It’s been a while since we explored the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale. I agree with Tony Bennett, for a musician it’s the best museum in the world. With the temperature still in the upper nineties, it was time for another visit. 

When the MIM opened about a decade ago, it consisted principally of large rooms, each containing instruments from a particular geographic area: Europe, Asia, North America, and so on. In subsequent years, they’ve added special exhibits and a concert series.

A 500 year old guitar.

A bowed string instrument from the Middle East. The body is, I think, a decorated gourd, the back has a design made of inlaid ivory.

A collection of instruments made of discarded materials. We heard a recording of a performance of classical music. It sounded surprisingly good.

This is a Caja from Peru. I like the illustrations on the head.

A Bolivian lute that uses an armadillo shell as its body.

A collection of “brass” instruments made of bamboo and wicker!

At first glance, this looks like yet another bowed string instrument. But notice the many fine strings and few thick ones. I think the bow can only reach the larger strings. Are the others there for resonance?

The peacock head is an interesting touch.

The Javanese gamelan is an orchestra of 60-plus musical instruments, including bronze gongs and metallophones, drums, wooden flute and two-stringed fiddle. Common instruments used are metallophones played by mallets and a set of hand-played drums called kendhang/Kendang, which register the beat. Other instruments include xylophones, bamboo flutes, a bowed instrument called a rebab, a zither-like instrument siter (in Javanese ensemble) and vocalists. It requires up to 60 people to play the “instrument”.

An octave is divided into twelve notes in the music we all know. Not so for the gamelan where it is divided into either five or seven notes. This means that trying to play a gamelan composition on, for example, a piano is impossible.

No better way to end than a pink saxophone!


  1. Museum looks well funded. There is a much older similar Museum on the university of South Dakota in Vermilion. Highly recommend you stop on your way to visit next Fall😉

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