Long Mountain Rag was named in honor of Mauna Loa (Hawaiian for “Long Mountain”), the Big Island of Hawaii’s largest mountain and also the largest active (though not erupting as of this post) volcano on Earth. Measured from its base on the ocean floor, Mauna Loa is the second tallest mountain in the world, topped only by neighboring Mauna Kea (whose peak is 120 feet higher). Long Mountain Rag was influenced by both Bluegrass and Slack Key musical styles. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, Gotoh 510 tuners, strings are Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and an Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina microphone.
An improvised portrait, Jonquils of Spring features a melody outlined with harmonics and played with a slightly wobbly tempo. A cool sunny spring day helped bring out the mood, and relatively fresh set of strings helped bring out the chimes. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded with a Taylor 912ce (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.
Not long ago, I posted a nylon string version of the Ray Kane classic “Keiki Slack Key.” Here is a similar version recorded around the same time, but on steel string guitar. Keiki Slack Key (not to be confused with the Sonny Chillingworth song of the same name) is one of the first slack key songs I transcribed, and has stayed on my setlists ever since. 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. 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.
Here is an improvisatory piece recorded for a project I had a few years back. The idea behind the project, called “Awake Again,” was to have a handful of songs that were connected by mostly shorter and improvisatory ‘transitions’ that would act as both glue and palette cleanser between the slightly more structured songs. The wallpaper shows me with my old Taylor 310ce that I used to record this song. 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, 3/16/09.
Today’s song from the vaults is a cover of My Morning Jacket’s “At Dawn.” The song and its eponymous album came to me at a formative period, becoming both anthem and inspiration for pursing musical goals in life. Sometimes you wonder if music guides you in a certain direction, finds you at the right moment, or if you attract it when you need change and encouragement. There’s a Nick Drake style intro not on the original cut, but it seemed to work. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, strings are Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a single Beyerdynamic MC 930 microphone in Honolulu, 9/20/14.
Elixir HD Light strings are made the same as other elixirs, but the gauge of the set is unique. Basically they married medium gauge treble strings with light gauge bass strings to find the optimal string gauge for small bodied Taylor guitars (GA/xx4 and GC/xx2).
The idea behind HD Lights is that both string tension and EQ would be more balanced across the strings, resulting in better playability and better tone.
On the high end, the thicker gauge treble strings give you more body, better definition, and improved action. The lighter bass strings keep the bass clear – it’s not muddy even when you tune down. Along with the balanced EQ and improved playability, you also get a more even volume resulting in easier to control dynamics.
Andy Powers at Taylor came up with the idea for these after redeveloping the 800 series, and these strings are indeed great with the revoiced 600, 800, and 900 series GC and GA guitars. The revoiced models have a stronger, more focused bass in particular, so using lighter bass strings helps keep the low end form being overpowering or becoming muddy. The revoiced models also have a livelier top – so the lighter bass strings still have enough presence without being boomy, and the thicker trebles still have snap, but without being too thin.
Overall, their more balanced EQ coupled with more balanced string tension make HD Lights especially conducive to alternate tunings and ideal for fingerstyle guitar.
Phosphor Bronze vs 80/20 Bronze:
⁃ 80/20 Bronze will be brighter with more zing.
⁃ Phosphor Bronze will be a little warmer with more heft or body. I prefer them for fingerstyle because of their combination of warmth, clarity, and detail.
Nanoweb vs Polyweb: HD Lights are only available in Nanoweb (as of now), which works fine for me, but prior to using this gauge I used Elixir’s Polyweb strings. Though they have slightly different characteristics, I have found both Nanoweb and Polyweb coatings to produce good sounding strings.
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.
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.
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.
While working on some other stuff, I thought it would be fun to shoot a video about the things I currently have in my guitar case – mostly strings / string changing tools, batteries, and picks… but maybe it’ll give you an idea or two.