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Exhibitions/ Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll

Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll

At The Met Fifth Avenue
April 8–October 1, 2019

Exhibition Catalogue

Abundant photographs and engrossing essays celebrate the iconic musical instruments that gave rock and roll its signature sound.

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Exhibition Overview

For the first time, a major museum exhibition examines the instruments of rock and roll. One of the most important artistic movements of the twentieth century, rock and roll's seismic influence was felt across culture and society. Early rock musicians were attracted to the wail of the electric guitar and the distortion of early amplifiers, a sound that became forever associated with rock music and its defining voice. Rock fans have long been fascinated with the instruments used by musicians. Many have sought out and acquired the exact models of instruments and equipment used by their idols, and spent countless hours trying to emulate their music and their look. The instruments used in rock and roll had a profound impact on this art form that forever changed music.

The exhibition is co-organized with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and will present approximately 130 instruments alongside posters and costumes. Many of rock's most celebrated and recognized instruments are featured, representing artists across generations and subgenres. In addition to institutional and private collectors, many musicians are lending their performance and recording instruments. 

This playlist includes songs that represent the artists and instruments from the exhibition. Selected by Met Curator Jayson Kerr Dobney.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.

Please note: Strollers are not allowed in this exhibition. Read about our admissions policy and plan your visit here.

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The exhibition is made possible by the John Pritzker Family Fund, the Estate of Ralph L. Riehle, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Diane Carol Brandt, the Paul L. Wattis Foundation, Kenneth and Anna Zankel, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Met's Friends of Musical Instruments: The Amati, Nion McEvoy, and Joseph O. Tobin II.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in

A woman raises her hands, silhouetted against red stage lights at a rock concert

The Play It Loud Primer sets the stage before you go. Check out some of the iconic instruments and watch interviews with legendary musicians, as well as new rock stars. Dive deeper with Spotify playlists and concert posters throughout the ages, and experience some of the defining moments of rock and roll. Get ready to rock!

Exhibition Objects

The Met Store

Fabulous gifts for any rock fan, the Play It Loud exhibition catalogue and picture album celebrate the musical instruments that gave rock and roll its signature sound. Photographs and essays explore iconic guitars, pianos, and more, emphasizing the art and evolution of the instruments that made possible the songs we know and love.

Gibson Guitar Corp. (Kalamazoo, MI); painted by Keith Richards. Les Paul Custom electric guitar (serial no. 7 7277), 1957; painted 1968. Carved mahogany body and neck, ebony fingerboard, 24 3/4 in. scale; black finish with hand-painted design; three patent-applied-for (PAF) humbucking pickups, three-way selector switch, two volume and two tone controls. Collection of Keith Richards