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Join Us for the West Coast Premiere of GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World. Starting December 20, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Will ROCK You!

GUITAR Has It All: Music. Technology. Science. Video. History. Pop culture. Games. Entertainment. A Concert Series!

September 24, 2013


Reuben H Fleet Science Center 40th anniversary logo

Reuben H Fleet Science Center 40th anniversary logo


San Diego, CA—September 24, 2013—Take a journey through a motley crew of legendary guitars in our latest exhibition as GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World makes its West Coast premiere at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center on Friday, December 20, 2013. This touring exhibition of The National GUITAR Museum—the first museum in the world dedicated to the history, evolution and cultural impact of the guitar—will remain at the Fleet through April 6, 2014.


Explore the history of the world’s most recognized musical instrument. Experience diverse genres of music and discover the science of pitch and tone. Crossing over cultural boundaries, the guitar has made a significant impact on a wide variety of groups, from gypsies to cowboys to teenage rebels. Trace the evolution of the guitar—from lutes and ouds to modern high-tech instruments—and see how the instrument became the cultural icon it is today. Highlights include displays of the guitar’s role as an agent of personal freedom, social change and expression, and the instrument’s importance to music ranging from the protest movement to punk rock.


“Not a fan of rock and roll? Don’t fret, GUITAR celebrates all music—from classical to heavy metal,” says Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Executive Director Dr. Steve Snyder.


See more than 60 guitars and nearly 100 historical artifacts that immerse you in the heart of music. Experience the rush of the world’s most recognized musical instrument through the powerful lens of science. You, too, can play a Guinness Record-breaking 43.5 foot-long guitar. Discover how the selection of different materials and strings, fused with electromagnetism and amplification, create an elaborate device that has revolutionized music.


“The guitar is the most enduring icon in American history,” says The National Guitar Museum Executive Director and founder H.P. Newquist. “It has been around longer than baseball, basketball, soft drinks and sports cars.” Adds Newquist, “It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t been affected by the guitar, whether as players or as fans of music ranging from country and folk to jazz and rock. And it may be apocryphal, but it’s said that the two most recognizable man-made shapes on the planet are the Coke bottle and the electric guitar.”


This fully immersive exhibition explores all facets of the world’s most popular instrument, from its history as an instrument of popular culture over the past 400 years to the science of creating sound with wood and steel. Visitors will experience the science, sound, history and cultural impact of the guitar in an exhibition whose instruments range from the rare and antique to the wildly popular and innovative—along with hands-on interactives, models, touchscreens, performance video, audio, stunning images and photographs.


GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World is an exciting and engaging experience that gives visitors the chance to interact with the guitar not only from the perspective of its history, evolution and design but also through the music it has created and the technology that continues to enhance it.


The exhibition is the official touring presence of The National GUITAR Museum itself. “Most people are amazed that there is no museum anywhere dedicated solely to the guitar and its history,” says Newquist. “While there are several galleries and private collections in the U.S., there is nothing that explores all aspects of the guitar from its evolution over the course of centuries to its current cultural impact—which includes being the inspiration for the best-selling videogames ever. The National GUITAR Museum changes all that.”


GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World has its West Coast premiere at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center on Friday, December 20, 2013, and will reverberate through the Fleet through April 6, 2014. The exhibition should be available for pre-arranged media demonstrations mid-month, with an invitation-only VIP Media event scheduled for Thursday, December 19, 2013. We will also be announcing a concert series in conjunction with the exhibition later in the year, to feature local and renowned musicians.


The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is located at 1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. Gallery admission, which includes access to all eight exhibit galleries: Adults $13, Seniors $12, Children $11. The Fleet’s hours are Monday–Thursday: 10AM–5PM, Friday–Sunday: 10AM–6PM. For more information, call (619) 238-1233 or visit our website at http://www.rhfleet.org/exhibitions/guitar.

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Celebrate the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s 40th Anniversary Year!

Forty years ago, a spark ignited our imaginations! March 9, 2013, kicked off a year-long celebration of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and its 40 years of success in bringing hands-on science to our San Diego community. In 1973, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center opened its doors and brought interactive exhibits and the world’s first IMAX® Dome Theater to San Diego. Today, the Fleet inspires minds and connects individuals to science and technology through more than 100 “do touch” exhibits for all ages and amazing IMAX films and planetarium shows in the recently renovated Heikoff Giant Dome Theater. Enjoy our year-long celebration, featuring a blockbuster exhibition, incredible events and dynamic educational experiences.


