Old Style Slack (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Kailana Nelson

Old Style Slack

Mark Nelson teaches a beautiful Hawaiian piece that he calls "Old Style Slack."

Taught by Mark Kailana Nelson in Hawaiian slack key seriesLength: 30:00Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (2:07) Introduction Music Mark starts off this lesson with a great slack key tune. In the scenes that follow, you will learn how to play a new slack key song: “Old Style Slack.”
Chapter 2: (5:54) Learning to Play Chimes A. Review of Taropatch Tuning
Like “Bradda John,” “Old Style Slack” is performed in Taropatch tuning. Mark begins this scene with a review of this tuning. Typically, slack key players tune to an open G major chord. Taropatch tuning is an example of an open G tuning. Here is a string-by-string breakdown of this tuning:
6th: D
5th: G
4th: D
3rd: G
2nd: B
1st: D
B. Playing Chimes
Due to their tonal quality, natural harmonics are frequently referred to as “chimes.”

Note: David Anthony has some lessons solely dedicated to playing natural harmonics. We strongly recommend that you watch these lessons in conjunction with this lesson. The following information regarding natural harmonics are taken from David Anthony’s Phase 2 Tips and Tricks series.
1. What is a Harmonic?
“Harmonic” is a term that is often used in the scientific field of acoustics. Harmonics are component frequencies that comprise a larger, fundamental frequency. The individual pitches or notes that occur in music are referred to as “fundamentals.” For example, the pitch we hear when the fifth string is struck is a fundamental. This fundamental is called “A”. The pitch that our ears perceive as “A” is actually a sum of several overtone frequencies called harmonics. When we hear a fundamental, our ears cannot distinguish the individual overtones. We only hear their resulting sum or fundamental.

A frequency is assigned to every pitch or note that we hear. Frequency is measured in a unit called hertz (abbreviated Hz). For example, the frequency of the open A string is 220Hz. Harmonics are integer multiples of this fundamental frequency. For example, if the length of the A string is divided in half, the resulting pitch is an octave higher. The 12th fret marks the exact center of a string. If a harmonic is plucked at the 12th fret, the frequency of the pitch doubles. The frequency of this harmonic is 440Hz. The pitch that results is still A, just one octave higher. If the length of string is divided into an even smaller section, a higher harmonic occurs.
2. Natural Harmonics
Listen to the introduction music once again. The high chime-y sounds Mark creates are examples of “natural harmonics.” The harmonics he plays occur at either the 7th or 12th fret. Harmonics are a frequently used compositional technique. Compare the sound of a fretted note at the 12th fret to a harmonic played at the 12th fret. The pitch is the same, but the overall tone is quite different. Harmonics are added to a piece of music to add a contrasting tonal color.

Performing a natural harmonic is relatively easy. Begin by practicing harmonics at the 12th fret. Harmonics at this location are much easier to produce. Lightly rest the fleshy tip of the finger on the string directly over the 12th fret. If your finger is not directly over the fret, the harmonic will not sound. Do not press the string down at all. Once you pluck the string with the right hand, release your left hand finger from the string. Many instructors teach that you must immediately remove the left hand finger from the string to produce the harmonic. However, this is not true. You actually have a comfortable amount of time to remove your finger from the string. As Mark notes, the tone of the harmonic blossoms and becomes richer once the finger is released from the string. Watch Mark carefully as he demonstrates some harmonics at the 12th fret.

Also, practice playing two harmonics simultaneously. Simply barre a left hand finger across the desired strings. Pluck them simultaneously. Then, quickly lift the barre from both strings. Since Taropatch, tuning is an open tuning, the harmonics at the 12th fret form a chime-y G Major arpeggio.
3. Where do Natural Harmonics Occur?
The easiest harmonics to produce occur at the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets of each string. Harmonics actually occur down the length of the entire string. However, many of these harmonics are very difficult to produce. As a result, these harmonics are used rather infrequently.

