Tag Archives: fingerstyle guitar

GEAR 516 • Koa as a Tonewood

Today we explore the use of Hawaiian koa as a tonewood, also discussing the wood’s origins in mauka forests in Hawai’i, its historical uses in native Hawaiian culture to modern day usage, and forestry stewardship.  Koa is a bright, relatively dry tonewood with punchy low-mids; clear, sparkly highs; and sweet chiming overtones.  Not only is koa a good sounding wood with a strong heritage, but it is also a beautiful wood that can exhibit stunning figuring.  Koa guitars are excellent for jazz, folk and rootsy fingerstyle, and slack key among other applications.

Recorded with a Taylor K22ce (solid koa grand concert with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

LIVE 068 • Louisville Rag

Here is a demo from the vaults of a song called “Louisville Rag” that I recorded a few years back. The idea behind the tune was to write an uptempo instrumental with a similar feel to the Nashville Skyline Rag from the eponymous Bob Dylan album. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310 in Louisville, Ky 9/28/12.

GEAR 514 • Taylor 912ce Review and Demo

The Taylor 912ce is an easy to play guitar with a balanced eq that is ideal for fingerstyle or light strumming. The Grand Concert body gives it a balanced EQ, the advanced performance bracing and vibrant top give it a clear, articulate speaking voice, and the higher grade rosewood back and sides add complexity and richness to both single notes and chords. Gotoh 510 tuners offer greater accuracy and tuning stability – a welcome upgrade to those who use a lot of open or alternate tunings. With the addition of a beveled armrest, the compact guitar is the perfect companion for hours of comfortable play.
Of course, people often notice the cosmetics of the 900 series first, mainly the upgraded inlay work on the headstock, fretboard, and in the rosette & soundboard trim. Yet the inlay work is more subdued than previous incarnations of the 900 series and the upgrades are more tasteful than showy. The guitar does indeed look great, but more importantly it plays and sounds even better. In short, if you’re looking for a small-bodied guitar with upgraded features, the 912ce is a great choice.

Sound demos recorded with a Taylor 912ce (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings) and an Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

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 083 • Wonderful Tonight (Alternate Take)

Here is an alternate take of my fingerstyle rendition of Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. Eric wrote the song about his then-wife Pattie Boyd, who had already inspired great songs from Eric and previous husband George Harrison. This song has been the theme to many a high school prom, and its simple yet tasteful melody has held up over the years. In keeping with that, my arrangement here is fairly straight forward: it doesn’t move around the neck very much or have any unusual chord voicings. Hope you enjoy it.

Recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone in Honolulu, Hawaii 4/27/15.

GEAR 513 • TC Electronic UniTune

Most of you know I have been a fan of TC Electronic’s Polytune Clip for a while now (review linked below). The Polytune Clip does really well with alternate and open-tunings on acoustic guitar; it latches on to notes quickly, has good tracking, and even does well reading the lower bass notes we sometimes tune our sixth strings to which other clip-on tuners can have trouble with. So I still love the PolyTune Clip even though I spend most of my time in open tunings and hardly ever use the PolyTune function. Recently, I learned that TC Electronic had partnered with music retailer Sweetwater to produce the Uni-Tune, which is just like the PolyTune Clip in every respect but without the PolyTune mode. (Also it is about $15 less expensive.)

As with the Polytune Clip, I found that TC Electronic’s Uni-Tune clip-on tuner latches on to notes quickly and accurately, has excellent tracking, and picks up the low 6th string bass notes well (even down as low as Bb). So if you use mostly open / altered tunings, or can otherwise live without the PolyTune function and want to save $15, you might consider the almost identical UniTune clip-on tuner from TC Electronic.

LIVE 081 • Embryonic Journey (Jorma Kaukonen / Jefferson Airplane)

From the uber psychedelically titled Surrealistic Pillow album, Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen’s solo fingerpicking tour de force Embryonic Journey highlights his country blues influences and provides a rootsy counterpoint to far out songs like White Rabbit.  Though I don’t listen much to the rest of the album, Embryonic Journey stayed on rotation in my car for a number of years – sometimes when I was in the mood I would listen on repeat four or five times in a row.  It seems like this song was often playing when I was cutting over from Waialae to cruise on down Kapahulu, stopping for groceries at Kokua Co-op or Down To Earth Moiliili, or hanging out at Kapi’olani Park.  Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 912ce (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings) and an Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina microphone.  

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.