About the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (“the Fleet”) is home to Southern California’s only Giant Dome Theater and 100+ hands-on science exhibits for all ages. Watch immersive giant-screen films in the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater, featuring the world’s first NanoSeam™ Dome screen. The Fleet is the first Giant Dome Screen Theater in the country to share a digital planetarium with an IMAX® Dome theater, following the recent installation of a new, state-of-the-art, giant dome screen digital GSX™ system from Global Immersion, which augments the existing IMAX projector in the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater with one of the most comprehensive and powerful full-dome experiences available today. Experience eight galleries of fun, interactive exhibits, including major traveling exhibitions. A hurricane simulator thrills visitors with gusts of wind up to 80 miles per hour. Enjoy sandwiches, salads and healthy treats in Galileo’s Café. Find unique educational toys and games, books, IMAX DVDs and more in the North Star Science Store. Located at 1875 El Prado, two blocks south of the San Diego Zoo on Park Blvd, the Fleet Science Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the public understanding and enjoyment of science and technology. For information regarding current admission prices, please call (619) 238-1233 or visit our website at www.rhfleet.org.



About The National GUITAR Museum

The National GUITAR Museum, LLC is the first museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to the history, evolution and cultural impact of the guitar. The NGM has assembled a world-class team of guitarists, executives, technology experts, designers and production staff to develop one of the most innovative experiences ever presented. Its touring exhibition, GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World will travel to 15–20 cities over the next five years before becoming the basis of The National Guitar Museum in its permanent home. The Museum will utilize advanced technology to create an environment that is engaging, entertaining and educational for visitors of all ages.


The Museum’s board is composed of individuals drawn from the music, technology, event and museum communities. Current advisors include guitar greats Steve Vai, Johnny Winter, Steve Howe, Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, Liona Boyd, Pete Huttlinger and Pat Kirtley. The Executive Director of the Museum is H.P. Newquist. To learn more about the NGM, visit us online at: nationalguitarmuseum.com and facebook.com/guitarmuseum. For more information, contact The National GUITAR Museum at director@nationalguitarmuseum.com or 917-208-4333.


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•The guitar evolved from European and Asian instruments during the Middle Ages (oud, tanbur, and lute). In the exhibition, 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.



1. The Origin Of The Species

Tanbur (Persia)

Luo Nyatiti (Africa)

Oud (Mesopotamia)

Lute (Europe)


2. The Close Relatives

Pipa (China)

Balalaika (Russia)

Sitar (India)

Ukulele (Portugal and Hawai'i)

Charango (South America)

Mandolin (Spain)

Banjo (America)


3. The Transitions

Viheula (16th Century Spain)

Baroque Guitar (17th Century European)

Romantic Guitar (19th Century Germany)

Torres-Style Spanish guitar (19th Century Spain)

Spanish Guitar (20th Century)


4. The American Perspective

Martin Parlor

Gibson L-1

Martin 00-40H

Gibson Harp Guitar


5. Bigger Sound

Martin D-28

Gibson J-200

National Resophonic Resonator

Guild 12-String


6. Electricity Changes Everything

Rickenbacker “Frying Pan” A22 Lapsteel

Gibson L4 CES

Fender Precision Bass

Fender Telecaster

Gibson Les Paul


7. Pop Culture & Mass Production

Fender Stratocaster

Silvertone Amp In Case

Gretsch Country Gentleman

Gibson SG

Gibson Firebird


8. Unique Designs

Hofner 500/I Bass

Coral Sitar

Ovation Breadwinner

Eko 700

Vox Phantom/Teardrop

Teisco Spectrum 4

Steinberger “Headless” Guitar


9. Material Issue

Dan Armstrong Acrylic

Ovation Roundback Acoustic

Aluminum Guitar

Parker Fly

Modern Classical


10. Over The Top

Soviet-Era Rostov Stella

Ibanez Iceman


Jackson Randy Rhoads

PRS Dragon

Ibanez Jem


11. Outrageous

BC Rich 10-String

Bond Electraglide

XOX Handle

Visionary Instruments TeleVision


12. Modern Times

Roland G707 Synth Guitar


Air Guitar

Guitar Hero/Rock Band Controller

Steampunk Boostercaster


13. The World’s Largest Playable Guitar

Certified by Guinness World Records. 43.5’ long, 16’ wide.


14. The Rock Ock

The World’s Only Fully Playable 8-Neck Stringed Instrument.




1. Sound From A Tree: It takes many kinds of wood to make a guitar, and guitar makers have to be mindful about using wood that is in danger of being over-forested. Woods are presented for visitors to handle, thump and examine. The interactive is laid out as a series of woods arranged like a marimba (using maple, rosewood, mahogany, spruce and plywood). Visitors can strike each with mallets and hear the difference in tone and volume that each wood produces. The interactive also highlights the concerns over disappearing forests.


2. String Things: Strings are made of catgut, nylon and steel. Each has its own unique properties. Three guitars are strung with each type of string in a “guitar pyramid.” Visitors strum each guitar and hear—and feel—the difference in each of the materials used to construct the string.


3. A Box With No Nails/Acoustic Guitar: The guitar is a marvel of bent wood, carving, and glue . . . but no nails. This delicate, thin wood box must be able to withstand 200 pounds of string tensions. Two acoustic guitars have been cut open to reveal the “inside workings” of the instrument. Braces are revealed, as are the dimensions of the wood (very thin) and the joints used to keep the pieces together.


