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Where is the Steinway piano that John Lennon used to compose Imagine? Where is the 1975 Martin D-28 acoustic guitar that Elvis played at his last concert in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977?

John Lennon's Steinway piano
John Lennon's Steinway piano
Photo: Musical Instrument Museum

Where will you find the Brownie Fender Stratocaster guitar on which Eric Clapton played Layla for his album and Carlos Santana's custom Yamaha guitar?

Museum collection

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, houses more than 15,000 musical instruments. MIM displays up to 5,000 artifacts at one time, including clothing, Grammy awards and audio and video recordings. Other exhibits describe how musical instruments work and how to build musical instruments.

Located in North Phoenix, the museum is a Smithsonian affiliate. The Smithsonian helps with musical instrument identification, creation of exhibits and by lending musical instruments from its collections.

Video recordings

To tour the Musical Instrument Museum, visitors wear headphones with Sennheiser guidePort compact receivers, which act as wireless tour guide systems.

Family listens sound track with Sennheiser guidePort headphones.
Family listens to sound track with Sennheiser guidePort headphones.
Photo: Musical Instrument Museum

Each MIM tour is personalized. When you walk by any of 300 identifiers hidden in the exhibits, the guidePort system automatically synchs your headset to the display so you can listen to the audio guide and video sound tracks.

You don't have to push buttons or go at the pace of a tour guide.

Acoustic instruments

"There is something for everyone at the Musical Instrument Museum," says Erin Kozak. "In our Artists gallery we have instruments from popular icons of music history, including stars, like Toby Keith, Buck Owens and John Denver."

She notes that even if you are into pop music, MIM has a guitar from the Jonas Brothers. Lovers of guitar music can also see a 1960s Eric Clapton Gibson ES-345 guitar, the Gibson Johnny Smith model guitar played by George Benson, one of Paul Simon's guitars and Carlos Santana's Paul Reed Smith (PRS) guitar.

Play instruments

In the MIM Experience Gallery, visitors can play Little Martin guitars, theremins, thumb pianos and other musical instruments. Erin Kozak describes the hands-on gallery as a petting zoo for musical instruments.

Ud from Iraq
Ud from Iraq
Photo: Musical Instrument Museum

"One of MIM's most popular instruments is the theremin, which was invented by Russian scientist Léon Theremin," says Erin Kozak. "What makes the theremin so unique is that the player doesn't actually touch the instrument to play it. Our guests are always fascinated by the theremin and enjoy playing it in the Experience Gallery."

Mechanical music

The first-floor of the Musical Instrument Museum features the Mechanical Music Gallery, with instruments that play on their own. A highlight is an organ compiled from two accordions, drums, a xylophone and other percussion instruments that play mechanically.

The second floor exhibits international musical instruments from more than 200 countries around the world. From the Middle East, MIM visitors can see the lute-like oud or ud stringed instrument. They can listen to Burundi and Rwandan royal court music.

International musical instruments

European musical instruments include carillon bells from Holland, cast in 1659, and a 1725 viola d'amore from Bohemia.

The highlight of the Asia and Oceania instrument collection is an hourglass drum (paigu), constructed around 5000 to 4000 B.C.E. in the province of Xi'an, China. You can also see singing frogs and a recreated gong workshop.

The Musical Instrument Museum exhibits Andean panpipes from Latin America, Appalachian dulcimers from the USA and Native American flutes. MIM displays flutes played by R. Carlos Nakai, a Grammy-nominated Native American artist.

MIM Theater concert
MIM Theater concert
Photo: Musical Instrument Museum

MIM Music Theater

The concert season for the Musical Instrument Museum runs between September and May. The 299-seat theater hosts live performances of traditional and contemporary music, vocal and instrumental music, as well as seminars and films.

You can buy tickets for MIM concerts and performances at the Music Theater from the Musical Instrument Museum website.

Musical Instrument Museum address

The address for the Music Theater and Musical Instrument Museum is 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85050. The MIM is located at the intersection of two major highways, Loop 101 and 51, on the southwest corner of Tatum and Mayo Boulevards.

Exterior of Phoenix MIM
Exterior of Phoenix MIM
Photo: Musical Instrument Museum

From downtown Phoenix, the drive north to MIM takes about 20 minutes. The phone number for the Musical Instrument Museum is (480) 478-6000.

For MIM admission fees and opening hours, check the Musical Instrument Museum website. Kids under six years old receive free admission to the MIM.


Musical Instrument Museum (MIM): www.themim.org

Greater Phoenix CVB: www.VisitPhoenix.com

Arizona Office of Tourism: www.VisitArizona.com