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How to play Hawaiian Steel Guitar

BY: Mach | Category: Entertainment | Post Date: 2008-10-23

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Most of the beginners believe that the term -Steel- guitar has something to do with the material from which the instrument is built, it seems necessary to point out at this stage that the term actually originates from the fact that a steel bar is used, in the left hand, to obtain the varying tones and the guitar is held horizontally, with the strings uppermost and the bass strings towards the player. The notes are actually produced by sliding the -Steel- up and down the strings instead of fretting them with the fingers of the left hand like the Spanish guitar, Violin or Sitar.


For Hawaiian guitar special strings are used. Other guitar strings may be used with some measure of success, but will cause surface noise. The weight of the steel can withstand with correct Hawaiian strings of specially heavy gauge. ‘Whistling' noises are eliminated to a great extent by using the covered strings of burnished copper. These heavy strings will, of course, cause a great strain on the bridge if it is of the pin type glued to the table of the instrument, and tailpiece can be fitted with advantage. Many advanced players rightly argue that the addition of a tailpiece detracts from the tone quality of the guitar and as a result, will not fit a tailpiece to any instrument. The choice is entirely up to the player to take decision whether to include tailpiece or exclude it from the guitar to have right kind of tonal quality.


When the Hawaiian guitar is bought it is mandatory that the instrument must be correctly adapted to the Hawaiian style of playing. All musical instrument dealers sell proper Hawaiian adaptors. An adaptor is a metal ‘nut' which fixes over the bone nut at the top of the fingerboard and raises the strings to the required level.


No instrument has been more abused that the steel guitar, due to the tendency on the part of so many exponents to exaggerate the wailing effect which is so closely associated with the instrument. Before we begin to play therefore, reflect that there is no other instrument on which players are heard to slide from one note to another. It is possible to play real music on the steel guitar just as it is on other instruments. Therefore from the start it tries to produce a definite note and it is realized later that sliding up to a note is an effect, which can be used with discretion.


The actual steel with which the instrument is played may be made of various metals and may be plated. Many bars are made in nickel-plated brass. The guitar is played with a steel bar held by the thumb and first two fingers of the left hand. A round bar with a bullet nose is preferable since a bullet nose allows smooth shifting from one string to another. The thumb and second finger grips the side of the steel and first finger rests on top of the steel to administer downward pressure when the steel is placed on the strings. The third and fourth fingers rests firmly on strings. While touching the string with the steel, the third and fourth fingers should first touch the string and then the steel. Again, the steel should be lifted first and then the fingers, to avoid any metallic sound. Frequently one string has to be touched with the steel and played simultaneouly with open bass strings. In such cases, the steel has to be tilted to such an angle that other strings are not touched by the steel and is called the TIP POSITION. In the BAR POSITION, the steel is placed on all the strings and is indicated by ‘B' on music. Comfort in handling is of paramount importance as relaxation is the secret of good Hawaiian Guitar playing and the player will realise that the steel strings will wear away soft metal very rapidly. The player must use his own discretion, therefore, in the selection of a steel and is advised to choose the steel which gives the greatest feeling of comfort.


Guitar strings are plucked by the fingers with picks worn on the thumb, first and second fingers. For accoustic or wooden guitars metal finger picks and celluloid or plastic thumb picks are used but for electric guitars celluloid or plastic finger picks are preferred to avoid contact noise.


In any kind of sound there is low and high sound. The height of the sound is called its pitch.


The first seven letters of the alphabet i.e. A, B, C, D, E, F, G denote the notes and each note is distinguished by a letter name. Note A is different from Note B.
Obviously more than seven notes are required in music and as such the same notes are repeated. When the note is repeated, eight notes above or below the original sound, the repetition is called an octave and has an aural relation to the first sound. Thus A to next A and C to next C would be an octave.


The ‘stave' which consits of five lines and four spaces on which the music is written. The first letter in each word of the following sentence denotes the names of the notes on the lines ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fun.' ( E, G, B, D, F) The names of the notes in the spaces are even more simple as they make up the word ‘FACE.' (F, A, C, E)


Additional lines (and the spaces between) called leger lines may be written above or below the stave to accommodate higher or lower notes. Quite a number of leger lines are required for the purpose.

Article Source: http://www.saching.com

About Author / Additional Info: The author of the above article plays Hawaiian Steel Guitar and Piano.

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