Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar - Gentle Sounds

If the angels of heaven didn't play harps, they probably would prefer to play slack key guitar, I am convinced.
Slack key guitar, ki ho`alu, is a uniquely Hawaiian folk tradition born in the 1800s. Slack key guitar is often confused with and actually pre-dates the more well known Hawaiian lap steel developed in the late 1880s or 1890s. Slack key means that you loosen the strings of the guitar and tune them into a chord, which adds the possibility of using open strings more frequently than with the guitar standard tuning (E A D G B E - from low to high). Moreover the slack key guitar has a more full and gentle sound than a coventionally tuned guitar when played with your fingers, as the open strings resonate the picked notes. A common way of slack key tuning is the F Wahine tuning (C F C G C E) or the C Wahine tuning (C G D G B E), but also the Taro Patch (G Major) tuning (D G D G B D), which furthermore is the most frequently used by Hawaiian lap steel players.
More info about the Hawaiian slack key tradition is available here
One of the contemporary masters of the Hawaiian slack key guitar tradition is Led Kaapana.
I suggest you to have a listen to soundclips from his 1994 live-album "Led Live!", available here
More info on Led Kaapana available here
Led Kaapana's website with discographical info and videoclips can be reached clicking here


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