Seattle's Rock and Roll Museum

Experience Music Project is Seattle's tribute to rock and roll.

Most of the focus is on rock music and its roots in jazz, soul, gospel, country, and the blues. This rock and roll museum also houses an excellent collection of guitars.

Experience Music Project Building

If you enjoy rock and roll history, or you're a music fan of baby boomer age, you'll find a lot to enjoy at EMP. Kids and teens will like the Sound Lab and On Stage.

If you're not really into rock and roll, the most interesting thing about Experience Music Project might just be the building itself!

Roots and Branches Sculpture

You can't miss this - it's a 35-ft. tall cyclone made of almost 700 musical intruments! Some of the instruments are customized robotic guitars that play themselves on cue. It can be viewed from all sides and all floor levels.

The Guitar Gallery

This is a collection of more than 50 rare electric and acoustic guitars from 1770 to the present. The narrative on the signs or through headphones helps explain the history of the guitar.

Sound Lab

This was the most fun part of Experience Music Project for my family. There are three stations, called trios, with a guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard. These are connected to a computer console which guides you through activities such aslearning to play a "hook" from a popular song. A hook is a short riff or phrase that "hooks" your attention and makes a song instantly recognizable or stays in your brain and won't go away. You can play by yourself or with others at the other instruments in the trio. There are 12 soundproof rooms containing instruments, regular and interactive, where you can take a lesson, jam with others in the room, or learn more about mixing music. The Jam Studio allows you to record and purchase your very own CD.

On Stage

On Stage can give you a taste of what it's like to be, well, on stage! This experience is more fun if you have several people in your group, enough to form a "band". It puts you center stage where you can sing, play drums, guitars, and keyboards in front of hot lights and screaming fans - virtual, of course! You can purchase a poster or DVD of your performance.

"Louie, Louie"

This is the story of the controversy surrounding this song. This falls into the "guess you had to be there to appreciate it" category. If you remember the fuss, then this might be interesting to you. If you don't, reading about it doesn't make it all that interesting, according to my teenage daughter!

Various Memorabilia

Experience Music Project has a good collection of costumes, guitars, sheet music, and photos of famous rockers such as Heart and Jimi Hendrix, and lots of good information on rock and roll history and Seattle's contribution to it.

Special Exhibitions

The Seattle rock museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Some past examples include

  • Beatlemania! America Meets the Beatles, 1964
  • AC/DC: Australia's Family Jewels
  • Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Black Leather Jacket
  • Disco: A Decade of Saturday Night

The Building

Experience Music Project Seattle was founded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, and opened in 2000. The building that houses the project was designed by Frank Gehry who refers to electric guitars as his inspiration. Some have compared it to a smashed electric guitar. Forbes magazine named it one of the world's 10 ugliest buildings. Other descriptions have not been so kind:

  • a blob
  • "something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over, and died" (New York Timesarchitecture critic Herbert Muschamp)
  • open heart surgery gone awry
  • an airplane wreck
  • "something found under the couch at a college fraternity house"

Whether you love it or hate it, the EMP Seattle building is a must-see at least from the outside. You can get an even better view as you look down on it from the top of the Space Needle.



EMP/SFM at Seattle Center
325 5th Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98105
EMP Building
EMP Building