Note: It is much easier to produce natural harmonics on an electric guitar. Harmonics really jump out when played with a distorted tone. Also, scooping the midrange frequency of a distorted guitar tone increases the projection of harmonics.
4. Tuning with Harmonics
Harmonics provide a very effective way of tuning the guitar. Check out Lesson 2 from David Anthony’s Phase 2 series for more information.
5. Harmonics In Chord Shapes
In the previous lesson, Mark demonstrated how to play two very basic chords in Taropatch tuning. The first chord is the open G chord. This simple chord consists of all the open strings. The second chord, D Major, is played with a barre across the treble strings at the seventh fret. These same shapes can be played as harmonics. To play the D chord using harmonics, simply rest the middle finger over the treble strings at the 7th fret instead of barring them with the first finger. To play G, play each string at the 12th fret as a natural harmonic. Finally, the D shape transposes to the fifth fret to form an alternate voicing of the G chord. Notice how Mark combines these chord shapes with a standard open bass string.
Chapter 3: (9:12) “Old Style Slack” Mark begins this scene by playing through the arrangement of “Old Style Slack.” If you listen closely and compare Mark’s performance to the written score, you will notice a mistake that he made. It’s OK to make mistakes. Everyone makes them, even professionals that have been playing the guitar religiously for decades. If you make a mistake, simply keep going. As long as you keep the rhythmic feel of the music constant, no one other than yourself is going to notice your mistake.

Note: Open the “Supplemental Content” tab for tablature to this song.

Some of the features of the music will immediately jump out at you. The song features three repeated sections that are each five measures long. This repeating arrangement style is very common among Hawaiian slack key players. Also, like “Bradda John,” “Old Style Slack” features a melody on the treble strings while the thumb performs an alternating bass line on the low strings.

Mark breaks this song up into individual repeated lines then isolates each measure within the line. The first three measures of the first line feature a repeating bass and harmonic figure. Isolate the first measure, and practice it slowly until you have mastered it. Then, take on the rest of the measures in the line. Pay careful attention to the left hand fingering Mark uses to play the song. The middle finger is always used when playing chimes. In measure 4, the pinky must perform a position shift to fret the notes on the 4th and 5th frets of the high E string.

Regardless of what style of music you play, it is very important to keep your left hand fingers as close to the fretboard as possible at all times. If your fingers stray to far from the fretboard, they will not be prepared to play when you need them. Keeping your fingers close to the fretboard will ensure maximum left hand speed and control.
Chapter 4: (2:30) Second Part of “Old Style Slack” “Old Style Slack” is played in the key of G major. In this key, the fourth scale degree C, is a natural note. However, this note is frequently sharpened in Hawaaian music to add a contrasting tonal color. Mark refers to this note as the “Hawaiian blues note.” A raised 4th scale degree briefly implies a Lydian tonality. The major scale and its parallel Lydian mode are frequently woven together in traditional Hawaiian song.

The first few measures of the second line feature some rapid position shifts. Play these measures as slow as possible with a metronome to ensure that you are performing these shifts in time. Do not proceed to the next scene until you have mastered this entire line at a reasonable tempo.
Chapter 5: (1:50) Play Along In this scene, you have an opportunity to play through the second line of the song along with Mark. This is an excellent opportunity to check your rhythmic accuracy. Play with other musicians as much as possible. This will greatly improve your rhythmic feel.
Chapter 6: (8:21) Putting Things Together The third and final line is a simple variation on the second line. The harmonics are removed from the second line and replaced with regular fretted notes.

Practice the final line slowly until you feel comfortable playing it at a moderate tempo. Mark then gives you an opportunity to play the entire song along with him.

Traditional songs are often interpreted in a variety of different ways. For example, one guitarist might choose to play “Old Style Slack” at a very slow and deliberate tempo. Another guitarist may choose to play it at a rapid tempo. Both options are acceptable. Slack key guitar performance is all about playing what you feel at the moment. The overall sound of the performance should emulate how you are feeling at that given moment in time.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

LSCalgaryLSCalgary replied on February 11th, 2018

I love these lessons!! I love this music and this is the first I've heard of Hawaiian Slack Key music. Thank you for opening up a whole new world of beautiful music for me :)

artist8811artist8811 replied on March 1st, 2016

I just have wasted about 30 minutes of my time trying to get the tabs to print - - they don't! Meanwhile, I have no paper copy to practice off of. So, what do I do now, go on to the next lesson without having the benefit of practicing this piece??? I am getting very frustrated with the finding out that Jam Play's site does not work well in all cases.

