I have taught steel guitar at Keoki Kahumoku's Hawaiian Lifestyle Camp. You never know who may be interested in trying something new. I spent an hour once with Dennis Kamakahi, who sat down to give it a try.
Learn to play the Acoustic or Electric Hawaiian Steel Guitar on your next trip to Kona!
$25 for an hour lesson. You don't need an instrument to learn on. I will get you familiar with the Steel Guitar, and show you everything you will need to get started. I can also teach steel guitar over Skype. Email or call 808-322-4714.
I can't imagine life without music. Some people find their instrument at an early age. Others go through life assuming they were meant to play the stereo. I fall into the category of folks who find out that they really are a musician after years of half-hearted attempts at various instruments.
I fell in love with the Hawaiian steel guitar in 1998, at the age of 45, three years after moving to the Big Island of Hawaii. I woke up very early one morning and recalled that I had been playing a steel guitar in my dreams. My mother-in-law, living in Colorado, had a 1953 Supro electric steel stored away (it had been my father-in-law's), and offered to bring it to me on an upcoming visit. I struggled to learn how to play it, and might have given up, had it not been for a chance meeting with Ken Emerson, a world class musician. Though he told me at the outset that he was not a teacher, he inspired me to continue my efforts, and also to stick to the Taro Patch (D-G-D-G-B-D) tuning until I had mastered it.
Ken also introduced me to the acoustic Hawaiian steel guitar, father of the dobro and electric lap steel, and grandfather of the pedal steel guitar used in country music. He plays a National Tri-cone from the 1920's, which has a very distinct sound. Finally, Ken sold me a guitar which has become very dear to me.
This style of guitar (the "Weissenborn") was developed in the early 1900's by inventor, Hermann Weissenborn, and it is making a small comeback due in part to the efforts of guitarist Bob Brozman. It has a sweet acoustic sound, which made it very popular in the early 1900's.
Meanwhile, my first love is still taro patch steel.
Check out the tunes below:
My early collection of acoustic steel guitars:
My mini-steel - Open C tuned, which I use for casual travel, playing on the beach, etc.
The "Mother" Superior - tuned to open G. My performing instrument, generally. Tuned D-G-G-G-B-D.
My Po Mahina Single Cone - tuned to open G. Originally a Johnson round neck, it is now a thing of beauty, thanks to Dennis Lake's koa neck addition.
My baritone 'ukulele size Hawaiian lap steel →
Made by me... under the watchful eye of Dennis Lake (smiling as always). Dennis is one of the Big Island's finest craftsman. This koa guitar is easy to travel with, & a real delight to play. It is tuned to a 'Reenntrant" G6th. E-G-D-G-B-D
In February, 2008, I happened to get my hands on a Hermos electric lapsteel for half an hour. It was well designed with very high string tension. I realized that acoustic guitars can not withstand the tension that is possible with a solid body guitar, and got started making a new guitar right away...The guitar I am holding here is the same size as my baritone 'ukulele sized lap steel, but this one has 2 extra inches of string (22" scale) and is built to withstand the tension of 29 lb. per string, which gives it exceptional sustains. A Lindy Fralin split single coil pickup gives me a wonderful tone with no noise, and covers the 2.25" string spread. The body is koa with white koa sapwood accents and a mango fretboard. My thanks to many friends here in Kona (especially Tai and Dennis Lake - they're not related! - and Sam Rosen) who helped me with the process of creating this great little guitar. I tune this one to G-D-E-G-B-D which is a G6th. This guitar changed my life. This YouTube video will give you an idea of what it sounds like with my Band,The Ladies of Waiku'i
I finished two new beautiful electric lap steels in the fall of 2010. I sold one, and the other changed my life. It has a 25 inch string length which give it tremendous sustain. The first three strings our unwound for a clean tone, and
the Benedetto pickup is a dual bar style designed for 7 strings. This allows me
to run the 6 strings with a wide spacing (11 mm) and the large magnetic field
picks up all the strings equally well. Listen to Among the Golden Sands of Waikiki to hear what it sounds like.
