Air Guitar World Championships – Oulu, Finland - Atlas Obscura

Air Guitar World Championships

The grandest stage for the world's foremost masters of invisible instruments. 


To those who truly slay the air guitar, it’s not that their instrument of choice isn’t real, it’s just that it’s invisible to those of us with untrained eyes. 

Each year, the world’s most proficient masters of the imaginary electric guitars work their way through a series of international competitions with hopes of competing at the Air Guitar World Championships. Since 1996, the stage at Oulu, Finland has been home to an epic showdown of rock-and-roll enthusiasm, where, by definition, style triumphs over substance.

Though it seems like a farce, the rules are quite strict and share a scoring system oddly similar to that of figure skating. Competitors must perform two separate routines: the first lasting 60 seconds, consisting of music of their choice, followed by a second, surprise selection of music assigned by festival organizers. Dress code is nonexistent, and self-expression is seen as a crucial element of the performance aspect.

Judges consist of music critics, media personalities, and second-tier musicians, all tasked with docking competitors who slip into air-drumming or anything that may fall outside the strict confines of the guitar. Whether participants choose to channel the acoustic or electric is left up to their discretion.

In the competition’s early years, nearly all the winners were Finnish, though recent years have drawn an ever increasing international crowd of spectators and participants, making this spectacle a truly mind-blowing experience… for it all being illusory. 

From Around the Web