Hawaiian slack key guitar is a unique style of playing that requires special techniques. It is characterized by its low-voiced tuning, finger playing techniques, and its influence from Hawaiian singing. Traditional Hawaiian music is also known for its use of percussion instruments, singing, simplicity, and storytelling. There are several notable solo guitarists who have mastered the art of playing Hawaiian slack key guitar with percussion instruments, such as Leddy Kaapana, Cyril Pahinui, Keola Beamer, and George Kahumoku, Jr.
Slack key is essentially a Hawaiian term for what is more commonly known as open tuning. It is a type of guitar playing that you choose with your fingers. Some musicians, such as Leddy Kaapana, use just two fingers, while others, such as Keola Beamer, use the four fingers of their hand of choice. Most play with just their fingers, but Sean Robbins likes to use finger picks.
According to Robbins, one thing that hasn't happened yet is someone touching the slack key with a flat pick. The songs are often inspired by stories and the tropical landscape. By the middle of the 20th century, slack key was about to die out; no one wanted to listen to this quiet and calm country music. Uncle Ray was one of the first slack key masters to give public concerts and tour internationally, bringing music from the islands to every corner of the world.
In 1997, Dancing Cat Records released KIKA KILA MEETS K-1 HO'ALU, with Bob Brozman on the steel acoustic guitar and Led Kaapana on the slack key. This began to change as the generation of players currently considered “living legends” realized that if they didn't start sharing with people, Slack Key would disappear. In the early 1970s, a young musician named Keola Beamer wrote the first Slack Key instruction book. The key to learning any new skill is practice and patience.
As missionaries and immigrants who arrived in Hawaii introduced their vocal styles and instruments, Hawaiians adapted each of them to create modern forms of music that remain exclusively Hawaiian. Loose-key guitar tabs are a type of guitar tablature used to help guitarists learn to play the guitar with loose keys. Although loose key tuning and open tuning use similar tunings, such as open C and open sun, for example, the loose key has a different sound, influenced by the tropical environment and the relative isolation of Hawaii. Keola Beamer soon established himself as the leader of contemporary Hawaiian music when he wrote the classic “Honolulu City Lights”, one of the best-selling records in the history of Hawaiian music.
For many standard-tuning musicians, this piece (and its Open G sound) was their introduction to slack key. With practice and dedication anyone can learn how to play Hawaiian slack key guitar with percussion instruments. Stick to it and you'll end up mastering it!.