ukulelehawaii4uukulelehawaii4u replied on November 23rd, 2018

Seems to be a user error, not platform. error. I haven't had any problems viewing and printing these lessons. This going all way back to 2014 when I first reviewed this lessons. Its always easier to blame others than oneself.

artist8811artist8811 replied on March 1st, 2016

WHAT THE HHHH! I went to the next segment, playing Part 2 of this music. Well, Part 2 never showed anything but Part 1!!!! How can I print off Part 2, when I can't even print off part 1 nor even see Part 2????? Seriously, I paid for a full year of lessons but am getting NOTHING! What the hell is the problem with Jam Play?????

artist8811artist8811 replied on March 1st, 2016

WHAT THE H! I checked off to print the tab music, and it does not print it - - it prints 5 pages of commentary, but NOT the music. HOW the H am I supposed to practice it without sheet music????

kyowoonleekyowoonlee replied on January 1st, 2016

I had the privilege of living 3 yrs on the Island of Oahu and meeting the wonderful people of Hawaii. I've played guitar over 40 years but I never tried to play slack key. I think it's some of the beautiful music I've ever listened to thank you for sharing this wonderful music.

oldman1944oldman1944 replied on May 18th, 2014

I can't get chimes on any guitar--what to do?

superdadcoresuperdadcore replied on October 22nd, 2014

To get the harmonic barely touch the string exactly over the 12th fret bar (on the "body" or upper bout side of the fret marked with the two dots) as you pluck the string. The tip of your middle finger will work best to start with. Hope this helps and you haven't given up.

tarocattarocat replied on August 14th, 2013

Another vote for "the water is wide", Mark. Please, please! Tony

sngnevellsngnevell replied on May 21st, 2013

I'm having trouble getting the chimes/harmonics at the seventh fret. I'm using a guitar with nylon strings. Does that make a difference?

gregdiehlgregdiehl replied on June 17th, 2012

I'm back! Last comment by me was March 2008. I couldn't stay away. I got a new guitar, tuned it to slack and am going to be more dedicated this time! (Doing electric with Brad too)

kelekakeleka replied on December 28th, 2012

This is my first day with you Mark and with Jamplay. I can tell already that I should have done something like this a long time ago. I can thank another student of Jamplay in Kauai for the heads up with Jamplay. Trying to learn there while on vacation just isn't enough time for it to sink in. The tabs are great and really help with my rhythmic coordination in fingering. All students learn at a different pace, and I might be a little slower than some, but it's so nice to be able to replay until I get right. Maybe my wife won't run screaming from the front door clutching her ears in agony any more.

annezkaannezka replied on May 17th, 2012

I am unable to find the second part for this song. Only "part one" is located in the Supplemental Material. Where might I find it?

tarocattarocat replied on February 1st, 2012

Didn't realize playing a guitar could be so much fun, Mark. This is great! You've got me for the duration...Mahalo! Tony

kapsterkapster replied on January 9th, 2012

This tuning and style of play is awesome. I can't believe how fun this is to play. Can't wait to master this song. In just two practices I am half way there. Your a great teacher. Thanks so much.

gw63303gw63303 replied on October 11th, 2011

What cadence should be set for this piece?

mbur4mbur4 replied on September 17th, 2011

I think I may be able to play this kind of fingerstyle because the left hand has fewer fretted notes. I loved the sound of your intro piece.

robpoetrobpoet replied on May 26th, 2011

Frarajaka...Brudda...this is way too cool...thanks so much...after 20+ years as an advanced amateur I actually am progressing thanks to this site...he he...I giggle with delight...thanks Mark!

jliddell2jliddell2 replied on April 5th, 2010

Mark i love these lessons, ive never heard of slack key but its great thanks!

acousticnookacousticnook replied on February 20th, 2010

Mark, these lessons are heavenly. I visit Hawaii for a couple of weeks every year and fell in love with slack key a long time ago. I haven't had this much fun and felt this much enjoyment from playing the guitar in years. Thank you! ~Cheryl

evilhedgehogevilhedgehog replied on June 21st, 2009

excellent lesson, thank you!

trapper78trapper78 replied on October 28th, 2008

I live in Haiku, but couldn't find a good slack key teacher. This is amazing! Let me know if your ever on island. Aloha~ J. Strohl

mtwissmtwiss replied on September 4th, 2008

Love your teahing style Mark, and I've fallen in love with Hawaiian Slack-Key guitar. Jamplay is a fantastic way to learn new styles of playing!

