Category Archives: Slack Key

LIVE 041 • Magic Sands – Slack Key Guitar

Here is a slack key style tune I wrote a while back while hanging out around Magic Sands beach in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. I originally wrote it on an old nylon string guitar. While I have a recording of this song played on steel string already posted, I wanted to go back and do a recording with my nylon string Taylor as well. There aren’t many songs I like to play on both steel and nylon, but this is one of them for some reason. Hope you enjoy.

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

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 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

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

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 017 • Pua Lililehua

Here is a rendition of Pua Lililehua from the vaults. I always enjoyed this song because it is mostly sweet and mellow, but still has a bit of tension that creates a sense of yearning in it. I recorded this while living in an ohana unit with a large, tiled room that I kept mostly empty because I enjoyed the acoustics. (Plus, I don’t own a lot of furniture.) 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, 2/27/08.

All rights reserved to this arrangement.

GEAR 504 • Polytune Clip with Open & Altered Tunings

Not long ago I picked up the Polytune Clip from TC Electronic and have since been very pleased with the way it works on acoustic guitar in particular. (Of course it also works on electric guitar and other instruments as well.) I do a lot of open and altered tunings and this tuner handles them like a champ. In addition to latching on to notes quickly and accurately in chromatic mode, the Polytune picks up the low 6th string bass notes well (I tune down as low as Bb). Tracking is great and you can see the note steadily move into tune as you turn the tuning pegs. Of course the polytune mode doesn’t really work with open / altered tunings, but the Polytune Clip works so well as a chromatic tuner that it’s worthwhile for that alone. Highly recommended.

TC Electronic: http://www.tcelectronic.com/polytune-clip/

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Video on the Gotoh 510 tuners I have on my guitar here

Here Comes the Sun fingerstyle guitar arrangement

How to tune your guitar to Open G