Slack Key Guitar Playing

Slack key guitar is a playing style that involves plucking the strings however; its techniques are hidden very well by its masters. Finding ways to learn about this unique playing style is almost impossible, as there are no books or tutorials available. Many players who utilize this very unique style would much rather play at family gatherings than publicizing their art .
While guitars and ukuleles are practically staples of the local culture, they are fairly new additions. The story of the guitar’s introduction varies on who you ask. Some believe that the American and Spanish cowboys were invited to Hawaii in the mid-1830s to help with the cattle may have introduced the instrument. Others believe that the Hawaiians picked it up by assisting the Argentine navy in Monterey, California. Whatever the case, the string instruments became a hit with the Hawaiian people, who quickly adapted these instruments into their culture.
“Slack key” guitar refers to the adjustment of the tuning keys so that the instrument’s strings are loose, or “slack.” Doing this is called an “open tuning,” which means the open strings sound a chord. Sometimes, however, slack key guitarists play in standard tuning. Other than the finger playing style, the repertoire distinguishes this particular genre. This style’s songs focus on the Hawaiian country, such as the mountains, trees and ocean.
A popular open tuning set up is the G major chord. From lowest to highest, the set up is D G D G B D, also called Taro Patch tuning. Wahine tuning is another type, which includes a major seventh, for example, D G D F# B D. Named after the famous guitarist is “Gabby’s C,” which sets up as C G E G A E.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this music style is the use of standard finger picking techniques, such as hammer-ones, pull-offs, slides and harmonics. These techniques often personalize songs, as they can be added any time during a piece, and it all depends on what the player feels. Slack key playing has no set rules on how to play. Some players choose to play the melody with little variations, while others are constantly improvising.
If interested in listening to some great slack key guitarists, look for Sonny Chillingworth, Leonard Kwan, Moses Kahumoke, George Kuo or Ray Kane, as they are the most prominent composers and performers of slack key guitar. YouTube is also a great place to look for performances by dedicated guitarists eager to spread their beautiful art.

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