What to Expect When You Play Guitar in Space

January 21st, 2016

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Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield knows a thing about playing guitar in zero gravity. As commander of the International Space Station from December 2012 to May 2013, Hadfield, who plays guitar, became the first person to record a song from space, “Jewel in the Night.” Hadfield also earned himself worldwide fame that May when he posted a video of himself performing David Bowie’s 1969 ode to astronauts, “Space Oddity” (shown below), in the weightless atmosphere of the ISS.

It may look like fun, floating through the air with your guitar strapped on. But as Hadfield explains in the video below, playing guitar in zero gravity completely changes how your muscles work, and how objects—like guitars—act when there’s no gravity to keep them in position.

“When you’re weightless, the guitar is weightless too,” Hadfield says. “So every time you move your hand up the fretboard, the guitar just goes whoop and takes off beside you.”

Your arm is weightless too, he adds, another factor that adds difficulty.

“You’re used to the weight of your arm,” Hadfield says. “You’ve got muscle memory for going up and down the fretboard based on your arm being this way. Now suddenly your arm is weightless, so you miss [the notes] all the time.”

Want to simulate the experience here on Earth? Hadfield has some instructions on how to do that. Watch the video. Then check out his video of “Space Oddity,” shot on the ISS, below it.

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