Musical Instrument Museum: Largest Global Instrument Museum

The Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, just outside of Phoenix, is the only global musical instrument museum in the world.

And it’s nothing short of amazing!

I ventured there with my 8 and 11-year-old kids not knowing quite what to expect.

We planned to spin 3-4 hours there and very quickly realized, this was going to turn into an entire day venture.

One volunteer laughingly said people spend a few hours at the museum and then ask if there is anything upstairs to see, to which he replies “yea, the whole museum!”

In fact, they actually sell 2-day tickets so you can come back to finish the museum.

When you purchase your tickets, each person will be given a headset. Almost every display has a TV and as you approach the display, it will immediately start playing in your headphones.

You’ll be able to see and hear different instruments being played from different countries and it really adds to the experience.

Orientation Tour

Included with your admission is a free 30 to 45-minute orientation tour that tours the Geographic Galleries.

There is no need to sign-up or make a reservation, simply meet in the area in front of Guest Services when you enter the museum.

Tours start at 2pm on Monday and Friday and at 11am and 2pm on the weekends.

What to See & Do

The Musical Instrument Musueum has 2 floors so you want to make sure you have enough time for both. While there is a lot on the first floor, there is even more upstairs.

Here’s what you’ll see on each level:

First Floor

  • Target Gallery
  • Artist gallery
  • Mechanical Music Gallery
  • Experience Gallery
  • Orientation Gallery
  • Museum Store

Second Floor

  • Africa
  • Middle East
  • Central, South, East & Southeast Asia
  • Latin America
  • Oceania
  • Europe
  • United States / Canada

The Museum has over 4,200 instruments that you can see and hear, along with some of their traditions. These instruments are from all over the world.

Mechanical Music Gallery

The Mechanical Music Room is full of various instruments that all play themselves.

My kids found it fascinating seeing paper scrolls that told the instruments what sounds to play and how the different instruments sounded.

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These instruments are from the late 19th and early 20th centuries when mechanical instruments were most popular here and in Europe.


You won’t be able to miss the Orchestrion in the Mechanical Instrument Gallery!

This is definitely the largest instrument in the museum and it takes up an entire wall! It’s 26-feet wide and weights 2 tons.

This instrument used to be broken down and transported to various events back in it’s day and would replace an entire band.

Made in Belgrium, The Orchestrion has 681 wood pipes behind it.

Did You Know? The windows on the exterior of the Musical Instrument Museum are designed to like piano keys

While the instrument has over 300 songs loaded that it can play, if you visit anyday at noon or 3pm, you’ll be able to see a live demo and 3 songs will be played.

It’s a pretty quick demo so make sure to arrive on time!

Experience Gallery

The Experience Gallery was my kid’s favorite room on the first floor and maybe even the whole museum.

This is where kids (and yes, adults too!) can be hands-on with instruments from all over the world.

The room is set-up in different sections so you can see different types of museums, what they are called, what country they are from and mostly importantly, actually try to play it yourself!

Just a small selection of the instruments in the room are:

  • Ukulele
  • Arpa Paraguaya (from Peru)
  • Banjo
  • Little Martin Guitar
  • Harp
  • Various drums (from various countries)
  • Theremin
  • Kempul (from Indonesia)
  • Sopranos and Bass (from Zimbabwe)

Instruments By Continent (Geographic Galleries)

Make sure you leave plenty of time to explore the upstairs. If you don’t, you’re really missing out!

Upstairs is where all the continent rooms and each one has a display for each of the countries in the continent.

Local Tip: Visiting with kids? Make sure to pick-up a free copy of the Family Gallery Guide so the kids can learn more, look for some hidden items and later color the pictures. You’ll find these on either level of the museum.

Because there is so much to see and I can’t possibly cover it all here, I’ll share some of the highlights of the various room so you can get an idea of what to expect.

Asia Gallery

The Asia Gallery is divided into South, East, Central and Southeast instruments so you can see how they differe based on region.

