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Slack Key
© Frank Ford, 10/18/98 Photos by FF

OK, this one REALLY doesn't work as a photo article. I should have an audio clip, but I don't have that available. (And I don't like things that take a lot of time to download.)

"Slack Key" refers to a particularly beautiful style of guitar playing in the Hawaiian tradition. It's fingerstyle guitar music, characterized by alternating bass, and lowered tunings. It's the fact that the altered tunings require loosening the strings which gives the music the name "slack key."

Here's Dancing Cat recording artist, Ozzie Kotani, on a visit to Gryphon:

"So, How am I going to show slack key guitar in a photo?"

"Well, at least here's the guitar, and it's tuned in slack key. . ."

That's his 1943 Martin 00-17, which formerly belonged to the legendary Hawaiian slack key guitarist, Sonny Chillingworth.

I've included "slack key" in this glossary to distinguish it from the
Hawaiian guitar. Both are Hawaiian styles, but they are definitely not the same, and neither are the instruments. Slack key guitarists use a regular guitar and tune in in special ways. Hawaiian steel guitarists use a guitar with elevated strings and play it with a "steel."

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