I named this seemingly easygoing yet still restive song after a charmingly beautiful and relatively isolated beach on the Kona Coast. Makalawena is part of that long stretch of white sandy beaches you see right before landing at Kona International Airport at nearby Keahole Point. The beach is generally accessible via a short hike from the neighboring Mahaiʻula Bay section of Kekaha Kai State Park. I remember camping out at Makalawena as a kid, exploring the rare anchialine ponds with their delicate red shrimp, and swimming in the waters of the bay. Today still, the neighboring marsh is a protected nesting ground, home to rare birds such as the Hawaiian coot. The song’s bridge seems to capture the strange sense of converging energies that I feel in special places such as these. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.
Here are some of my thoughts on the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina after recording with it for a couple of months. For what I do (acoustic guitar instrumentals) – the Edwina is a great mic. On steel string I think it would pair a little better with a Martin than a Taylor, however I really enjoy it on my nylon string Taylor. The mike is crisp and clear with a high end bump that has a little body (not too thin). The bass is there, but it’s not boomy and you can get up close to the mic without too much bass from proximity effect (at least on my Taylors – maybe not with other guitars). I haven’t used it live, but it has a narrow / close pattern that along with its other characteristics would probably make it suitable for live use. Other pluses include: boutique mic made in Portland Oregon, not super pricey, and last (but not least) it looks cool.
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.
While I find unboxing videos a little bit silly, I thought it would be fun to record my unboxing of the Edwina microphone I ordered from Ear Trumpet Labs. Their customer service, packaging, and presentation are part of the selling points of the company, on top of the fact that they offer quality boutique mics made in their Portland Oregon shop at reasonable prices.
In addition to its distinctive looks, the Edwina is a good sounding and useful mic that offers clarity with a slight top end boost (though not too hyped). I look forward to recording some music with it and thank the fine people at Ear Trumpet Labs who answered my questions along the way.
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.
This is a fun and melodic fingerpicking exercise that would work to develop coordination for those new to fingerpicking, or serve as a warm-up for more experienced pickers. While there are a lot of possible variations to this exercise, I recommend you stick to the diatonic shapes and four note / four string patterns introduced in the video. Hope you enjoy this melodic exercise.
This video shows you how to tune your guitar to Open D tuning (D-A-D-F#-A-D). Open D is the same relative tuning as Open E, just a whole step lower. In general, I recommend using Open D rather than Open E as it usually results in better action and fewer broken strings. (If you need to play in the key of E, you can use a capo on the 2nd fret.) Open D tuning is popular among slide guitar and fingerstyle players – great for country / blues riffs, new age fingerstlyle, slack key, just about anything really. I hope you have fun exploring the possibilities of this tuning.
If you want to explore more of this tuning, you can check out my lesson on Barcelona, by George Ezra, which is a fingerstyle song in Open D.
I’m lucky in that I have great fingernails and don’t need fake / acrylic nails. A lot – probably most – great fingerstyle players use fake nails however, so if your nails aren’t naturally strong enough and you want to use fake nails you’ll be in good company. For me though, I find my regular nails work fine and I really enjoy not having to fool with fake nails. In fact, I don’t even use nail files for shaping my nails anymore. In this video I’ll talk about the fingernail approach that has worked for me, and the only nail tool I use (hint: clipper). Again, this isn’t going to work for everyone, but I do recommend that you try your natural nails FIRST before you get into using acrylic / fake nails as it will save you time / money if you can use your natural fingernails.
Continuing his series of great songs about European cities that start with the letter “B,” George Ezra gives us a moody song about Barcelona. This is a fun song on guitar, and very manageable if you know a little fingerpicking and don’t mind using an open tuning. If you have some experience on guitar and want to learn some fingerpicking and play in an open tuning for the first time, this would be a good song to try out. I teach the song in Open D, though the recorded version is in the key of F – it looks like George is tuning to open E and putting a capo on the 1st fret. I prefer to tune down to Open D, and you could put the capo on the 3rd fret to get to the key of F. (People who want to sing & play the song can experiment with different keys by moving the capo around.) This is such a fun tune that I’m really looking forward to future songs from George Ezra about Berlin, Bologna, Bordeaux, Brno, Bratislava, Brussels, Bergen… Anyway, hope you have fun with this song.
Part I – Picking patterns, chords, melody, playing through the song
Part II – the solo / instrumental section
Lesson road map:
00:04 – Play-through
01:12 – Introduction, difficulty level
01:51 – Tuning: Open D, tuning & capo considerations
03:42 – Picking pattern: bass pattern, finger-string assignment
06:50 – Picking pattern: basic picking pattern, rhythm count
08:42 – Verse: chord progression
09:42 – Verse: 1st string melody line
13:21 – Verse: combining 1st string melody w/ picking pattern
16:20 – Verse: play-through with rhythm count
18:09 – Chorus: chord progression
20:19 – Chorus: picking pattern, rhythm count
22:45 – Chorus: play through
23:50 – 2nd Verse is structured differently, play-through
25:00 – Song structure from 2nd chorus through outro
26:42 – Parting thoughts
00:04 – Play-through & introduction
00:59 – Structure & chord progression
01:37 – Melody notes
05:35 – Play-through of melody over the I chord
06:09 – Combining melody & picking pattern
09:30 – Rhythm & counting through the solo section
11:07 – Play-through with rhythm count
11:59 – Play-through at slower tempo (guitar only)
12:40 – Parting thoughts