4. Tension Table: The shorter the string, the higher the frequency. Visitors can test this by shortening cable and listening to the change in pitch. Bungee cords are strung across a sound table and tuned to different pitches. Each one can be depressed to form a note, but the real learning comes from how important surfaces are to producing sound. A string that is plucked in the air generates almost no sound, while pressing it against the sound table makes it very loud.


5. Guitar Strobe: A barrel strobe allows visitors to see the vibrations of a string as if it was being played in slow-motion. Different strings vibrate at different frequencies, showing unusual patterns against a guitar backdrop. An oversized guitar with four-foot-long strings sits over a barrel strobe that—when spun—captures the waveforms of each string in a truly unique visual presentation.


6. Gears: The tuning pegs of guitars rely on gears to hold strings in place. A table outfitted with large plastic gears in sequence shows visitors how gears work. Users can spin gears of different sizes and will learn that gears next to each other always turn in opposite directions and that different size gears are used to simplify mechanical tasks.


7. Inside An Electric Guitar: An electric guitar appears to be a simple device, yet it is made up of electronic components, magnets, different kinds of wood, bits of metal and plastic. Looking underneath the sleek finish, there’s more to the guitar than meets the eye. Visitors can flip switches, turn knobs and see inside this Plexiglas instrument.


8. Pickup Wheel: Visitors generate electromagnetic energy by spinning a wheel with evenly spaced metal pegs under a magnetic pickup. Only when the metal pegs pass by the pickup is a signal generated. The signal generates a sound at a specific pitch. The faster the wheel is spun, the higher the frequency, and thus the higher the pitch.


9. Music To Your Ears: Using remote sensors, visitors can activate different sounds from different types of stringed instruments by waving their hands over lit panels. Each instrument shows how the combinations of wood, metal, nylon and electricity are used to create different sounding instruments (from a ukulele to an electric guitar). The sensors are tuned so that users can hear the difference in tonality and can also create musical patterns.


10. See-Through Amplifiers: The largest guitar amplifiers used by bands on a concert stage are over six feet tall. Visitors see into two different amplifiers constructed of Plexiglas. Speakers, tubes, electronic components and structural elements are all revealed inside these musical monsters, showing how a single guitar can be heard all the way to the back of a football stadium.


11. It Might Get Loud: Decibel levels range from 0 to 194, and visitors can use a touchscreen to find out where everyday sounds fall on the decibel scale. This interactive also warns of the danger of constant exposure to loud noise. A touchscreen mounted inside an amplifier cabinet features 20 different sounds that are activated by the visitor. From a mosquito to a volcano, each sound is registered on a decibel meter that shows just how loud the world around us really is.


12. Remember The Riff: Listening to guitar riffs that bounce visually on a touchscreen, visitors are encouraged to test their memory in “remembering the riff.” Musicians learn dozens, even hundreds of riffs over their lifetimes, and memory is important to performing and technical ability. This self-directed interactive proceeds from simple riffs to increasingly complex patterns using color as a reinforcement to each activated pitch.


13. Design Your Own Guitar: Attendees get to choose the colors, patterns, shapes and even textures in designing their own guitar using this touchscreen interactive.


14. The World’s Largest Guitar. Created by a high school class in Texas and certified by the Guinness Book Of Records, visitors can strum and play this huge instrument and see how stings vibrate on a giant scale.


15. The Physics Of Rock Guitar. This entertaining three-minute video, created by Dr. Mark Lewney, shows viewers how sound waves are generated by a guitar and how those waves change when they pass through an amplifier.


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About the Fleet Science Center:

The Fleet Science Center connects people of all ages to the possibilities and power of science to create a better future. At the science center, you can explore and investigate more than 100 interactive exhibits that pique your curiosity and become immersed in an IMAX film adventure that shows the wonders of the planet--and beyond--in the Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Giant Dome Theater. For young science enthusiasts, the Fleet offers science workshops both at the Fleet and at schools throughout San Diego County. For adults, we offer events like Suds & Science and Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar™ at locations all over San Diego. We support communities by leveraging science resources to meet local needs. Teachers are encouraged to join our Teacher Partner Program and take advantage of our professional development opportunities. Additionally, at the Fleet Science Center, visitors will find unique educational toys and games, books, IMAX DVDs and more in the North Star Science Store, and pizzas, sandwiches, salads and healthy treats in our Craveology cafe. Located in Balboa Park, at 1875 El Prado, two blocks south of the San Diego Zoo on Park Blvd., the Fleet is San Diego's science center. Science starts here and opens a world of possibility. For information regarding current admission prices, visit our website at fleetscience.org.
About Balboa Park:
Located near downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is the largest urbancultural park in the United States. First established by the City of San Diego in 1868, it is also one of the oldest city parks in the nation and is the most visited single destination in San Diego. Its 1,200 acres include 17 museums, many gardens and attractions, the San Diego Zoo, miles of hiking trails, and multiple athletic complexes to explore and discover. For more information, visit balboapark.org.

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