Air Guitar: Guitar Hero Without the Toy


Both “Guitar Hero” and Air Guitar have championships, allowing participants to fake play for real money. (Alex Palomino/The Observer)

Published: February 26, 2009

For all of the beauty queens hoping for world peace, air guitar may be the answer. At least, that’s what the creators of the Air Guitar World Championship (AGWC) believe. Working with the philosophy stated on the AGWC Facebook page, “Wars would end and all bad things would disappear, if all the people in world played the Air Guitar,” the championship started as an extension of the Oulu Music Video Festival in Finland in August 1996.

Judged on accuracy and finesse, competitors rock out to their favorite songs with nothing more than air in their hands. The air musicians must maintain the notes, much like the game “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band.” Using a plastic guitar, players must press buttons that represent the chords of well-known songs and are scored accordingly. Both “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” are popular among Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) students, but air guitar championships won’t be popping up any time soon.

“[Air guitar] takes less skill [than “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band”] because you’re just going with the flow. There is no ‘score’ at the end of air guitar,” said Jackie Sibille, FCLC ’09. “On the other hand, depending on what kind of air guitar we’re talking about, it could also be harder. If someone is making up a song… it takes so much more creativity than just pressing the same buttons over and over to the same song over and over.”

Massimo Di Giovanna, FCLC ’09, said, “Air guitar is very childish… Playing an instrument is way more fun because it is tangible. With air guitar, there are no mistakes or wrong notes, but then again, there is no actual music being played. There’s no way in hell it promotes world peace. Seriously.”

Pulling in crowds of around a thousand per show for the United States tour, the U.S. Air Guitar Tour will perform in 25 cities in summer 2009, from New York City to Houston, Tex. to San Francisco, Calif. for the U.S. finals. Contestants can enter in any of the competitions for a fee of $20. The winners receive recognition and $400 toward the national championship. The national champion will win airfare and hotel vouchers for the AGWC competition in Finland. The U.S. winner competes against air guitarists from Kenya, the Czech Republic, Greece and Australia, just to name a few of the 24 participating countries.

Di Giovanna understands the philosophy behind air guitar, “[It’s] being in the moment, fulfilling a fantasy, but at some point you have to wake up… [however,] I would not go to an air guitar show or ever participate in an air guitar contest.”

The AGWC takes place every August with the preliminary competitions beginning in May. The reigning world champion is Craig Billmeier, better known as Hot Lixx Hulahan among the air guitar circle. Hailing from California, Billmeier makes his home in New York City and is the current New York, U.S. and world champion.

“It’s an interesting way to promote goofiness and relaxation,” Sibille said. “I don’t think it’s quite the solution to world peace, but I do believe that everyone should do a weird, fun thing every once in a while; they will be generally happier, whether or not it’s air guitar.”

Despite the altruistic intention and the competition’s popularity within New York, it doesn’t look like air guitar will be taking Fordham students by storm any time soon. Come finals, when students are looking for anything to take the edge off, it might change. Maybe we’ll air guitar our way to world peace and a stable climate.