Mark.NelsonMark.Nelson replied on January 22nd, 2008

Aloha, Thanks for the great comments. I'm happy that you like the lesson. BTW: The tune at the top of the lesson is called "Moana Chimes." Keep slackin!

kipjoneskipjones replied on February 11th, 2008

The supplemental Content only has page one of the piece.

SylviaSylvia replied on August 24th, 2008

Hi Kip: If you look at the tab, there are double vertical bars and a couple dots. So you when you play the first line and come to the bars with dots, you repeat that section... then move on to the second line... get to the end and repeat...etc., etc., This whole piece is one that one tab. ;)

andyandy replied on March 23rd, 2008

Thanks Mark I had seen you at Casanovas on Maui a year or so ago I believe I remember you playing Water is Wide; I would love to second the request for this song

seanmanseanman replied on March 20th, 2008

I love how country blues of the suoth and hawaiian slack key took the same alternating base fingerpicking styles and still created two beautiful and unique sounds.

gregdiehlgregdiehl replied on March 8th, 2008

I'm getting the hang of this style. It's fun and my wife loves it too. It'll come in handy when I move to hawaii. It really does sound beachy.

chrisnewmanchrisnewman replied on January 1st, 2008

I'd never heard of this style of playing (Hawaii being a long way from London I guess!). I've really enjoyed listening and learning

tedted3tedted3 replied on December 31st, 2007

Thanks for a fun lesson. I've been looking for more things to play. I play primarily with a pick and enjoy the fingerstyle. Keep the lessons comming.

maddeemaddee replied on December 30th, 2007

Wow! What a cool lesson! This was a fun and easy lesson to learn! It sounds soooooooo nice!!!! Thanks for a great lesson Mark! When you gonna' teach "The Water is Wide"?

Hawaiian slack key

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Hawaiian slack key is a beautiful style of guitar that originated in Hawaii. By blending relaxing melodies with intricate fingerstyle playing, this traditional genre of music is sure to please.

Lesson 1

Intro to Slack Key

Mark Nelson introduces Hawaiian slack key guitar and welcomes you to his lesson series.

Length: 9:11 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Basic Slack Key

Mark delves into the world of slack key guitar. He discusses basic concepts such as open tunings and chords.

Length: 34:24 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Bradda John

In this lesson, Mark teaches a slack key arrangement of the classic song "Brother John."

Length: 14:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Old Style Slack

Mark Nelson teaches a beautiful Hawaiian piece that he calls "Old Style Slack."

Length: 30:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Vamps and Turnarounds

Turnarounds are very important to the slack key genre. Mark explains what they are and how they are used in this lesson.

Length: 22:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 6


Mark Nelson teaches a beautiful Hawaiian slack key piece called "Salomila."

Length: 19:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Double Stops in Slack Key

Mark Nelson demonstrates how double stops are used in Hawaiian slack key guitar.

Length: 22:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Ki Ho'Alu Slide

Mark Nelson teaches a beautiful piece of music he calls "Ki Ho'Alu Slide."

Length: 15:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

More Turnarounds

Mark Nelson teaches a few more turnarounds. He demonstrates how you can link two turnarounds together.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

Return to Salomila

Mark Nelson returns to the song "Salomila." Learn an altered version of this song that will put your slack key skills to the test.

Length: 14:30 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

Building Blocks

Mark Nelson provides you with more slack key building blocks. He demonstrates some new turnarounds that involve playing double stops in sixths.

Length: 23:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Return to Old Style Slack

Mark Nelson returns to the song "Old Style Slack." In this lesson, he teaches a more advanced arrangement of the song.

Length: 23:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Double Stops and Chords

Mark demonstrates some additional double stops and discusses common slack key chords.

Length: 18:30 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Taropatch Blues

Mark Nelson teaches an original song called "Taropatch Blues." He also explains how improvisation is used in the slack key genre.

Length: 19:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

Series Review

Mark Nelson reviews the lesson series up to this point and discusses its future.

