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Clave Bass Studies (Guitar Lesson)


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Mark Kailana Nelson

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.

Taught by Mark Kailana Nelson in Hawaiian slack key seriesLength: 15:56Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (09:05) Introduction to Clave Bass Intro Music

Mark begins this lesson with some soothing slack key music played in G Wahine, or double slack tuning.

Tune Time

Throughout this lesson, you will have several opportunities to play along with Mark. Be sure that you check your tuning with Mark's. Use a tuner to help you if necessary. Notice how Mark tunes the B string slightly flat. This is slightly more common when playing in Taropatch tuning opposed to G Wahine tuning. Before Bach invented the equal temperament system of tuning, the interval of a major third was slightly smaller. To achieve the "true" sound of this interval, the B string must be tuned about 5-7 cents flat. Match the pitch of your B string exactly to Mark's. Do not use a tuner when tuning this string.

Note: Remember that the third string is tuned to F# in G Wahine tuning (double slack tuning) in order to produce an open GMA7 chord in second inversion.

Review Time

Take this time to review the appropriate fingerings for the I and V chords in this tuning. Remember that you only need to change the location of your first finger in order to switch between these two chords.

History of the Clave Rhythm

The clave rhythm has its roots in the music or Portugal and Brazil. It is the driving force behind the music of these cultures. As you learned in the early slack key lessons, South Americans came to Hawaii to work on cattle ranches. They brought their music and culture along with them. The inclusion of these elements had a profound effect on the style of music that we know as slack key today.

Learning the Clave

Listen at about 4:50 as Mark demonstrates a basic clave pattern. Also, look at the notation Mark has provided under the "Supplemental Content" tab to see how this rhythm is notated. When playing this rhythm, be careful that you do not cut the dotted quarter note too short. This is a very common mistake. Isolate and practice this rhythm with a metronome until you can play it in your sleep.

In slack key arrangements, the clave rhythm consists of three notes that comprise a basic bass line. The first bass note of the clave rhythm occurs on beat one. This is followed by the second bass note on the "and" of beat 2. The third bass note occurs on the fourth beat of the measure. If the pattern starts with a G bass note, a G chord is implied. If you start with D, a D or D7 chord is being implied. Practice switching back and forth between these two bass patterns. Open Exercise #1 under the "Supplemental Content" for tablature and notation to this clave bass line. Mark provides a demonstration of this exercise at 8:40.

In the next scene, chords and a melody will be added to this figure. Consequently, you must first master this basic clave bass pattern before you proceed to the next scene.
Chapter 2: (06:50) Using Chords with Clave Bass Exercise #2

When adding harmony to the clave pattern, chords are plucked on the eighth note counts where a bass note is NOT played. Practice this pattern with both the G and D7 chords. At first, isolate each individual chord/bass pattern. Then, practice switching between these chords.

Mark demonstrates a slight variation on this chord pattern at 02:42. This rhythm isn't quite as interesting since some of the syncopation is eliminated.

Exercise #3

Exercise 3 represents a third variation on the clave pattern. The rhythm of this exercise is very syncopated. Also, notice how Exercise 3 features a five bar phrase structure. Phrases that span five measures are quite common in slack key music. The length of this phrase contrasts greatly with what most listeners are used to hearing in blues, rock, and country music. Phrases in these genres frequently occur in 2 or 4 measure groupings.



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Member Comments about this Lesson

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


ukimastaukimasta replied on October 1st, 2014

Sounds great but the tabs are not exactly the same as you play in the video.

seabreezeseabreeze replied on June 4th, 2014

Man. I miss eating malasadas.

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

Salomila

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

Malasadas

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

Hi`ilawe

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

Kowali

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

Sanoe

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

Kawohikukapulani

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

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