Air guitar

Playing air guitar is a form of dance and movement in which the performer pretends to play rock or heavy metal-style electric guitar solos. Playing an air guitar usually consists of exaggerated strumming and picking motions and is often coupled with loud singing or lip-synching. Air guitar is generally used in the imaginary simulation of loud electric guitar music.


Examples of air guitar activities by heavy metal fans occurred in the late 1970s. In the Iron Maiden DVD "The Early Years", former and current band members claimed that fans would come to shows with wooden cutout guitars and would emulate what was being played on stage. Eventually, the practice caught on with other fans, some of whom did not have a homemade guitar and would just rock out on their "air guitars".

The roots of air guitar go back much earlier. The father of air guitar might be Joe Cocker, who actively demonstrated an air guitar technique on stage. During the guitar solo lead-in to his live performance of "With a Little Help from My Friends" at the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969, he can be observed simulating the music with his hands, sans guitar.

Preceding that date by twelve years, Bill Reed, of The Diamonds, during a live TV performance, is seen playing the “air guitar” while doing his recitation on the song, “Words of Love”. This performance, circa 1957, has been added to YouTube from a kinescope recording.


Organized air guitar competitions are regularly held in many countries. The first on-off air guitar competitions have been organized in the early 1980s in Sweden and in the United States. Since 1996 the annual Air Guitar World Championships contest has been a part of the Oulu Music Video Festival in Oulu, Finland which nowadays governs Air Guitar World Championships Network of official national championship competitions. In 2007 the network consisted of seventeen countries: Finland, USA, New Zealand, Canada, The Netherlands, Austria, Greece, Mexico, Norway, United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Japan, and Australia.
Rules have much in common with figure skating, especially using 6.0 score system. The most common set of rules are as following:

  • Each participant has to play air guitar on stage in two rounds, each lasting for 1 minute.
    • Round 1: participant plays a selection of their own choosing. Typically the song has been edited (or a medley has been created) to fit the 60-second format.
    • Round 2: participant plays a section of the song chosen by an organizer or competitor; usually the song is not announced beforehand and kept secret until the round begins, so a participant has to improvise.
  • Participant plays alone; backing bands, either with real or air instruments are not allowed; roadies and groupies are allowed to make up some image, but they have to leave the stage before performance.
  • Participant has to play air guitar (i.e. air drums, piano and other instruments are not allowed). Air guitar can be acoustic, electric or both.
  • Generally, there is no dress code and participant is encouraged to use any clothing and props that would add character and make the performance more interesting. However, any real musical equipment or crew (instruments, amplifiers, effect pedals, backing band members, etc) are strictly forbidden. Some events make an exception for a real guitar pick, some don't.
  • Jury consists of independent judges, usually famous musicians or music critics.
  • Judges use the same 6.0 score system as in figure skating: there are several criteria, each judge must give the contestant a score from 4.0 to 6.0 on each of the criteria. One lowest and one highest scores get discarded, all other scores are summed up. The contestant with maximal score wins.
  • The criteria may vary, but usually the following is accounted:
    • Technical merit — how much the performance looks like the real playing, including accurate reproduction of all fretwork, chords, solos and technical moves.
    • Stage presence — a charisma of rock star, the ability to rock, lack of stage fright and power to drive thousands of listeners; involves doing guitar moves and other emotional demonstrations.
    • Airness — the most subjective criterion, as "presentation" in figure skating — how much the performance was an object of art by itself, not only a simulation of playing guitar.


Annual world championships (full name: "The Annual Air Guitar World Championship Contest") were first held in 1996 as part of the Oulu Music Video Festival in Oulu, Finland. Participants from all over the world competed in skills of playing air guitar. The judging panel included Finnish guitarist Juha Torvinen, and prizes included a custom made 'Flying Finn' guitar and VOX BM Special amplifier donated by Queen guitarist Brian May. The ideology behind the event was that "wars would end and all the bad things would go away if everyone just played air guitar".

List of World Championships


2004 ,
2002 ,
1996 ,


Championships generally follow international rules with minor exceptions and additions:

  • Participation is free.
  • Regionals take up to 12 participants. If there are more, additional qualification events take place.
  • Federal finals are held in July between the winners of regionals.
  • Winner of federal finals is qualified for World Championship in September.
  • Participants are allowed to team up to 2, only in regionals. Federal finals are still solo only.
  • Order of appearance in a second round is determined by the scores in the first round (highest score air guitarist plays first).
  • Jury consists of 5 people. Each of 2 rounds is scored by a single mark from 4.0 to 6.0. Lowest and highest mark get discarded, so only 3 marks are added, thus yielding possible results from 24.0 to 36.0.

United States

Returning 2006 United States champion Craig Billmeier, who uses the stage name Hot Lixx Hulahan, claimed a second national title in the 2008 US Air Guitar National Finals, held in San Francisco, California, on August 8, 2008. Hulahan won the title despite fracturing his thumb during the first round of competition.


There are multiple technological innovations that try to allow air guitar to be played as real instrument, producing sounds that depend on air guitarist's actions.

In 2005, students from the Helsinki University of Technology developed a system that translates hand movements into electric guitar sounds, resulting in a functional air guitar. The system, consisting of a pair of brightly-coloured gloves and an infrared camera, is one of the most popular exhibits at the Helsinki Science Center. The camera recognizes the distance between the two gloves as well as strumming movements made by the wearer to synthesize an electric guitar tune, working using only six notes. No musical knowledge is necessary.

In November 2006, researchers at the Australian government's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation announced they had developed a t-shirt that senses human movement to "showcase its expertise in designing and manufacturing electronic and intelligent textiles with which people effortlessly control computers", publicising it as an air guitar shirt.

In 2007, a Japanese company Takara Tomy Corp introduced Air Guitar Pro (Guitar Rockstar), a functional guitar simulator. Fitting in one hand, the device uses heat and motion sensors to detect the other hand motions and produce the guitar sounds.

In March 2008, Jada Toys of California introduced the Air Guitar Rocker toy which featured patented technology in a belt buckle. When the user strums a magnetic pick in front of the belt buckle, guitar music plays through a portable amp attached to the users pant or belt. The Air Guitar Rocker is marketed with the popular Guitar Hero license and was created by toy inventor David Fuhrer and his team.

Björn Türoque

Björn Türoque (pronounced "byorn to rock," and spelled with heavy metal umlauts; real name: Dan Crane) became a well-known air guitarist as a frequent finalist of World Championships. In 2003–2005 he competed in ten air guitar competitions around the world and came in second place five times out of ten. In 2006, he published a book To Air is Human: One Man's Quest to Become the World's Greatest Air Guitarist. He hosts a set of events named " Aireoke" (a portmanteau of "air guitar" and "karaoke"). These events are held in relatively small local clubs and allow everyone to try becoming a rockstar for 1 minute, playing air guitar in public. Most successful persons performing in aireoke proceed to US championships.

On September 14, 2006, Björn appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Türoque also plays real bass guitar in the "faux-French" band Nous Non Plus under the name Jean-Luc Retard.



See also

External links




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