Length: 16:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Aunty Style Slack

Mark Nelson introduces the G Wahine tuning, also known as double slack. He teaches a song in this tuning called "Aunty Style Slack."

Length: 21:10 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Clave Bass Studies

Mark introduces the concept of the clave rhythm. He explains what the clave is and provides some fun Hawaiian themed exercises to play.

Length: 15:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 18


Mark Nelson will teaches a slack key piece called "Malasadas." This lesson applies the clave bass pattern from lesson 17.

Length: 14:17 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Double Stops and Chords

Mark expands your knowledge of double slack tuning. He introduces some common chords and double stops in this tuning.

Length: 13:57 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

Playful Popoki

Mark Nelson teaches a beautiful Hawaiian slack key song entitled "Playful Popoki."

Length: 23:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Playful Popoki Part 2

Mark teaches another version of "Playful Popoki."

Length: 25:17 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

C Wahine Tuning

Mark Nelson introduces C Wahine tuning.

Length: 10:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

Expanding the Tuning

Mark Nelson expands on Drop C / C Wahine tuning. He explains how familiar chords and double stops can be played in this tuning.

Length: 15:31 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 24


Mark Nelson teaches a classic Hawaiian slack key piece entitled "Hi`ilawe."

Length: 18:12 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

C Wahine Chords

Mark "Kailana" Nelson covers the Drop C / C Wahine tuning again in this lesson. This time around he introduces more chords and variations.

Length: 10:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Molokai Waltz

Mark Nelson teaches a beautiful piece entitled "Molokai Waltz" in this lesson. This song demonstrates how you can play melody out of chord shapes.

Length: 13:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 27


Mark Nelson teaches a Hawaiian slack key piece entitled "Kowali" in this lesson.

Length: 13:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Kowali Modulation

Mark Nelson returns to the song "Kowali" and introduces the concept of modulation in this lesson.

Length: 11:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 29


Mark Nelson returns to the world of Hawaiian slack key with a beautiful piece entitled "Sanoe."

Length: 17:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

Sanoe Modulation

Mark revisits the beautiful song "Sanoe." He explains how the song modulates in this lesson.

Length: 11:31 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 31

Catching up & Moving on

Mark Nelson returns with more slack key! Find out what Mark plans to teach in upcoming lessons and learn his approach to fingerpicking technique.

Length: 14:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

F Wahine Tuning

Mark Nelson explores the wonders of the beautiful F Wahine tuning.

Length: 29:37 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

My Yellow Ginger Lei

Mark Nelson shares his rendition of the beautiful slack key song "My Yellow Ginger Lei."

Length: 14:55 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 34

Mauna Loa Part 1

Mark Nelson teaches a basic version of the song "Mauna Loa."

Length: 10:26 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Mauna Loa Part 2

Mark teaches a more elaborate version of "Mauna Loa."

Length: 12:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 36


Mark Nelson teaches a song called "Kawohikukapulani" and discusses the history behind it.

Length: 9:19 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 37

My Yellow Ginger Lei Variations

Mark Nelson talks about discovering your own style as he plays and improvises "My Yellow Ginger Lei" in F Wahine tuning.

Length: 27:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

He Aloha No'o Honolulu

Mark Nelson shares his rendition of the song "He Aloha No'o Honolulu" in F Wahine tuning.

Length: 11:25 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 39

He Aloha No'o Honolulu Part 2

Mark Nelson covers an extended version of "He Aloha No'o Honolulu" and continues to touch on the subject of creating your own style.

Length: 20:17 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 40

Makee Ailana

Mark Nelson shares his beautiful rendition of the song "Makee Ailana" in this lesson.

Length: 22:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 41

Tiare Tahiti

Mark Nelson shares his rendition of "Tiare Tahiti," a lovely song named after the sweet Tahitian Tiare flower.

Length: 20:22 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 42

Tiare Tahiti Part 2

Mark continues his discussion on the song "Tiare Tahiti" in this lesson.

Length: 17:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 43

Series Wrap-up Part 1

Mark Nelson begins his series wrap-up with a lesson about the similarities and differences between tunings. The song "Sanoe" is used as an example.

Length: 12:27 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 44

Series Wrap-up Part 2

Mark continues his series wrap-up with another great lesson filled with information on tunings.

