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.
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.
From the vaults, here is a slide guitar song I wrote called Home Abroad. I used to play a fair amount of slide guitar, but I don’t play it much anymore. I figured I’d either have to go all in on the slide or not, but couldn’t just dabble with it – so I decided to work on other areas instead. This is a fun leftover from when I dabbled with it though. 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, 3/18/09.
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.
If you’ve never really tried one for an extended period of time, you should use a thumbpick for several months to see what it’s like. Of course you can play fingserstyle with a thumbpick, but you can also hold it like a flatpick for strumming chords and playing single note runs. Try wearing one for a couple of months, and just hold it like a flatpick most of the time. After a while, you’ll find that you are using a combination of playing with your fingers and holding it like a flatpick – the best of both worlds.
Using a thumbpick is obviously great for folk / fingerstyle on acoustic guitar, but you can also use it on electric guitar to great effect. The thumbpick lends itself to roots music of all sorts, including blues and country. Chords come alive with dynamic control in jazz, and riffs can really pop when you’re playing rock. Even bluegrass – that traditional bastion of flatpick on guitar – can benefit from a thumbpick… and as mentioned you can still flatpick with it.
For the most part, you don’t give up much when using a thumbpick as a flatpick, though certain techniques like picking/pinch harmonics won’t come off the same way. You may not be able to get quite the same dynamics, but overall what you gain will probably be more useful. (As another bonus, because a thumbpick is secured to your thumb, you won’t drop it.)
As noted in the video, I prefer Fred Kelly’s Delrin Slick Picks – generally using medium for acoustic, and heavy for electric. These picks have a snug fit which may feel too tight at first, but they do loosen up a bit after you wear them for a while. They also make a ‘large’ size version of the pick, and of course there are many other brands / styles that fit differently which you can try. (One trick – that may not work with all pick materials – is to run them under hot water for a while, and then you can loosen / tighten the fit.) Use your common sense and intution – obviously avoid thumbpicks that are outright painful, but be willing to try out ones that are merely uncomfortable for a while, potentially adjusting them, to see how you like them.
One final note – generally I do not recommend thumbpicks for beginners unless they only want to do fingerstyle guitar. I think it’s better to develop your technique with a flatpick and then add a thumbpick later on. I may change my mind on this in the future, but for now that’s how I feel.
Fred Kelly page for Delrin Slick Picks – http://fredkellypicks.com/product/delrin-slick/
Note – this page is more for reference. To order Fred Kelly picks a few at a time, try the Elderly link below. They also have other brands / styles you can try.
If you want to try out different picks and just order a few at a time, Elderly has a great selection – http://elderly.com/accessories/cats/PKTB.html It might be good to order several different sizes / shapes styles to see what you like.