World's largest playable guitar a huge hit at the Carnegie Science Center
Nolan Casey, 8, of Harrison City jams on the Gibson Flying V guitar on display at the Carnegie Science Center on Tuesday.
Davion Huckaby of Morgantown, W.Va., rests for a bit on the body of the world's largest playable guitar, on display at the Carnegie Science Center. Davion was there with his brothers, sisters and friends.
At 43.5 feet long, 16 feet wide and 2,255 pounds, the custom-made Gibson Flying V is the world's largest playable guitar. It is constructed of wood with strings made out of aircraft cable.
Hunter Wunderley, 14, of Charlotte, N.C., gets a close-up look at the world's largest guitar on display at the Carnegie Science Center.
From left, Karen Landis, of McCandless, and her daughters Josie, 14, and Claire, 12, play the world's largest playable guitar together.
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Forget about his guitar. George Harrison himself might weep if he could hear the noise coming from within the Carnegie Science Center.
The North Side museum recently became home to the world's largest playable electric guitar. It is 43.5 feet long, 16 feet wide and weighs 2,255 pounds, as much as a small car.
It may be playable, but playing it well is no easy feat.
"It's impossible," said Brad Peroney, the center's education coordinator who taught himself to play (regular-size) guitar 10 years ago.
That has not stopped people from trying.
The massive instrument -- constructed of wood with strings made out of aircraft cable -- was getting rougher treatment than a guitar at a Pete Townshend concert on Tuesday afternoon.
Children sat on the body of the guitar. They pulled at the strings with both hands and banged against the neck. Since the exhibit opened in mid-June, some children have wailed on the guitar by walking up and down its neck, said Dennis Bateman, the museum's exhibit experience director.
It's not a move Jimi Hendrix or B.B. King likely ever considered. And it never occurred to Mr. Bateman, either.
But that, he said, is the point of the exhibit. The huge guitar demonstrates the principles of acoustics and teaches the science behind the music.
"We like for people to be able to discover things for themselves," Mr. Bateman said.
The guitar exhibit, created by the National Guitar Museum, will be on display at the Carnegie Science Center through the end of September. More than 60 guitars are featured in "Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World." But the centerpiece is undoubtedly the electric guitar displayed on the first floor of the museum.
The Gibson Flying V guitar was constructed by the Academy of Science & Technology in Houston as part of a project to explore electromagnetism and structural engineering. In 2001, its record-breaking size was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
In his job as exhibit experience director, Mr. Bateman's philosophy is that simple is best, so when he heard about the giant guitar, he quickly gave it the go-ahead.
"Line it up," he said. "The idea that it was something that was actually playable, and there were acoustic demonstrations and properties that people could try out, was great," he said.
Angelo Minardi, a 5-year-old from Mt. Lebanon, made a beeline for the guitar after entering the museum Tuesday.
"He was drawn right to it," said Kimberly Minardi, his mother.
The Minardi family's music interests tend to skew more to drums and hand cymbals, which might explain why Angelo was banging his hands against the strings to draw sound from the guitar.
He soon discovered another use for the aircraft cables -- a track for his toy train.
"The trains get incorporated into just about anything," Ms. Minardi said.
Standing along the guitar's neck, members of the Landis family of McCandless were wincing a little at the sound coming from the instrument. Claire Landis, 12, plays the bass guitar, and she described her theory about how to tackle the big guitar:
"I would get a big group of people and have them all spread out, and then you'd be able to play a legitimate song," she said.
But, with children banging on the strings and one small child lying on the body of the guitar, it was easier said than done.
Mr. Peroney, the education coordinator, did it once. Working in tandem with one of his employees, they eked out the tune to "Smoke on the Water."
It sounded like the Deep Purple song, he said, but didn't sound as good as it would on a regular-sized guitar.
"It's built more for the novelty than actually being able to play a song on it," he said. "With some effort though, you can play a song using one string."
Playing a normal guitar requires balancing length, thickness and tension of the strings to make a tune. Playing the big one, Mr. Peroney said, required teamwork, planning and forethought.
Deyaveane Taylor, an 11-year-old from Johnstown, watched Tuesday as her siblings and cousins tried their hands at playing the guitar. Some banged on the strings, others pulled at them. The guitar played.
How did it sound?
"Really, really not good," she said.
First Published July 18, 2012 4:26 pm