Music instruments

7 great places to see the making of musical instruments


David Byrne of Talking Heads Fame wrote that songs and sounds are built with their surroundings in mind. Hearing it in its birthplace is just as rewarding as, say, drinking a famous whiskey from its distiller. We’ve spotted a few birthplaces of famous instruments whose makers open their doors to music-loving travelers. From Steinway pianos to CF Martin guitars, these musical venues offer tours of factories or exhibitions.

See how pianos are made from start to finish

A German immigrant named Steinweg, who was a bugle at the Battle of Waterloo, began making pianos in New York City in 1853. The family business was eventually sold in 1972, but you can still see their namesake pianos created on Long Island. . City Steinway & Sons factory in Queens, New York.

Learn how a pipe organ is built

Based in Lawrence, Kansas, Reuters Organ Company’s Guided tours show how the pipe organ, with its connections to ancient Greece, is built with pipes under pressure in consoles so large you can fit inside. Reuter, who turns 100 in September 2019, made organs for many silent movie houses.

Visit the Moog Synthesizer Factory

Moog Xerox is to photocopiers to synthesizers. That’s because in the 1970s, the Asheville, North Carolina company turned oversized analog synths, which had been around since the early 1900s, into something compact and simple, relieving musicians of the need for patchy patch chords or programming skills. They offer free factory tours and their website has fun and artistic videos as well.

Visit one of the oldest guitar factories in the world

In Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the German Americans CF Martin & Cie has been manufacturing acoustic guitars since Andrew Jackson’s administration in 1833, making it one of the oldest guitar factories in the world. The tours tell how the company spurred the modern evolution of the guitar and show the 300 steps it takes to make one by hand.

Discover a traditional ukulele factory

Kamaka Ukulele has been manufacturing Hawaiian ukuleles, an instrument adapted from Portuguese machete guitars, since 1916. The family-owned factory operates in Honolulu.

Marvel at a huge collection of harmonica

The German Harmonica and Accordion Museum in Torossingen, Germany, is the perfect place to learn more about the harmonica, with its bilingual exhibits at the site of the famous Hohner harmonica factory, which opened in 1857.

Journey to the legendary city of violins

Cremona, Italy, is the city of violins. It was here, in the 17th and 18th centuries, that Antonio Stradivari (and his descendants) made the most legendary violins in the world. You are unlikely to own a Stradivarius, but you can see some at Violin Museum, which houses a “Sound bank” to record and preserve the distinct personality and sound of each violin.

Robert Reid is editor-in-chief for Traveler. He writes about travel and music on Tinkerville. Follow him on Twitter.
A version of this story originally appeared in the August / September 2019 issue of National Geographic traveler.


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