It’s one thing to listen to music; it’s another to learn how it’s made.
Whether at historic music landmarks, music museums or recording studios, getting behind the scenes of the production process will change how you experience your favorite tunes. These attractions bring insight to the magic of music – and happen to be in awesome destinations, too.
Muscle Shoals Music Tour – Florence and Muscle Shoals, Alabama
With its sister city Florence across the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals was once known as the Hit Recording Capital of the World and generated its own style of music, the Muscle Shoals Sound. It’s a distinctive mix of Blues, Rock, Gospel, Soul and Country heard in songs by artists including Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Bob Seger and Paul Simon. Take a tour of FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio to see the instruments and recording equipment used by the artists. Be sure to stop at the W.C. Handy Birthplace, Museum & Library to see where the “Father of the Blues” was born. A major music festival is held in his honor every July.
A view inside the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama
Third Man Records – Detroit, Michigan
Founded in 2001 by Jack White, of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs fame, Third Man Records has added two storefronts to its original studio. The location in Detroit’s Cass Corridor neighborhood opened in 2015 to house a combination recording studio, record label, music venue and vinyl pressing plant, which you can see in action at the back of the shop. Notably, these are among the first newly built machines being used in more than 35 years. You can also catch a concert, play with vintage recording equipment and purchase a record made on-site. Stay in Detroit to explore the Comeback City’s diverse cultural offerings, such as the vibrant Downtown, RiverWalk, Motown Museum; it’s Lonely Planet’s No. 2 destination in the world for 2018.
Pressing of vinyl records making a comeback at places like Third Man Records in Detroit, Michigan
Songbirds Guitar Museum – Chattanooga, Tennessee
The Songbirds Guitar Museum is a live music venue and, most notably, a repository for some of the rarest instruments in existence. This is a true haven for guitar enthusiasts and music history buffs. Explore the massive collection of ultra-rare guitars, some valued at more than a million dollars, including Gibson Firebirds, custom-color Fender Stratocasters, Les Paul Sunbursts and vintage prototypes. Serious fans have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hold and play these incredible instruments on a Player Experience tour. Afterward, lace up your hiking boots and enjoy Chattanooga’s natural beauty and plentiful outdoor recreation.
Paisley Park – Chanhassen, Minnesota
Anything Prince could dream, he could produce at his Paisley Park complex: hit albums including “Diamonds & Pearls,” “Emancipation” and “The Black Album;” spontaneous concerts; guest appearances by the likes of Madonna and Stevie Wonder; even the filming of “Graffiti Bridge” took place at Paisley Park. During the guided tour, you’ll see his performance stage, recording studio and signature purple piano. The late rock legend was a Minnesota native and a fixture in nearby Minneapolis, a sophisticated urban destination on the Mississippi River. Stop at the Electric Fetus record shop where Prince bought records, see the “Purple Rain” house and check out Calhoun Square, the shopping and entertainment complex mentioned in his “Crystal Ball” album.
Inside Prince’s recording studio at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota
'Austin City Limits' Tapings – Austin, Texas
Austin, the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World,” has exploded in popularity for its cultural, culinary and musical offerings. Since 1974, live acts from every musical genre – Hip-Hop, Southern Rock, Country, Jazz and beyond – have been broadcast on “Austin City Limits,” making it the longest-running music program in TV history. Enter the random drawing for a chance to acquire free passes to a live taping. If you’re not one of the lucky few, buy tickets to a concert at the Moody Theater, where the show is taped or attend the Austin City Limits Festival in October. Explore the live music scene in the Warehouse, Sixth Street and Red River entertainment districts, grab a quick meal at one of the famous food trucks, and embrace history by touring local museums.
The scene at the Austin City Limits Festival in Austin, Texas
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