learn about music and culture at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix


I’d had a couple of people recommend the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix to me, and so on a recent trip to Arizona, we made a point of visiting this Smithsonian affiliate, and were really glad we did. It is the world’s only global musical instrument museum.

the musical instrument museum offers great insight into music and culture from around the world

The museum’s name is a bit of a misnomer. You’ll see and experience much more than just looking at exhibits of musical instruments from around the world. You’ll have the opportunity to try out various musical instruments in the Experience Gallery, where a variety of instruments large and small are available for you to experiment with, including banging on a giant Kempul gong from Indonesia.


My friend Laverne enjoyed testing out this ukulele in the Experience Gallery of the Musical Instrument Museum.


I enjoyed being the star of my own Gong Show with this Kempul gong from Indonesia.

My favourite gallery at the MIM is the Artist Gallery, where you can see clothing, musical instruments, and other memorabilia donated (or on loan to) the the museum from various musical stars. As a Canadian, I enjoyed seeing the Randy Bachman exhibit, and as an Elvis lover, I especially enjoyed the large Elvis exhibit. There is also a great John Lennon exhibit and one from Carlos Santana. If you love contemporary music, you can easily spend an hour in this gallery alone. The “Playing for Change” foundation has a video of artists from around the world singing to John Lennon’s song Imagine, which I found very moving.


The exhibit from Turkey provides a multi-media glimpse into Turkish music and culture.

The Geographic Galleries are fascinating, as they give you a glimpse of the culture of the place or country from which the musical instrument(s) originated. I was disappointed at the tiny focus on Canadian music in the United States/Canada Gallery, which only contained a fiddle from Nova Scotia. There is so much more Canadian music to explore from the rest of Canada! I hope the museum expands its sampling of Canadian music, and some of the other very limited galleries. I found the “Recycled Orchestra” exhibit from Argentina featuring instruments created from recycled cans to be highly creative.


The Apollonia is a massive menagerie of musical instruments that plays itself. Don’t miss the demo!

The Musical Instrument Museum has a 300-seat theatre that hosts a myriad of entertainment and about 300 concerts each year. The floors of the museum are soft for comfort walking, and there is an elevator to the second floor making this a most pleasurable and accessible venue to spend at least half a day exploring. There is a really nice gift shop to explore, and a cafe where you can grab lunch if you want to take a break during your visit.


The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix offers some nice places where you can sit outside for a break during your visit.

Downtown Phoenix is just a short drive from Scottsdale, where we enjoyed a week of fun in the sun and also enjoyed a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden. Have you been to the MIM? Please let us know what you thought of the exhibits and the experience in the comment section below. Thanks, and stay tuned next week for the final post in my series on Scottsdale, Arizona.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

80 Responses

  1. James Gale says:

    This is a great museum. The guides and monitors are very friendly and very helpful. We spent about 3 hours and came away with so much information about the art of global music. Thank you for providing this insightful post. I look forward to exploring more content on your site in the future.

  2. Akdu says:

    I had an incredible time exploring the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix! It’s an absolute treasure trove of musical knowledge and cultural diversity. The exhibits provide a fascinating journey through the rich tapestry of music and its deep connections to different cultures worldwide. I learned so much about the universal language of music and how it brings people together. A must-visit for anyone interested in the intersection of music and culture!

  3. I really appreciate your blog post about music and culture at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. I loved that you mentioned that the museum is a misnomer and how much you loved the experience gallery. I really appreciate how you really took the time to write about this unique museum and how much you enjoyed your experience there.

  4. buywirelessrouternow says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post about the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m really interested in music and I’m so glad you gave me the opportunity to learn about it during your visit. I’m so impressed with how much knowledge the museum has about music, and I love the fact that it’s in Phoenix!

  5. Robert Roth says:

    I’m so glad you mentioned the Musical Instrument Museum in your blog post about Phoenix. I’ve been meaning to visit that place for a while now and I’m so glad I found this article! I loved all the insights you got from the museum and I’m looking forward to checking it out soon.

  6. weilds says:

    The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix is a great historical center totally devoted to musical sounds – so great and novel. Thanks for this pleasant article about it.

  7. Ukelover says:

    The MiM museum dedicated entirely to music sounds so wonderful and unique .It is a great pleasure to know that , it is the world’s only global musical instrument museum. I’ve never heard of anything like this before. I’d love to visit this place . I have a website of ukulele https://ukulelereviewdj.com/best-concert-ukulele/

  8. Joe Rocks says:

    I think that everyone who loves or has an interest in music should take a trip to this musical instrument museum in Phoenix! Music is a part of my culture so I found this post quite satisfying.