Length: 21:23 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 45

Series Wrap-up Part 3

Mark Nelson concludes his series wrap-up with a lesson on "My Yellow Ginger Lei" in Taropatch tuning. He also shares tips and advice to continue on your own until he returns to JamPlay with more lessons.

Length: 19:51 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 46

Bring Back the Slack!

Mark Kailana Nelson is back by popular demand with more amazing slack key guitar! In this series reintroduction, he talks about what he will be teaching in his new set of lessons.

Length: 10:27 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 47

Nanea Kou Maka i ka Le‘ale‘a

Mark Nelson continues his Slack Key series with another song called "Nanea Kou Maka i ka Le‘ale‘a." Mark lays out the basics of the song and talks a little about making it your own.

Length: 24:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 48

Intros and Outros

Mark Nelson talks about intros and outros using the tune, "Nanea Kou Maka i ka Le‘ale‘a" as an example to work from.

Length: 19:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 49

'Ulupalakua Part 1

Mark Nelson introduces "'Ulupalakua," a song he will be using to teach different skills and techniques. In this lesson, he explains the tune and asks that you get it under your belt before moving on.

Length: 6:42 Difficulty: 2.0 FREE
Lesson 50

'Ulupalakua Part 2: Singing

Mark Nelson touches on singing and backing up a singer in this lesson. He uses the song "'Ulupalakua" as an example and explains the lyrics.

Length: 25:02 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 51

'Ulupalakua Part 3: Variations

Mark Nelson demonstrates some fun variations to spice up your playing using the song "Ulupalakua" as an example.

Length: 29:23 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 52

'Ulupalakua Part 4: Three Songs

Mark Nelson wraps up this tune by demonstrating two similar songs you may play now that you have "Ulupalakua" under your belt.

Length: 8:01 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 53

Hula Blues Part 1

Mark Nelson introduces the catchy "Hula Blues" in this lesson. He asks that you get the song under your belt before moving on to the lessons to follow.

Length: 20:22 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 54

Hula Blues Part 2: Variations

Mark Nelson continues his instruction on the catchy tune "Hula Blues" with some fun variations.

Length: 23:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 55

Hula Blues Part 3: Singing

Mark Nelson continues the "Hula Blues" with a lesson on lyrics and singing. Mark demonstrates some useful tips and tricks to get you going.

Length: 15:53 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 56

‘Opihi Mo‘emo‘e Part 1

Mark Nelson introduces a new slack key tune called "‘Opihi Mo‘emo‘e" in this lesson. As usual, Mark starts off by going over each section of the song and asks that you to get it down before moving...

Length: 23:41 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 57

‘Opihi Mo‘emo‘e Part 2

Mark Nelson shows off some fun variations for the catchy slack key tune "‘Opihi Mo‘emo‘e." His primary goal for this lesson is to help make this song unique to your personal style.

Length: 13:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 58

‘Opihi Mo‘emo‘e Part 3

Mark Nelson wraps up the tune "Opihi Mo‘emo‘e" in this lesson, providing full tab and discussing song structure.

Length: 11:50 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 59

Mark's Slack Key Blues

In this short miniseries wrap-up, Mark Nelson slides into his own version of the blues, slack key style.

Length: 5:00 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
Lesson 60

B Flat Tuning Part 1

Mark Nelson introduces and explains an open Bb major tuning in this miniseries introduction.

Length: 14:09 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 61

B Flat Tuning Part 2: Green Rose Hula

Mark Nelson goes over a tune called "Green Rose Hula" in the beautiful B flat tuning.

Length: 12:25 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 62

B Flat Tuning Part 3: Pua Lilia

In this lesson, Mark Nelson takes a look at more complex harmonies while teaching the beautiful song "Pua Lilia".

Length: 12:57 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 63

B Flat Tuning Part 4: ‘Ulupalakua

Mark Nelson wraps up his open Bb tuning miniseries with a look at a song you might recognize from previous lessons, "‘Ulupalakua".

Length: 10:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Mark Kailana Nelson View Full Biography Ki Ho `alu, or slack key guitar, is a uniquely Hawaiian music. Legend has it that Spanish cowboys hired to teach cattle handling in the 1830's brought the first guitars the Polynesians had seen. Until very recently, slack key was almost unknown outside of the Islands.

