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Drive These Musical Roads for the Ultimate Road Trip Soundtrack

Drive These Musical Roads for the Ultimate Road Trip Soundtrack

Rumble strips make noise to alert drivers, and some of them play a tune. Usually, they produce a loud, grating sound that can be awfully abrupt. But certain highways around the world make sounds that are soothing and entertaining. You can even hum along on these so-called musical roads right here in the USA.

What Is a Musical Road and How Does It Work?

Sound is all about vibrations, and some are more pleasing than others. Musical roads have grooves or objects in the pavement that create different notes as your vehicle rolls over them. When spaced perfectly, they create different frequencies that play a specific melody. You can hear it clearly inside your vehicle – and outside, too – if you’re near it.

But traveling at the right speed is the key to making it work. In this way, these musical roads have another benefit besides keeping drivers alert – they keep them from speeding, too.

This Japanese music road in Fuji sounds incredible!

How Are Musical Roads Created? 

You could also say these musical roads in the USA are signs that engineers have a sense of humor. And there’s a good chance they also have some musical taste and training.

Engineers create the different notes of a melody on a musical road by altering the size and spacing of precisely cut grooves in the asphalt. A narrower groove creates a higher-pitched sound – but we’re talking small variations on only inches or centimeters.

Who Came Up With the First Musical Road?

The first musical road was made in Denmark in 1995 as more of an art project than a safety feature. We’ll tell you more about it, along with other countries, apart from the USA, that have musical roads. 

How Many Musical Roads Are in the USA?

The two artistic Dutchmen have started a trend of sorts that others have replicated in different ways in many countries. There are three musical roads in the USA, all of which are certainly worth a drive. One may leave you feeling patriotic, while the other is a bit more puzzling. The last is short and probably most meaningful to a particular school, but it’s still a fun one to drive. To drive them, you’ll have to venture to Albuquerque, NM, Lancaster, CA, and Auburn, Alabama.

Route 66 painted on highway
Route 66 has one of the USA’s most famous singing highways in Albuguerque, New Mexico.

Albuquerque, N.M., Route 66 Musical Road

You can get your musical kicks on an old part of historic Route 66 near Albuquerque. And you may want to wave a flag afterward.

Arguably the most successful musical road in the USA, this one’s near exit 170 on today’s State Highway 333. It’s in Tijeras, just east of Albuquerque, New Mexico and south of Interstate 40. Hit the grooves at the right speed (45 mph) to hear the familiar strains of “America the Beautiful.”

Built in 2014, this musical highway was a joint project between the National Geographic Society and the state’s Department of Transportation. Unfortunately, it’s fallen into disrepair, and there are no longer road signs calling attention to it. However, you can still drive it and hear the sounds of nostalgia.

Pro Tip: If a Route 66 road trip is in the cards for you, you’ll want to know Does Route 66 Go Through Any National Parks? Find out!

Route 66 Musical Road - Tijeras, New Mexico

The Musical Road in Lancaster, Calif.

Sometimes those civil engineers’ plans don’t work out as perfectly as they’d envisioned. This one was supposed to play the famous “William Tell Overture,” but something went awry.  Because of a miscommunication somewhere along the line, workers spaced the individual strips incorrectly.

The melody is off, but that kind of makes it more fun. Some say it sounds more like “Jingle Bells,” while the more musical-minded motorists explain that it’s in a minor key instead of major.

This installation has had two locations, both of which suffered the same flaw. Listen up for the second incarnation in the westbound lane of Avenue G between 30th Street and 40th Street. You might have heard it on a TV commercial for Honda Civic.

Why California's musical road sounds terrible

War Eagle Road in Auburn, AL

Built by Auburn Engineering alum, Tim Arnold, the road plays a short snippet of the school’s fight song as you drive South Donahue Drive off exit 51. You must be driving the speed limit of 35 miles per hour to hear the spirited tune.

War Eagle Road brings fight song to campus

Is There A Musical Highway in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, there is a “Music Highway,” however this one is not a singing road like the ones in Albuquerque and Lancaster. Music Highway is the name given to Interstate 40 between Memphis and Nashville, two famous music cities in the state. It was named in 1997 by the Tennessee General Assembly, but no plans to make it sing have been proposed.

In What Other Countries Can You Find Musical Roads? 

While there are only three musical roads in the USA, there are others around the world. We think it would be fun to experience all of them. That sounds like a fantastic bucket list idea!

South Korea

In South Korea, they have a problem with drivers falling asleep, and that’s never a good thing. Their solution was the Singing Road, and there are a few scattered around the country these days.

Rather than lullabies, they play classic singalongs and children’s favorites. The selections include “Mary Had a Lamb” as well as folksy tunes, including “Mountain Wind, River Wind” and “Bicycle.”

Japan

The story here is that a worker using a bulldozer accidentally scraped the pavement in a few different places. He later realized the scrapings made different sounds when he drove over them.

An organization called the Hokkaido National Industrial Research Institute built on the idea of creating several “melody roads” in 2007. Each plays a different beloved Japanese folk tune and comes with musical notes painted on the roadway.

Denmark

This is where it all started back in 1995. Artists Steen Krarup Jensen and Jakob Freud-Magnus called their creation the Asphaltophone. Rather than having grooves, their design is a series of small raised circles that look like circular speed bumps. 

They play an unnamed four-note musical passage in the key of F major. So this might be the only musical road in the world that plays an original song.

Pro Tip: Always follow these 5 Old Roadtrip Rules That Still Apply Today when on an adventure.

Man driving RV on highway
Head out on the highway and add a drive along a musical road to your bucket list.

Put the Musical Roads in the USA on Your Travel List 

Good music can create good vibes, and the reverse is true.

The original intent of rumble strips was to keep drivers alert so they won’t veer off the road. Some enterprising people have taken the idea a step further to liven things up on an otherwise hum-drum road trip.

Frankly, we wish there were a whole bunch more of these musical roads in the USA. Traveling is supposed to be fun, and these fixtures make it even more so. We’re the kinds of motorists that will quickly swing a U-turn so we can run through them again.

Will you take a road trip to one of these musical roads? Tell us in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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HVW

Wednesday 4th of January 2023

We have driven on the one near Albuquerque. In fact I still have the recording on my phone. We play it for people who have never heard of it.

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