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This web site is an archive. For the latest news, please visit the Virtual Air Guitar Company's web site at www.virtualairguitar.com.

Photo of air guitarist

.: What is the Virtual Air Guitar?

Playing air guitar is like playing rock guitar, only without an actual instrument, or musical skills. It is, in fact, not about playing an instrument, but putting on a wild show. Anyone can play air guitar - all you need is some music to play along to. But up until now, you've been restricted to following existing music.

The Virtual Air Guitar is a project developed at the Telecommunications Software and Multimedia Laboratory and the Acoustics Laboratory of the Helsinki University of Technology, and was finished in March 2005. It is an entertainment device that lets users have fun in the spirit of air guitar. It is not an expressive instrument that you need to spend years learning how to play. Anyone can play air guitar, so everyone is able to play the Virtual Air Guitar as well. All you need is a pair of orange gloves and a rock'n'roll attitude. The goal is to provide people without musical skills the chance to experience the fun of playing and creating music, and to expand their concept of listening music to experiencing it.

The Air Guitar is based on a lot of existing research. Read more about the history and contributors behind the Air Guitar...


How to play


Playing the Air Guitar is simple. You pull on a pair of orange gloves, press the start pedal, and rock on. Take a playing pose as if you were holding an imaginary guitar - left hand on the guitar's neck, and right hand near your hip. You will see yourself on a TV screen, with your orange gloves highlighted.

"Look mom, magic gloves!"
-- A spellbound ten-year-old after playing the air guitar

Now swing the right hand as if you were strumming a big chord. And that's exactly what happens - you hear a power chord with punchy distortion. Now move your left hand along the imaginary neck and strum again - it's a different chord. You can't play any "wrong" chords here - they have been pre-selected for you, but it doesn't seem limiting at all. After all, it may only be 4 chords, but that's exactly how many you need to play Smoke on the Water.

When you're ready for your solo, press the switch pedal to change from chord mode to solo mode. Now you have a solo guitar to work on - a pentatonic minor scale on the three top strings, with fret slides and vibrato. Play hard enough with feeling, and you start getting screaming distortions that can't be done justice to here in writing. It's something you have to experience yourself.

"Best time of the day, I had tremendous, childlike fun..."
-- An adult player at the science centre

It's easy enough that you can pick it up in ten seconds, but especially the solo mode has just enough freedom for every solo to be different. No-one has become bored of it yet. And yet everything you get out of it is musical, not chaotic. You don't really need to know anything about guitar solos, except for how rock guitarists perform on stage. In fact, we've noticed that real guitarists have more difficulty with just rockin' on.


Other interfaces


Over the course of development, other interfaces have been created for the Virtual Air Guitar as well. It started out as a virtual reality application for EVE, a CAVE-like virtual environment with magnetic position tracking and data gloves. The webcam interface was developed further, because it suited the science centre project better - it was easier to transfer, and impossible to break.

The Acoustics Laboratory also developed special control sticks that utilize ultrasonic positioning. You pick up a plectrum and a piece of guitar neck, pluck the invisible strings with the plectrum and move the neck piece to control pitch. There is also a pedal that controls string damping.