Mark's lifelong interest in slack key led him to write "Learn to Play Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar" (Mel Bay Publications), with legendary Hawaiian musician Keola Beamer – the first widely available instruction method for this gentle art. Keola and Mark co-host the Aloha Music Camp – an immersion into the music and culture of Hawaii held each summer in the Hawaiian Islands.

Mark's 2004 CD, "The Water is Wide," brings together the nahenahe sounds of slack key guitar with the sweet sounds of the dulcimer. In 2006 he released "Old Time Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar," nineteen classic Hawaiian songs recorded live in the studio. A book of note-for-note transcriptions in Tab and standard notation facilitates learning the songs.. His most recent book and CD set, "Ke Kukima Polinahe," is the first-ever recording of traditional slack key music arranged for the dulcimer.

Mark began playing guitar and bass professionally at the not-so-tender age of 12. Over the years he's added a number of instruments, including mandolin, `ukulele, bodhran and the Appalachian dulcimer and its European kin.

In the early 1970's Mark was one of a handful of free-spirited musicians who created a whole new vocabulary for the Appalachian dulcimer and guitar. He created a driving flatpicking dulcimer style, playing the instrument with a force and passion seldom heard before. A first place win at the National Mountain Dulcimer Championships in Winfield, Kansas in 1979 led to appearances at festivals, colleges and coffeehouses across North America and Europe, and a recording career spanning over 25 years.

He's an engaging performer, artfully weaving stories and humor with heartfelt music to transport the audience. Mark has performed just about everywhere from Barrow to Boston; Sligo to San Diego. He's shared the stage with performers as diverse as Grover Washington, Jr.; Norton Buffalo; Phoebe Snow, Doc Watson, George Winston and many others. He once worked as a banjo playing gorilla in Dublin, but that's another story...

"Nelson is a musician who possesses that rare combination of insight and talent necessary to successfully transcend conventional concepts of genre and culture."
John Berger, Honolulu Star-Bulletin

"Every once in a while a musician comes along who can make an instrument speak in tongues"
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

"Mark Nelson seems to be on to something new and sweet with his marriage of Appalachian dulcimer and Hawaiian slack key guitar. Drizzle is one of the most achingly beautiful slack key numbers heard in years."
Danny Carnahan, Acoustic Guitar Magazine

"It's my sunset-have-a-martini-on-the-lanai soundtrack every night!"
Duke Walls, Hana, Maui

Acoustic Guitar Lessons

Our acoustic guitar lessons are taught by qualified instructors with various backgrounds with the instrument.

Eve Goldberg Eve Goldberg

Eve talks about the boom-chuck strum pattern. This strum pattern will completely change the sound of your playing.

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Peter Einhorn Peter Einhorn

JamPlay is proud to introduce jazz guitarist Peter Einhorn. In this lesson series, Peter will discuss and demonstrate a way...

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Justin Roth Justin Roth

In this lesson Justin introduces his series on playing with a capo and dishes out some basic tips, including how to properly...

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Nick Amodeo Nick Amodeo

Nick explains how to play some of the most commonly used chords in the bluegrass genre.

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Calum Graham Calum Graham

Award winning, Canadian fingerstyle guitarist Calum Graham introduces his Jamplay Artist Series, which aims to transform...

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Alan Skowron Alan Skowron

Alan shares his background in teaching and sets the direction for his beginning bass series with simple ideas and musical...

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Mitch Reed Mitch Reed

Mitch teaches his interpretation of the classic "Cannonball Rag." This song provides beginning and intermediate guitarists...

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Tyler Grant Tyler Grant

Tyler Grant is back with an introduction to his new series "Classic Country Chops." In this series, Tyler goes in-depth...

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Rich Nibbe Rich Nibbe

Rich Nibbe takes a look at how you can apply the pentatonic scale in the style of John Mayer into your playing.

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Electric Guitar Lesson Samples

Our electric guitar lessons are taught by instructors with an incredible amount of teaching experience.

Evan Brewer Evan Brewer

Evan Brewer explains everything you need to know in order to get going with your bass guitar. Topics include the parts of...

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David Ellefson David Ellefson

David Ellefson, co-founding member of Megadeth, explains his overall approach to teaching and learning bass in this introductory...