A couple of our favorite experiences in the Asia Room were:

  • Seeing the process for making gongs in Indonesia
  • The 10 foot Cannon Drum
  • The Mouth Organ from Japan

Europe Gallery

The Europe Gallery had a really neat bagpipe section that had bagpipes from several countries including: Croatia, France, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Tunisia.

And because we were there on France Day, there was a gentleman giving a talk on instruments from France and answering people’s questions.

Africa Gallery

The Africa Room may have been our favorite continent, although it’s a pretty close tie with the Asia Room.

Here we were able to see:

  • How they make Thumb Pianos
  • Seeing a guitar from South Africa made out of a Castrol can
  • Men making music out of rubber work boots they were wearing
  • Slit drums carved to look like Buffalo that warned the Zande community of impending danger and to relay messages to other communities over long distances

At the back of the Africa Gallery is the Middle East Gallery.

When we spotted the empty Morocco Courtyard, we gladly took the opportunity to sit and rest our feet for a few before moving on.

It was quiet and had a nice view!

Latin America Gallery

The Latin America Gallery had a lot of fun and upbeat instruments and songs to hear. It was also fun to see the culture displayed when listening to the instruments being played.

My kids thought the Recycled Orchestra exhibit was really cool. You could see just how resourceful the makers were as they used a variety of different materials like:

  • Large cans
  • Oil drums
  • Kitchen utensils
  • X-ray films

Oceania Room

In the Oceania Room we found it really fun to see the water drumming in Vanuatu. That wasn’t something we had seen before!

They also had an awesome display of different ukeleles, including one that was shaped like a sea turtle.

You’ll also want to see the very tall slit drums which are made from large tree trunks.

United States Room and Canada

While I didn’t expect the United States and Canada Rooms to be as fun or exciting as the others as I would expect to be familiar with more instruments, it actually was great too!

Some of the fun things we appreciated seeing were:

  • The Pow Wow
  • Totem poles from Canada
  • Seeing how cymbals are made (it looked somewhat similar to seeing how gongs are made in the Indonesia in the Asia Room)
  • Seeing a harp guitar

This room also had displays from big music cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Memphis, and even specific artists like Billy Maxwell, Alice Cooper, and Mike Condello.

They even had an exhibit on Maroon 5 and showed actual instruments they used on stage and in videos.

Museum store

The Museum store was quite large and while it had lots of different items, it was well organized.

When we visited the store on Saturday around closing, there were lots of people in the store but we had no trouble getting around.

The museum had items like:

  • Full size ukeleles
  • Various mini / ornament instruments
  • Books
  • Decor
  • Art & craft supplies and kits


The Musical Instrument Museum hosts different events and special days thoughtout the year. Some are included in the price of admission and others are not.

When we went, it was France Day. They had live performances throughout the day which were quite fun to see and easily drew a crowd!

Tickets & Pricing

You can purchase tickets on-site or if you prefer, ahead of time. Arriving on a Saturday morning, we were able to walk right up to the desk for tickets as they had 3 staff members available to assist guests.

Ticket prices are as follows:

$20 for adults
$15 for ages 13 to 19
$10 for kids ages 4 to 12
Free for kids ages 3 amd under

If you want to paricipate in all exhibits, you may want to consider a 2-day pass.

Note: special exhibition pricing is separate

Hours & When to Go

The Museum is open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm.

You can easily spend the entire day here, especially if you want to read and participate in all the exhibits.

While I usually recommend specific days and times to visit, however, even visting on the busiest day (Saturday), there was plenty of space, it didn’t feel crowded and we didn’t have to wait to see any of the exhibits.

They are closed on Thanksgiving but are open on Christmas Day from 10am to 5pm.

Map of the Musical Instrument Museum

Good to Know Before You Go

  • Make sure everyone wears comfortable shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking!
  • No food or drinks, not even water bottles, they’ll give you a tag to pickup your items
  • The museum store stays open 15 minutes after the museum closes
  • If you want to visit the museum store only, you do not have to pay for admission

Getting There & Parking

The Musical Instrument Museum is located at 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050.

The museum has a very large parking lot and even going on a Saturday both in the morning and back again in the afternoon, we had no trouble finding a parking spot.

Parking is also free.

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