“Hawaiian slack key guitar (ki ho’alu) is truly one of the great acoustic guitar traditions in the world.” — Keola Beamer. The style draws its name from the technique of tuning down, or “slacking” some of the guitar strings to achieve the unique tunings which characterize the style. These tunings, many dating back into the early-to-mid 1800s, provide a musical palette from which guitarists draw to create the melodic, flowing style that evokes the feeling of the Islands and the traditions of Hawaiian music and chant.This site is dedicated to an exploration of slack key music and tunings. In it, you’ll find:

  • Blog postings covering a range of slack key related topics, such as tunings, mainland events, music tech, reviews, etc.
  • Information about my Slack Key Tunings Manual, including free excerpts (see the Contact Page), and an order form for the manual
  • Links to related sites and useful resources
  • Audio demo snippets of slack key playing techniques
  • Sample Chapter from the Manual

The Slack Key Tunings Manual

Like most slack key students, the first tuning I learned was Taro Patch, or Open G tuning. Eventually, with a growing interest in Hawaiian slack key guitar, I began to look for information about other slack key tunings.  Finding relatively little documented material, I began to compile what information I could find and ultimately assembled that information into book form. Currently, the Ki Ho’Alu Guitar Tunings Manual is in its 5th edition, containing reference material and chord diagrams for 20 slack key tunings.

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One objective of this site and the blog it hosts is to collect feedback and exchange information about slack key guitar tunings and the Slack Key Tunings Manual. I plan to continue to improve the manual in ways that make it more useful to students and musicians through new editions to be published periodically… about once a year.  Feedback from users of the manual is essential — if you have suggestions about changes, additions, etc. that you’d like to see, please use the contact form on the “Contact” tab to send your thoughts.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the most recent edition of the Tunings Manual (5th edition, June 2017), please use the Order Page. Mahalo!
-Scott Hillman