Category Archives: Open Tunings

LIVE 042 • Star Waltz

One day in the fall of 2012, I sat down to record a set of improvised songs with a Taylor dreadnought acoustic guitar. I improvised five original songs and two versions of Amazing Grace. With only one or two false starts, they were mostly first takes. The set was nothing really mind altering, but it had some cool songs with good vibes – so I considered it a success. It’s not the kind of thing I do often – in fact I haven’t done the exercise since, haven’t played any of the original songs again, and don’t consider it the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. Yet somehow it stands out in my mind as a creative milestone, a memorable event. Sometimes it’s important to break out of the mold with such experiments to reach a new frame of mind, a new level. This was the fifth song in the set, “Star Waltz.”

Recorded with a Taylor 310 and a Tascam DR-40 in Louisville, Kentucky, 9/29/12.

LIVE 040 • Saturday Song

One day in the fall of 2012, I sat down to record a set of improvised songs with a Taylor dreadnought acoustic guitar. I improvised five original songs and two versions of Amazing Grace. With only one or two false starts, they were mostly first takes. The set was nothing really mind altering, but it had some cool songs with good vibes – so I considered it a success. It’s not the kind of thing I do often – in fact I haven’t done the exercise since, haven’t played any of the original songs again, and don’t consider it the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. Yet somehow it stands out in my mind as a creative milestone, a memorable event. Sometimes it’s important to break out of the mold with such experiments to reach a new frame of mind, a new level. This was the third song in the set, which I dubbed “Saturday Song.”

Recorded with a Taylor 310 and a Tascam DR-40 in Louisville, Kentucky, 9/29/12.

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 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)

LIVE 027 • Banyan

Banyan (a/k/a “Banyans,” or “Banyan Tree Slack Key”) is a slack key style song I wrote about 10 or 12 years ago on nylon string guitar. I used to play my gut string ‘beach’ guitar around beaches and surf spots in Kona like Magic Sands, Banyans, and Old Airport. For one, the nylon strings aren’t as affected by the salt air, and for two, it was less expensive than my other guitar at the time, a Taylor 310ce that I didn’t want to take to the beach. So I guess this song is partially named after the surf spot, but also after some banyan trees near Magic Sands – some of which have since been cut down – or even those mystical banyan trees in general. Shortly after writing this song, I sold that nylon – an Ibanez, sort of crossover model – though I continued to rotate this and a few other related songs in and out of my set. Until recently though, it had really been a while since I played this song. Once more, owning a nylon string guitar again inspired me to go back and revisit some older material. Hope you enjoy.

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

All rights reserved to this song, however students may perform the song in public.

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Magic Sands

Pua Lililehua

LIVE 026 • Keiki Slack Key on Nylon String Guitar

Today’s song is a cover of the Ray Kane classic “Keiki Slack Key” (not to be confused with the Sonny Chillingworth song of the same name). To me, Ray Kane is probably the best example of an ‘old style’ slack key player, and his tracks are always nahenahe. I never got to take a lesson from Ray, though I did get to speak to him and his wife Elodia on the phone once, not long before he passed – a cherished memory. Keiki Slack Key is one of the first slack key songs I transcribed, and has stayed on my setlists ever since. This arrangement was inspired by my recent purchase of a nylon string guitar; I really think this song works well on nylon for a number of reasons. Hope you enjoy.

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

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Pua Lililehua – Slack Key Guitar

Magic Sands

LIVE 023 • Horn – Nick Drake Cover on Nylon String Guitar

Appearing as a sort of interlude on the Pink Moon album, Horn is a fascinating little study of a song in its own right. I love the simple melody and the atmosphere created by the space between the notes. I also really like the way this song works on nylon string guitar. (Apologies for the intonation in places – still getting a feel for this guitar and nylon again.) Of course, Drake apparently used really old, beat up steel strings, so his guitar work translates well to nylon. I don’t know what it is about the deceptively simple genius of his guitar parts, but they get me every time. Hope you enjoy.

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

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Tranquility – fingerstyle on nylon string guitar

Pua Lililehua – Slack Key Guitar

GEAR 532 • Taylor 414ce-NR through a Fishman Loudbox Artist

Here is a video featuring a couple of relatively recent purchases for me – a Taylor 414ce-NR (nylon string, rosewood/sitka) and a Fishman Loudbox Artist. This is meant to serve as a sound demo for what the Loudbox sounds like with a nylon string guitar and what the Taylor nylon pick-up (ES-N, not the ES2) sounds like. I close miked the amp to get a truer representation, but you get a little bit more open sound when you hear it from across the room.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce nylon string) into a Fishman Loudbox Artist amp miked with a Sennheiser e906 dynamic microphone. Reverb is from the amp, not an added effect.

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Tranquility – fingerstyle on nylon string guitar

Pua Lililehua – Slack Key Guitar

LIVE 022 • Tranquility – original fingerstyle on nylon string guitar

Up until now, you’ve mostly heard me play steel string acoustic guitar. “Tranquility” is a song I recorded a years back on nylon string guitar. It’s a mellow, contemplative, and relaxing song. My friend Chris in Kona (no slouch on guitar himself) says it’s his favorite thing he’s heard me do. With that vote, I thought I would dig this out from the vaults for you.
Anyway, I haven’t had a nylon string guitar for going on 10 years… up until recently that is. I’ve made several recordings with it so far, and I hope to have them edited and posted before long. Meanwhile, please enjoy this song.

All rights reserved to this song, however students may perform it in public.

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Sarah – Solo Acoustic Guitar

Pua Lililehua – Slack Key Guitar

Magic Sands – slack key guitar

LIVE 019 • Blue Bells (Demo, Open Tuned Electric Guitar)

From the vaults, here is a demo of a tune I wrote some years back called Blue Bells. I think this might be the only recording I have of this song, and although it’s not fully finished there’s something I love about this take that made me want to stop working on it for a while. Sometimes you capture a feeling – for yourself alone even – well enough to leave a song be – to come back to it later, or not at all.

Recorded with a late 90’s Olympic White Jimmie Vaughan Stratocaster and a ’68 Fender Vibro Champ with some sort of Boss delay pedal in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 6/18/06.

All rights reserved to this song, however students may perform the song in public.

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Pua Lililehua – Slack Key Guitar

Magic Sands – Slack Key Guitar

Here Comes the Sun – fingerstyle guitar arrangement