What is Hawaiian Slack Key?

Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar

E Komo Mai - Welcome!   Traditional Hawaiian slack key music (ki ho'alu) is one of the most beautiful and soothing musical art forms in the world.   Soft and sweet (nahenahe) family music.  Like the era in which it was born (late 1700's), it expresses the essence of Hawaii -- warm Tradewinds, fragrant tropical flowers, gentle surf, and the true spirit of Aloha.

Traditional slack key music is a highly endangered artform.  Only a few people still carry a full repertoire.  Fewer still are carrying on the tradition creating new family music in this old style.

Ki Hoa'lu means 'to loosen slacken the keys', a reference to the tuning keys on the instrument. Slack key is always played in altered guitar tunings.  Each family created their own tunings and music.  Over 75 tunings are documented.

Due to isolation and scarcity of instruments, the Hawaiians developed a technique of self accompaniment.  The thumb plays rhythm patters on the lower strings while the fingertips play melodies and harmonies on the upper strings, all at the same time.  No easy feat!

A solo instrumental style, the traditional slack key was used to accompany hula and chant run the early days.  Only chant, no singing, existed in Hawaii when guitars first arrived.

May the music fill your heart to the brim and overflowing with Aloha - Ha'ale'ale i ka pu'uwai.