Unlocking the Secrets of the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar

The Hawaiian slack key guitar has been around for more than a century, but it wasn't until 1946 that it made its way to recordings. This compilation of the first 20 loose key recordings was released on the 49th State, Bell and Aloha labels. It is believed that Hawaiians experimented with the instrument and readjusted it to fit an established repertoire of traditional Hawaiian songs known as mele, rather than being taught how to play. Queen Liliuokalani was a prolific composer and promoter of Hawaiian music, who wrote “Aloha Oe” and many other songs that are still performed today. Slack key goes far beyond the picturesque folk music found in tourist hotels.

In 1972, Gabby Pahinui released his debut album and published the first instructional text the following year. This text introduces readers to the sound of the loose key, as well as one of the open tunings, new chord forms and selection patterns. During the second Hawaiian Renaissance, slack key became an act of protest and an affirmation of what it means to be Hawaiian. The popularity of Slack Key spread during the Hawaiian cultural revival in the 1960s and 1970s, and increased in the 1990s when Dancing Cat Records released recordings by many masters of the genre. The Pineapple Sugar Hawaiian Band's debut album was Japan's first performance of this lesser-known Hawaiian style and one of the first full-length albums recorded with a full quintet.

Fred Sokolow is a renowned performer, recording artist and clinician who has written a book on Slide & Slack Key Ukelele (Hal Leonard).In 1832, Hawaiian King Kamehameha III hired Spanish and Mexican cowboys to teach Hawaiians how to treat cattle. As Slack Key wasn't popular outside of backyards and family gatherings, careers weren't expected to thrive. The details of the loose key would remain closely guarded secrets, as the fingering techniques, tunings and history, mythology and meaning of the songs were sometimes only known to a single family. I was lucky enough to have my uncle Sonny show me his transcription of the steel guitar song “Maui Chimes” in a loose key. With this knowledge, you can create interesting rhythms with a Hawaiian slack key guitar. The secrets behind this unique instrument have been passed down through generations, but now anyone can learn how to play it.

The slack key guitar is an incredibly versatile instrument that can be used for everything from traditional Hawaiian music to modern rock. It is also incredibly easy to learn; all you need is a few basic chords and some practice. The slack key guitar is played in an open tuning, which means that all strings are tuned differently from each other. This allows for more complex chords and melodies than would be possible with a standard tuning. The open tuning also allows for more improvisation than other instruments, as it allows for more freedom when playing. The slack key guitar is also incredibly expressive; its unique sound can be used to create beautiful melodies or powerful rhythms.

It is also incredibly versatile; it can be used for everything from traditional Hawaiian music to modern rock. With its unique sound and versatility, it is no wonder why so many people are drawn to this instrument. The slack key guitar has been around for centuries, but its popularity has only grown in recent years. With its unique sound and versatility, it is no wonder why so many people are drawn to this instrument. Whether you are looking for a new way to express yourself musically or just want to learn something new, learning how to play the slack key guitar can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Kurt Wilkes
Kurt Wilkes

Unapologetic coffee fanatic. Evil web ninja. . Hardcore food ninja. Total music aficionado. Devoted food expert.

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