All posts by Nick

LIVE 039 • Henry Street Slack Key

Here is a demo of a song I wrote a while back called Henry Street Slack Key – named for what was then the still developing Henry Street, which runs between Kuakini Highway and Palani Rd in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The street had a lot of places I went to at the time – a healthfood store, a Border’s Books (with a great music selection, in the days when CD’s ruled), Wal-Mart (a place to run into people in small town Kailua-Kona), Safeway, several coffee shops, and a Korean BBQ. This is also one of the few recordings I made with my Larrivee parlor guitar – a rosewood / sitka spruce P-09, which I have since sold. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Larrivée P-09 Parlor guitar (Rosewood / Sitka Spruce) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM 141 microphones in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 8/26/07.

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Pua Lililehua – Slack Key Guitar

LIVE 038 • Punahele – Ray Kane

Here is another Ray Kane cover – this time his classic song Punahele. According to the Dancing Cat liner notes, Punahele (“favorite” or “pet”) came to Ray “one night in 1938 at Zablan’s Beach in Nanakuli. ‘Back in those days there were no cars, it was pitch black. So I sit there in the dark in the nice cool breeze and I hear the waves bouncing on the sand and see the moonlight flicker on the water. It inspired me, something so nice. So mellow. That’s what gave me my inspiration.’”
Similar to other songs Ray composed on the beach (Keiki Slack Key for example), this mellow laid back songs exemplifies Ray’s nahenahe approach that to me represents the archetype of ‘old style’ slack key. Like Keiki Slack Key, Punahele is one of the first slack key songs I learned, and has stayed on my setlists ever since. I recently improvised a few new licks into the song, and recorded a half dozen takes – some 5-6 minutes long. I think this short three and a quarter minute version gets the point across though. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce nylon string) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

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Keiki Slack Key – Ray Kane

Pua Lililehua – Slack Key Guitar

Magic Sands – Original Slack Key

LIVE 037 • Home Abroad – Slide Guitar

From the vaults, here is a slide guitar song I wrote called Home Abroad. I used to play a fair amount of slide guitar, but I don’t play it much anymore. I figured I’d either have to go all in on the slide or not, but couldn’t just dabble with it – so I decided to work on other areas instead. This is a fun leftover from when I dabbled with it though. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM 141 microphones in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 3/18/09.

LIVE 036 • Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór

Here is my arrangement of Si Bheag, Si Mhor (Little Fairy, Big Fairy), reportedly the first song composed by famous 17th century bard Turlough O’Carolan. This version of the song is played a little on the slower side of what you normally hear, but I may record a slightly more uptempo version later on. I think the song works well both ways to be honest, one of the many interesting things about it. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, Gotoh 510 tuners, strings are Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

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Banyan (Slack Key on Nylon String Guitar)

GEAR 702 • Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina Review

Here are some of my thoughts on the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina after recording with it for a couple of months. For what I do (acoustic guitar instrumentals) – the Edwina is a great mic. On steel string I think it would pair a little better with a Martin than a Taylor, however I really enjoy it on my nylon string Taylor. The mike is crisp and clear with a high end bump that has a little body (not too thin). The bass is there, but it’s not boomy and you can get up close to the mic without too much bass from proximity effect (at least on my Taylors – maybe not with other guitars). I haven’t used it live, but it has a narrow / close pattern that along with its other characteristics would probably make it suitable for live use. Other pluses include: boutique mic made in Portland Oregon, not super pricey, and last (but not least) it looks cool.

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Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina Unboxing

“Banks of the Ohio,” recorded using both the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina and the Neumann TLM 102

GEAR 506 • Taylor Guitar Nut/Saddle Material

Several people have asked me lately about upgrading to a bone nut/saddle, and specifically in relation to Taylor guitars. A drop in saddle can be an easy experiment, but if you’re looking at a nut/saddle replacement and set-up, I would say first (if your action / playability are ok) to try some different makes of strings and different alloys. Next, be advised that bone saddles often make a guitar sound brighter and more clear; Taylors already sound bright and clear so adding a bone nut/saddle may be “too much.” If your guitar is 5-7 years old a Tusq nut/saddle (or Tusq/Micarta) will probably do the job. That’s just my opinion; milage may vary.

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“Banks of the Ohio,” recorded using the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina & Neumann TLM 102

Polytune Clip – clip-on tuner demo / review

LIVE 035 • Glass Ball Slack Key / Chicken in the Straw

From the vaults, Glass Ball Slack Key is a favorite chestnut (or kukui nut) of uke players throughout the islands. Also known as “Chicken in the Straw” or “Turkey in the Straw” in Hawai’i (though different from the Bluegrass / fiddle song), this is a fun little ditty that is sure to please aunty or uncle. I learned this song watching and listening to the great Led Ka’apana (it’s also on the classic Led Live CD). Many other ukulele players have covered the song over the years as well. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Koaloha Pineapple Soprano ukulele and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM 141 microphones in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 3/6/08.

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Something – Ukulele Cover

Pua Lililehua – Slack Key Guitar

LIVE 034 • Holualoa Blues

From the vaults, here is a demo version of my tune Holualoa Blues. This song is primarily a blues piece, but with some slack key influence as well. Done in open G / taro patch tuning. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM 141 microphones in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 10/11/07.

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Tranquility – fingerstyle on nylon string guitar

Pua Lililehua – Slack Key Guitar

GEAR 701 • Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina Unboxing

While I find unboxing videos a little bit silly, I thought it would be fun to record my unboxing of the Edwina microphone I ordered from Ear Trumpet Labs. Their customer service, packaging, and presentation are part of the selling points of the company, on top of the fact that they offer quality boutique mics made in their Portland Oregon shop at reasonable prices.
In addition to its distinctive looks, the Edwina is a good sounding and useful mic that offers clarity with a slight top end boost (though not too hyped). I look forward to recording some music with it and thank the fine people at Ear Trumpet Labs who answered my questions along the way.

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“Banks of the Ohio,” recorded using both the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina and the Neumann TLM 102

LIVE 033 • Banks of the Ohio (+ Neumann TLM 102 & Ear Trumpet Edwina Comparison)

Here is my Clarence White inspired arrangement of the Bluegrass classic, “Banks of the Ohio,” played fingerstyle with a thumbpick (rather than flatpicked or cross-picked). I’ve uploaded two versions of this song: one was recorded with the Neumann TLM 102 microphone that I have been using for a while; the other features my new Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina mic. So if you’re interested in how these two mics sound, this provides a comparison. The Neumann is a little bit smoother to my ear, while the Edwina has a little more clarity with a slight top end boost (though not too hyped). Both are fine microphones and I look forward to continuing to record with them both.

Using the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina microphone:

Using the Neumann TLM 102 microphone:

Both recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, Gotoh 510 tuners, strings are Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a Fred Kelly thumbpick.