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Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar 101

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The History of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar:

It is said that the guitar was introduced to native Hawaiians in the 1800s by Mexican cowboys who were on the islands to work on the extensive plantations. Not much is known about the development of slack key guitar from that point on, but it is clear that the guitar became a very important instrument in Hawaiian musical history.

The Sound of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar:

Slack key guitar music is characterized by imaginative uses of cross-tunings, fingerpicking, and lots of bluesy string bending and slides.

Common Slack Key Guitar Tunings:

Common slack-key guitar tunings include Open D (DADF#AD) and Open G (DGDGBD). However, many tunings are closely-guarded secrets, and some are even passed down through generations of musical families.

The Popularity of Slack Key Guitar:

Hawaiian hula music became very popular during the early and mid-1900s, to the point where it became almost trite or cheesy in many people's eyes (and ears). However, slack key guitar did not have the same overblown popularity during that time, and thus, is not seen in the same light. Many people find it calm and enjoyable, with the same sweet island appeal as hula music, but without the cliched quality.

Popular Slack Key Guitar Players:

Popular slack key guitar musicians include Ledward Ka'apana, Sonny Chillingworth, Ray Kane, Keola Beamer and Gabby Pahinui.

Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Starter CDs:


Various Artists - Slack Key Guitar Masters (Compare Prices)
Ledward Ka'apana - Led Live Solo (Compare Prices)
Keola Beamer - Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar in the Real Old Style (Compare Prices)
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