Is air guitar a real sport?

Is Air Guitar a Real Sport?

It’s hard to watch footage of Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner so that you could hear the words coming from the cords without dragging out the air guitar. It’s one thing to jam out with nothing more than air in the privacy of your own home and entirely another to use your air guitar skills in a competition. This brings us to our question: is air guitar a real sport? 

Not only is playing the air guitar a sport, but there is also a championship. The Air Guitar World Championship host competitors from around the world each year. Of course, it’s mostly about theatrics and who is the best at creating the most entertaining performance. 

That’s not to knock air guitarists. Not in the least. However, without a physical guitar, there is no denying it’s a competition of theatrics. So let’s explore a bit more about the history of the invisible air guitar competition.

Are There Other Air Guitar Competitions?

Of course, there are a lot of air guitar competitions on the local level, and if we listed all of them, it would turn into a five-novel report. Fortunately, air guitar has exceeded the local level and is an international competition.

The above Air Guitar World Championship isn’t the only international or national air guitar event. For instance, ESPN hosted the All-Star Air-Off back in August of 2022. The competition took place over four rounds. 

  • The Fantastic Five
  • The Fab Four
  • Triple Threat
  • The Final Air-Off

Each day is an elimination event, knocking off one of the competitors until they reach the point where it’s a one-on-one competition, otherwise known as the Final Air-Off. 

At the start, five competitors perform by picking whatever song they want to. At the end of all five performances, one of the competitors is eliminated, and the remaining four move on to the Fab Four round the next day. 

The Fab Four has to choose a love song. Once one of the four is eliminated, the Triple Threat group all perform simultaneously, and the music is selected by the judges rather than the performers. 

On the final day, the Final Air-Off, the remaining two have to perform individually; the song is not their choice. It’s a song that neither of them has ever heard before. So, there is much more to these competitions than just playing the air guitar. 

One year’s winner was Mom Jeans Jeanie, a fitting name for a woman who donned some mom jeans for real. She was also rocking the mom-do. 

What Started the Air Guitar Phenomenon?

Air guitar wasn’t always a sport. It’s always been familiar in homes across America but not something that people would compete with each other over. Who could resist rocking out to their favorite music

Most experts (if there are any true experts in this sort of thing) believe that air guitar competitions, and eventually international, national, and local competitions, owe their existence to “shadow conducting.”

This was done by musicians in the privacy of their homes in the early 1900s, primarily because back then, if anyone saw you playing an air guitar, you would likely end up in a mental institution in line for the next electric shock bath.

It was shameful and embarrassing at first. Many believed that the early onset of musicians who played guitar. This was long before the advent of the electric guitar, which was considered “of the devil and shunned from society. 

Playing air instruments hasn’t always been shunned. There were plenty of comedy shows in the early half and middle of the 20th century where actors would play air instruments and engage in lip-syncing. 

If Hollywood did it, nothing was amiss. If anyone else did it, they received a ticket to the nearest straight jacket. The movie, Risky Business, put something that a lot of people did, casually in the privacy of their homes, on the big screen for the world to see. 

Grumpy Old Men would replicate the famous Tom Cruise scene many years later. But, by then, playing the air guitar was already common enough in homes across America. 

Bottom Line

Air guitar is now a staple in worldwide competitions, and there are plenty of annual competitions each year. 

Local competitions are even more so. Like some obscure things seem to do sometimes, the air guitar just kept growing. Before you knew it, playing the air guitar became a sport, and now, it’s a competitive, money-making phenomenon.

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