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How to Play the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Spiral-bound – May 17, 2008
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About the Author
A steel guitar, guitar, and ukulele teacher, Allen was born in Hilo, Hawai i, and raised on O ahu. As a twenty-year-old guitarist, he worked on the mainland with masters of the Hawaiian steel guitar, Andy Aiona, Danny Steward, Lani Sang, Pua Almeida, Sam Koki, and many others, at the Seven Seas Restaurant in Hollywood, California. During his years in Hawai i and abroad, he has played steel guitar with Alfred Apaka, Haunani Kahalewai, Charles K.L. Davis, Sterling Mossman, Barney Isaacs, Norman Isaacs, Merle Kekuku, Jerry Byrd, Alan Akaka, Casey Olsen, Hiram Olsen, George Paoa, Alec Kaeck, and the group from Hawaii Calls Nina Kealiiwahamana, Joe Recca, Beverly Noa, Gary Aiko, George Kuo, Iwalani Kahalewai, Leilani Kuhau, Herbert Ohta, Bill Bigelow, E/P, Don McDairmid, Jr., Chairman. In Japan, I worked with Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Chikao Toriyama, Ken Matsukata, Kaori Eto, Naga Chan of Tokyo s Club Hanalei and Coney Island Hawaiian Club, and Aoyama Enterprises. In 1993, Allen was awarded a Master Artist Teacher, A.S.F.C.A. Folk Arts Award from the Hawai i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and also from the Hawai i Academy of Recording Artists, H.A.R.A.
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This book is beautifully assembled and is probably worth the money simply as a reference book. You will pick up numerous worthwhile tips and learn some steel guitar history during the reading of this book, but don’t expect to learn how to play Hawaiian steel guitar!
When I realized that the accompanying CD was a MIDI recording, I uttered a few expletives that cannot be repeated here. Come on Henry, you could not take the time to record a few live guitar tracks so your students would have an audio reference on how the steel guitar should sound on each lesson?
I now have the Jerry Byrd Hawaiian instruction book and CD set on order. Please note that I did read the reviews on this one before I ordered.
Have fun learning to play Hawaiian Steel Guitar!
But that is the only good thing I have to say about it. The author manages to say absolutely NOTHING about how to actually play the Hawaiian steel guitar. There are many pages devoted to convincing the reader what a great player the author is, and many pages of music theory and notation, with no apparent particular relevance to playing steel.
It is as if the author just could not bring himself to give away any of his precious secrets.
I paid almost nothing for my copy, and I still feel that I was ripped off.
We see photos of harmonics, but don't hear them or have them used in a song. We see photos of instruments (many apparently duplicates), but don't hear anything that informs us why we should care. In fact, we never hear any steel guitar on the CD, we only hear synthesized music.
Mr. Allen is proud of his having mastered some computer software for notating this music, but it wasn't helpful. Many people have already mastered tab notation, so there is no reason why the numerals should overprint each other to the point of illegibility.
A section shows all major scales in score notation, tab notation and on CD. I don't understand how it is helpful to hear a synthesizer play the scale of, say, E flat, in two steel positions, when the synthesizer sounds the same in both positions. While listening to the track with all twelve scales, there is no way by the sixth or seventh or eight repetition of a major scale to know where we are in the score.
The recording of chord structures could be interesting, but instead it is difficult to navigate and to learn. There are 126 chords played in rapid succession (14 different fingerings/slants in nine different keys); it's impossible to know which one is playing. Why do we need all the keys? Why not focus on the sounds of some of the more difficult slants (how exactly are we supposed to get a diminished chord from a C6 tuning?) It seems he told the software the notes of a diminished chord, and the notes of the C6 tuning, then told the software to calculate the fret positions. The computer can play it, but I find it difficult to bend my bar to hit 8-8-9-9-8.
Finally, about the actual songs. Mr. Allen has a storied career in music, but I suspect not in instruction. Instructors begin at the beginning with something students are familiar with and can master. Then, they add more learning, always with linkage back to the knowledge the student brings. In this case, Mr. Allen's selection of songs is too advanced or too obscure. Except for three familiars ('Imi Au Ia 'Oe, Pupu O 'Ewa and Aloha 'Oe), the student will not have heard the songs; some were written by Mr. Allen, some by his friends. While perhaps these new (or very old) songs have some lesson to offer, the point of the lesson is not provided by the words in the book or the recording on the CD. Evidently we are to study the music notation (the tabs or the chords) and deduce the point of learning the song. I'm all for a challenge (otherwise I wouldn't learn a new instrument), but the instructor has a job to fulfill. He could have eliminated his time spent on theory and notation, and concentrated on things unique to Hawaiian steel guitar.
I love the printed format of the book - spiral bound hard cover is how every instruction book should be constructed. I just wish there were more "how to" in this how-to book.