s evolution and the way cultures and musicians drastically changed the shape and sound of the instrument.

Highlights include:
  • Nyatiti – Originating in the upper Nile Valley in 3,000 BCE, is one of the first stringed instruments and has changed very little over the centuries.
  • Lute – Prominent in the royal courts of the Renaissance, the lute was the instrument of choice at a time when the arts became the focal point for European culture.
  • Banjo – Popular among bluegrass musicians, the banjo is believed to have been created by slaves who landed in the Caribbean in the 1600s.
  • Ukulele – Still prominent in Hawaii, the ukulele was introduced in 1879 as a four-string instrument from Portugal. Hawaiians embraced the instrument and called it “ukulele,” which translates as “jumping fleas,” referencing the way the fingers jumped along the fretboard.
  • Gibson J-200 – The definitive shape of country and western guitars, the Gibson J-200 was first introduced in 1937 in an effort to change the shape and sound of acoustic guitars.
  • Fender Telecaster – The first mass produced six-string solid body electric guitar dating back to 1949.
  • Fender Stratocaster – First introduced in 1954, the Strat shaped the image of early rock and roll and has become the most popular electric guitar ever.
  • Air Guitar – Since the 1970s, the Air Guitar has been the instrument of choice for teens and wannabe rock gods.
  • Guitar Hero/Rock Band Controller – Replacing the typical video game controller with a guitar, Guitar Hero and Rock Band put novice rock stars on stage.
  • The World’s Largest Guitar – Certified by Guinness World Records, at over 43 feet long and 16 feet wide, this flying V is the world’s largest playable guitar.

“Cowboys, teenage rebels, poets, gypsies – almost every person from all walks of life has picked up a guitar at some point in their life, or at the very least played a legendary air guitar,” says Elizabeth Pierce, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. “This exhibition is an opportunity for them to better understand the iconic instrument’s roots, the science behind it and to walk among the tools of rock legends.”

GUITAR also explores the science behind the sound. Interactives show how strings resonate on wood and how the vibration creates the music we rock out to. Displays demonstrate how the hollow body and soundboard of acoustic guitars enhance the vibrations of the strings and how electric guitars use magnetic coils to capture the vibration of the strings and turn it into amplified sound. Guests can also explore the physics of amplifiers by looking inside an amplifier stack to discover how the signal is created, the electrical generation of sound and the movement of speaker cones to produce sound over 120 decibels – louder than a jet engine.

The exhibition also features video performances, stunning x-ray images of guitars’ inner working and photographs of iconic guitars in action. And for those who get the itch to play, GUITAR features three playable guitars for you to pluck, strum and jam.

To showcase the talent of local musicians, CMC is including a performance stage in GUITAR with regular performances throughout the run of the exhibition.

GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World opens September 21 and runs through January 6, 2019. For more information visit

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