Category Archives: Slack Key

LIVE 087 • Mino’aka – Keola Beamer

Mino’aka (Smile) is a short, sweet song from slack key master Keola Beamer’s Soliloquy album. Soliloquy is one of my favorite Dancing Cat era albums from Keola and a highly recommended listen. Keola’s book is one of the first I picked up when I really delved into the slack key style years ago, and this was one of my favorite songs featured in the book. In fact, I also recommend Keola’s book for beginner to intermediate fingerstyle players who are looking to learn some slack key. Although the version I recorded here is at a slightly faster tempo, I hope it still captures the original’s relaxed feel. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 912ce (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

LIVE 086 • Silver Threads – Slack Key Improv

Here is an improvisation I did based on Leonard Kwan’s famous slack key arrangement of “Silver Threads Among the Gold.” This classic tune is a popular piece in the slack key repertoire and often one of the first things people learn when exploring Drop C tuning. Most listeners of modern day Hawaii radio will recognize Silver Threads as the slack key passage quoted in the intro to Country Comfort’s Waimanalo Blues, a beloved song in the islands in its own right. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 912ce (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings) and Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

LIVE 088 • Auld Lang Syne (Alternate Take, Remix)

Here are an alternate take and a remix of my fingerstyle guitar arrangement of Auld Lang Syne. It’s a slack key tinged version with an added bridge/transition, but otherwise follows the familiar melody closely.

Remix of original post:

Alernate take:

Happy New Year!

Both takes recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb 80/20 Bronze HD gauge set) and a single Beyerdynamic MC 930 microphone in Honolulu, Hawai’i 12/30/14.

LIVE 084 • Kaiminani Slack Key

Here is an original slack key song I named for Kaiminani Drive in Kalaoa, North Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kaiminani Drive is a main mauka-makai road that connects the Queen Kaahumanu and Mamalahoa highways (lower and upper roads, respectively). It also runs through the Kona Palisades neighborhood where I lived for a number of years as a child. Back then, the neighborhood was less developed, and my friends and I would build tree houses and play in the vacant lots. We could also watch the planes come and go at Kona International Airport at Keahole Point (KOA), and had easy access to then-uncrowded OTEC (Wawaloli) and Pine Trees (Kohanaiki) beaches. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

LIVE 072 • Dust Yourself Off

Dust Yourself Off is a slack key influenced fingerstyle song from my Awake Again project. I hear the song as imbued with a sense of renewal and starting a new journey. This was to be the first full length song in the setlist, preceded by only a brief instrumental introduction. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM141 microphones in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 2/24/09.

LIVE 080 • Punahoa Special (Live at Hawaii Island Slack Key Festival)

Here is a live version of “Punahoa Special” from 2007 (apologies for the camera work :-). This is a song I was fortunate enough to learn directly from Led Ka’apana, one that Led had in turn learned directly from his uncle Fred Punahoa. Though Fred never made a full album, he did make a notable appearance on the Waimea Music Festival album and fostered amazing talents of the next generation such as Led and Sonny Lim. This is an often covered song in the slack key world, and might also be the most popular song in Mauna Loa slack key tuning. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce live at the 25th Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival “Kona Style,” at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort in Keauhou, Hawai’i 9/2/07.

LIVE 048 • Slack Key #1 by Sonny Chillingworth

Slack Key No. 1 is a classic showpiece of slack key master Sonny Chillingworth. I first heard it on the Dancing Cat release “Endlessly,” and it also appears on his 1964 solo release “Waimea Cowboy.” The Waimea Cowboy version sounds like it was recorded on an electric guitar, while the version on Endlessly was recorded on acoustic guitar. Both versions are very similar, though with some slight differences. I have incorporated elements from both versions in the arrangement I play. 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.

LIVE 057 • Wake Up Slack Key

Wake Up Slack Key (also known as Ho’ala Ki Ho’alu) was one of the first slack key style songs I wrote. It stayed in my set for a number of years, though I haven’t played it much lately. This demo was an early version of the song recorded not long after I bought my first Taylor on eBay, a 310ce that became my main guitar for 9 years. This take among the others in my archive really captures the spirit of the tune. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 5/13/06.

GEAR 512 • Taylor 414ce-NR Review

This video gives an overview of my Taylor 414ce-NR (sorry, forgot to mention the “R” in the video, which designates the rosewood back/sides), along with some sound samples. Taylor makes nylon string guitars in a variety of wood combinations, but just two sizes: Grand Concert (smallest body size) and Grand Auditorium (the next size up from Grand Concert, and their most popular body style in general). Though I often prefer Grand Concert Taylors for steel string work, I chose this Grand Auditorium size model as my nylon string guitar for a couple of reasons. First, the larger GA size worked well with the rosewood back/sides to give a nice, rich bass sound. Second, I do like to use notes on the upper frets, and Taylor’s nylon Grand Auditoriums feature 14 fret necks. With the cutaway, that gives ample access to the upper frets. By comparison, the GC nylon strings are only offered in 12 fret configuration; while they usually come with a cutaway, you also lose a few of the upper frets with that design. Overall, I have found the 414ce-NR to be a practical, playable, and enjoyable way to add a nylon sound to my palette.
Note – the song featured at the beginning/end of the video is an adaptation of Leonard Kwan’s famous slack key arrangement of Silver Threads Among the Gold, which was also quoted in the intro to Country Comfort’s Waimanalo Blues, another beloved song in Hawaii.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

LIVE 056 • Sunday Slack Key (steel string guitar)

I originally wrote Sunday Slack Key as a single string melody, using fretted notes on only one string (and the other strings only open). Playing the melody on only one string is a concept I picked up at a jazz guitar clinic – I seem to remember Tal Farlow or Jim Hall proposing the idea as a means for chord melody – and the idea can be useful when arranging a fingerstyle song. Eventually I added a few fretted notes on some other strings, mostly to fill out the bass, yet the fretted notes of the melody remain mainly on one string. The name for the song came to me on a simple, relaxed Sunday, and seemed appropriate. This version of the song was recorded about five years after I wrote it and reflects a few modifications to earlier incarnations. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded at Goldsmith Studios in October, 2011, with a Taylor 310 (Elixir Polyweb medium gauge set) and a pair of Rode NT-5 microphones.