Kevin Zimmermann just happened to be visiting the island in September, 2010, and we met in a parking lot and recorded some steel tracks for his joyful little Coqui Frog tune. Kevin is playing 'ukulele bass, piano & keyboard. Jim Ohlschmidt did the 6-string. The Coqui hails from the botanical gardens in Onomea and the background singers (environmental in the beginning/middle) was from Thurston Lava Tube. Strangely enough, the coqui featured in this song was singing in a perfect "C". Further proof that it is indeed the people's key!
Uncle Dona, Bruddah George (on my Walkingbass), and myself (on my baritone uke size lap steel), playing at the Vista Restaurant in Keauhou, Big Island of HI.
I really enjoy Hawaiian music, but Hapa Haole music is so much fun to play... all those jazzy chords, rich melodies, and often a great swing style. Uncle Dona asked me to gig with them, and I brought the Mini Steel that night.
Among the Golden Sands of Waikiki One of the great Hawaiian musicians that I have been blessed to have known was Bobby Koanui. His vocals, rhythyms, and his understanding of arranging were first class. This song was recorded in my living room prior to our trip to Okinawa in 2010. Bobby died in February of 2012. I miss him.
Waikiki A great vintage Hawaiian tune by Andy Cummings. Art Akina and I recorded it in my living room. What a voice that guy has!
Two beautiful Hawaiian waltzes. He Punahele No 'Oe is song from a father to his daughter. Pua Lilia is a song from a man to his wife. Since I have both a wife and a daughter, I like to play them together.
Yes, "Over the Rainbow"... I have loved this song since the early sixties when I heard Judy Garland sing it in The Wizard of Oz. I love the way Iz sings it too. It still conveys our desire to fly free.
Based loosly on my experiences of playing bluegrass on the beach with the Voggy Mountain Ramblers, I took Hank Williams tune "Jambalaya" and created "Jam-da-Island", which is often requested at kanikapilas. Only two chords! Here are the lyrics. I am play electric steel guitar with a fun trio called "Aloha In Motion".
Learn to play the steel guitar!
I have created a 13 page booklet in PDF format which is an introduction to playing Acoustic Hawaiian Lap Steel in the "Taro Patch" open G tuning. You can download it here.
If you are ordering strings for a Recording King Lap Steel or any electric steel with a 25" scale length, here are the strings that work well for G6th tuning:
In November 2005, I found a small kids' guitar for sale at our local Walmart. It was made reasonably well - for a $30 import from China! I removed the plastic saddle, and replaced it with a piece of 3/16" stainless steel rod. I also put a short length of 1/8" stainless rod next to the nut. This raised the strings, and allows me to play Hawaiian steel in B flat ( F - Bb - F - Bb - D - F ) tuning, using the strings that come with the guitar. I have since, changed the string set and play in open G using this set of strings.
Here is a photo of the details, and Kalena Kai, a short mp3 played on this guitar.
I learn best by osmosis, and have been inspired and trained both directly and indirectly by playing music with many people, including Hawaii's legendary Ledward Ka'apana and George Kahumoku, Jr.. Bob Brozman, who visited Hawaii in Dec. 2003 and spent a couple of days teaching three lucky steel guitarists a thing or two. Big Island musicians Lenard Kaniho, Art Akina, Aunties Leilani and Loretta from Keauhou, Bruddah Matt, Joe Spencer, Buddy Fo, Sonny Lim, Bruddah Smitty, Bobby Koanui, Kaleo Lindsey, Keoki Kahumoku, and many others have contributed to my style. I also would like to thank Maggie Lobo and John Dedeaux of the Voggy Mountain Ramblers, who first pushed me in front of a crowd and made me play. My beautiful logo was designed by Sarah Whitaker, a slack key guitarist that I met at one of George Kahumoku Jr.'s workshops on Maui. She can be found on Taro Patch Net. Finally, I wish to thank Swami Shambhavananda, who taught me how to be happy, and to be grateful for my life.
Shirley and I run KONAWEB, a web site about the Big Island of Hawaii.
My thanks to all of the people I have had the pleasure to meet through this virtual community.