The tunings presented in the manual represent only a selection of the many slack key tunings that have been documented to date. They have been chosen to provide a sample of the different tuning categories, described below, and because of their use in present-day live performance and recorded repertoire. In future editions of the manual, additional tunings will be explored.
Slack key tunings today are generally divided into five categories:
- Open – All strings are tuned to the notes of (usually) a major chord, as in the Taro Patch tuning, which is an open G chord. The open tunings included in the manual: G (Taro Patch), Open D, Open C, and Open A.
- Wahine – The tuning contains the major 7th note of the scale. Hammering from this open string to the tonic note at the first fret gives this tuning one of its characteristic sounds. Tunings included: G Wahine, D Wahine, C Wahine, Gabby’s C Wahine, F Wahine
- Mauna Loa – Based on a major chord with the top two strings tuned a fifth interval apart. These strings can be played in 6th intervals, giving this tuning its characteristic “sweet” Mauna Loa sound. Tunings included: C Mauna Loa, Bb Mauna Loa, G Mauna Loa.
- Ni’ihau/Old Mauna Loa – Tunings having 2 adjacent strings tuned a 4th interval apart, where the lower string is the 6th note of the scale and the higher pitched note is the 2nd note. Tunings included: C Old Mauna Loa, D Ni’ihau.
- Miscellaneous – Other tunings that can be classified as traditional ki ho`alu: Drop C
- Contemporary – Tunings that have been developed by contemporary slack key artists: G Mahoe (Jim “Kimo” West’s tuning).