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Lauren Passarelli Lauren Passarelli

Lauren Passarelli offers up her wisdom on purchasing a guitar. She also includes information regarding proper setup and care....

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Michael Ripoll Michael Ripoll

Michael "Nomad" Ripoll dives deep into the rhythm & blues, funk, and soul genres that were made popular by artists like Earth...

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Emil Werstler Emil Werstler

Emil takes you through some techniques that he uses frequently in his style of playing. Topics include neck bending, percussive...

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Nick Greathouse Nick Greathouse

Nick starts his series with Alternate Picking part 1. Improve your timing, speed, and execution with this important lesson.

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Horace Bray Horace Bray

Horace provides a short etude on how to practice connecting the different shapes of the G Major open triads. This helps you...

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Bryan Beller Bryan Beller

Bryan Beller of the Aristocrats, Dethklok, and Steve Vai takes you inside his six step method to learning any song by ear....

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John March John March

Take a new look at the fretboard and learn where to find a voicing that works. There are techniques that simplify the fretboard...

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Join over 526764 guitarists who have learned how to play in weeks... not years!

Signup today to enjoy access to our entire database of video lessons, along with our exclusive set of learning tools and features.

Unlimited Lesson Viewing

A JamPlay membership gives you access to every lesson, from every teacher on our staff. Additionally, there is no restriction on how many times you watch a lesson. Watch as many times as you need.

Live Lessons

Exclusive only to JamPlay, we currently broadcast 8-10 hours of steaming lesson services directly to you! Enjoy the benefits of in-person instructors and the conveniences of our community.

Interactive Community

Create your own profile, manage your friends list, and contact users with your own JamPlay Mailbox. JamPlay also features live chat with teachers and members, and an active Forum.

Chord Library

Each chord in our library contains a full chart, related tablature, and a photograph of how the chord is played. A comprehensive learning resource for any guitarist.

Scale Library

Our software allows you to document your progress for any lesson, including notes and percent of the lesson completed. This gives you the ability to document what you need to work on, and where you left off.

Custom Chord Sheets

At JamPlay, not only can you reference our Chord Library, but you can also select any variety of chords you need to work on, and generate your own printable chord sheet.

Backing Tracks

Jam-along backing tracks give the guitarist a platform for improvising and soloing. Our backing tracks provide a wide variety of tracks from different genres of music, and serves as a great learning tool.

Interactive Games

We have teachers covering beginner lessons, rock, classic rock, jazz, bluegrass, fingerstyle, slack key and more. Learn how to play the guitar from experienced players, in a casual environment.

Beginners Welcome.. and Up

Unlike a lot of guitar websites and DVDs, we start our Beginner Lessons at the VERY start of the learning process, as if you just picked up a guitar for the first time.Our teaching is structured for all players.

Take a minute to compare JamPlay to other traditional and new methods of learning guitar. Our estimates for "In-Person" lessons below are based on a weekly face-to-face lesson for $40 per hour.

Price Per Lesson < $0.01 $4 - $5 $30 - $50 Free
Money Back Guarantee Sometimes n/a
Number of Instructors 92 1 – 3 1 Zillions
Interaction with Instructors Daily Webcam Sessions Weekly
Professional Instructors Luck of the Draw Luck of the Draw
New Lessons Daily Weekly Minutely
Structured Lessons
Learn Any Style Sorta
Track Progress
HD Video - Sometimes
Multiple Camera Angles Sometimes - Sometimes
Accurate Tabs Maybe Maybe
Scale/Chord Libraries
Custom JamTracks
Interactive Games
Learn in Sweatpants Socially Unacceptable
Gasoline Needed $0.00 $0.00 ~$4 / gallon! $0.00

Mike H.

"I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar!"

I am 66 years young and I still got it! I would have never known this if it had not been for Jamplay! I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar! Ha! I cannot express enough how great you're website is! It is for beginners and advanced pickers! I am an advanced picker and thought I had lost it but thanks to you all, I found it again! Even though I only play by ear, I have been a member a whopping whole two weeks now and have already got Brent's country shuffle and country blues down and of course with embellishments. Thank you all for your wonderful program!

Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on JamPlay.com. Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.

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