I was drawn to the steel guitar by its versatility in articulation, pitch, and tonal color—second only to the human voice. Hawaiian-style steel guitar makes use of the instrument’s full, expressive range. The picking touch on the strings affects the tone and harmonics, while the motion of the metal bar mimics a singers’ vibrato and the subtle pitch fluctuations of everyday speech. No other instrument can do this with whole chords.
The steel guitar evolved in Hawaii in the late 1800s. Back then, many Hawaiian musicians played conventional guitars tuned to an open chord. This style became known as “slack key,” and is quite different from Hawaiian steel guitar, both in the techniques and instruments used. The invention of the steel guitar is credited to an eleven-year-old Hawaiian student named Joseph Kekuku, who began experimenting with a steel bar. Holding his guitar in his lap, he discovered that sliding the bar along the strings while plucking them produced beautiful, evocative tones. Using the slack key players’ open chord tuning, he perfected his technique and later toured the world, delighting audiences with the sound of the Hawaiian steel guitar.
Other musicians learned this style and the steel guitar became an integral element of Hawaiian music for decades. To this day, the steel guitar is the sound that people around the world associate with Hawaiian Music. The desire to quickly change tunings later led to using levers and pedals and the invention of the pedal steel guitar, popular in today’s country music. The need to amplify the delicate tone of steel guitar led to electronic pickups in the late 1920s, followed by the first electric guitars.
This collection of traditional Hawaiian music, popular songs, and a touch of jazz is a sample of my solo performances. With the exception of Jimmy C. playing brushes on Sand, I chose to play all of the music myself; it just felt right. The instruments include lap steel, nylon and steel acoustic guitar, resonator guitar, ukulele, basses, keyboards, and drum programming. All recording, mixing, and mastering were done at my Seaside Recording Studio on Maui.
See my website: www.joelkatzmaui.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org