  9. Wow! A musical instrument museum! This is very interesting and something new to me. I would love to visit it someday. This is now in my bucket list.
    Thanks for sharing

  10. That is a really cool concept. We sometimes take for granted the history and development of the wonderful musical tools we have today. So easy to find a high quality guitar nowadays that we forget the craftsmanship that has taken place over the past couple centuries rot get us here. Thanks for the good reminder.

  11. Da lat nen says:

    This museum is way too far for me to visit, what a pity!
    However, I’m eager to hear your future stories of your insights into music and culture.
    Looking forward right now!

  12. kevinmain says:

    Wow! A global musical instrument museum! That’s something new to me. I would love to visit it someday. Thx

  13. Way to get into the instruments Doreen. You and Laverne look like you really enjoyed the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale. Was striking the gong as fun as it looked? I’d be afraid I might walk around vibrating afterwards!

  14. I’m guilty of having passed that place several times on recent trips to the area and never made it a point to stop — now I will. Great review, Doreen.

  15. What a wonderful place. I love history of all kinds. I am now trying to play a medieval instrument called a Hurdy Gurdy.
    I would love to go visit this place.

  16. I’ve never heard of the Musical Instrument Museum, but it sounds interesting and fun. I’m surprised they didn’t have more about Canadian music though. Did they have any First Nations instruments?

  17. Anil says:

    Indeed a best place to explore the musical instruments. There are lot to explore in this museum.

  18. Rohan says:

    The museum looks very cool. I love to visit this place to check out the musical instrument. Thanks for sharing news about this place.

  19. Denny George says:

    Your excitement at banging on the gong is quite visible in the photograph! It is great to have a museum dedicated to musical instruments. I feel appreciation of music is the one thing that unites all global cultures and traditions.

  20. The Muiscal Instrument Museum sounds like a melodious experience. What I really liked about the museum is that you actually get to play the instruments rather than be just mute spectators. Who doesn’t like to bang on a drum or blow a trumpet however cacophonic the noise produced! Elvis Presley and John Lenon’s exhibits is another section of the museum that I would love to see.

  21. The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix does sound like a great spot to spend a few hours. I must say, you look a little crazed there banging that gong! Was it too much fun? 🙂

  22. Wow! A global musical instrument museum! That’s something new to me. I would love to visit it someday. Thanks for letting us know about it. 🙂

  23. I love unusual museums, this one sounds an interesting find. I think the potential for a jarring cacaphony in the room where you can try instruments may be one to avoid if you have a headache but it sounds super fun to be able to get hands on!

  24. noel says:

    THanks for the tour Doreen, this is one of the museums that was on my list, but I ran out of time to visit it. Looks like a wonderful place to learn and also use some of the instruments which is amazing.

  25. I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Phoenix, the museum looks like fun. I love that you get to play with some of the instruments instead of just viewing them behind glass. I think that makes for a much more memorable visit. I can only imagine what the gong sounded like up close. 🙂

  26. We spend so much hiking when we are in Arizona or New Mexico that we don’t always opt for the museums. Thank you for introducing me to new places to visit on the next trip!

  27. I like the idea that you can pick up the instruments and play them. So much better than those museums where you just have to look at the exhibits!

  28. Kemkem says:

    The first thing l thought of was The Gong Show when l saw that picture of you, so l was glad to read the caption. The Musical Instrument Museum looks like a fun place to visit. “Tiptoe through the tulips” will now play in my mind all day. 🙂

  29. Jim and I went to MIM our first winter in Arizona, like you, on the suggestion of friends. It happened to be a day of outdoor entertainment and indoor demonstrations. We watched some interesting Polynesian performances, including stilt walkers, and dancers. Then we took in a demonstration in kettle-drum making. Very interesting! After a break for a late lunch, we made a stab at seeing the many display rooms, but found it just too much for one day, so we got an extension on our tickets so we could return another day — and we did!

    Looking at your post, I feel that some exhibits have changed or perhaps new ones added, so I guess it’s time for another visit.

  30. As a former recorder and oboe player, I am very attracted to music museums. I think the last one we visited was somewhere in Vienna—or was it Basel, Switzerland? If I ever make it back to Scottsdale, I’ll make sure this museum makes my “to visit” list.

  31. Janet May-Hewson says:

    Hi Doreen. Had never heard of this museum. It’s interesting that we are celebrated but not in the Canadian geographic area. Possibly that will be rectified soon. Always interesting. Thank you.

    • Hi Janet. I believe the Canadian exhibit in the Geographic exhibit is where they have the fiddle from Nova Scotia. But as you and I know, the Canadian music scene is SO much more than that, and definitely does not represent Canada in a coast-to-coast-to-coast true Canadian way. As we are the largest neighbour of the US, I would hope they would show a little more attention to Canada, and I did mention that to their marketing person.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…learn about music and culture at the Musical Instrument Museum in PhoenixMy Profile

  32. Phoenicia says:

    What an interesting museum; music equipment you are free to use! What fun visitors must have deciding what equipment to use. I can guarantee it must become noisy at particular times of the day.

    • HI Phoenicia. Indeed! The MIM gets mighty noisy when the school children arrive! But it’s all good fun, and the rest of the museum is well insulated and much quieter than the Experience Gallery.

  33. I had never heard of the Musical Instrument Museum. What a great idea as music has played such an important in our lives going back over time. I played the cornet as a child so I know I would enjoy this museum. Hopefully will get to Phoenix again some day.

  34. Carol Colborn says:

    I am ashamed! We have lived in Mesa (next door to Phoenix) for a year now and I haven’t been to the MIM. To think a Filipino friend of mine, part of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association we have set up for Arizona, is working there! Your post puts it at the top of my to-do list!

  35. What a fun opportunity you had at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. I was an instrument player in my previous life, and would truly enjoy this place. Thanks for showing us all about it.

  36. cindy says:

    I’d heard about this museum from everyone for several years before actually getting there. Still, I was shocked by how much was on display and how fun it is! I loved all the historic videos of entertainers from all cultures all over the world – it was amazing to see so many musical greats of the past performing. We only had a couple of hours and will set aside at least a half-day the next time we go. It’s every bit as good as everyone says and then some!

  37. Tom Bartel says:

    Doreen, we visited the museum with our friend Larry, who is a docent there. I second your opinion. It’s a terrific attraction in Scottsdale, and an excellent museum, not just of music. It’s a great cultural tour, via the music, of darn near every country in the world. Very entertaining and enlightening.

  38. Beverly says:

    That is a lovely picture of Laverne and the one of you is priceless. The museum looks and sounds like a wonderful place to visit. I am glad to hear there is a restaurant on the premises which enables visitors to have something to eat and continue their visit. It is on my list of places to visit if I travel to Arizona.

  39. Claire says:

    This museum looks interesting! Its amazing how music can be universal and yet be produced by so many different types of musical instruments in the different cultures 🙂

  40. Flora says:

    The MIM sounds like a great place to visit. I enjoy your articles!

  41. I visited the MIM a few years ago and loved it. I especially liked being able to hear recordings of what the unusual instruments sounded like. There is so much to see here that I think it can be a bit overwhelming for one visit.

    • Doreen says:

      I agree, Donna. We didn’t even see the temp exhibit on China, and we still were there about 3 hours. Would love to go back & spend more time at the MIM.

  42. Linda Strange says:

    The places you find to visit are amazing to me ! Of course, most of your adventures open my eyes to what’s available. I think that’s the whole purpose of writing, isn’t it? You succeed admirably !

    • Thank you so much for that vote of confidence, Linda! Yes, my mission statement is to educate, entertain, and entice my readers to venture out and explore the world with chocolate in mind. But my many other interests make an appearance as well, and that includes a love for good wine, great food, interesting people and cultures, soul-serving music, as well as a respect for nature. Glad to say … I love what I do, and am grateful I have the opportunity to do it. 🙂
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…learn about music and culture at the Musical Instrument Museum in PhoenixMy Profile

  43. A very cool find! My hubby would love it!

  44. Hi, I love to listen music and also sounds of various instruments like Flute and violin.

    Thanks for this nice article.

  45. Thu Ho says:

    This museum is way too far for me to visit, what a pity!
    However, I’m eager to hear your future stories of your insights into music and culture.
    Looking forward right now!

  46. A museum dedicated entirely to music sounds so wonderful and unique, at least to me. I’ve never heard of anything like this before. 🙂 I’m sure I’d love to visit this place some time in life!

  47. Laverne says:

    I enjoyed the recycled orchestra. It was amazing to see what they used to make beautiful music. The hands on part was good too as you got to play a variety of instruments. A must see if you enjoy musical instruments.

    • Right on, Laverne. I wish we had had more time to take it all in. But it’s such a huge facility that a person really does need 3-4 hours to see everything — including the special temporary exhibits, which are separate from the other exhibits.

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