Aloha and welcome to our Intermediate Level Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Lessons. This level of instruction consists of “repertoire pieces” or a selection of guitar pieces that are listed by their level of difficulty.

One of my first revelations of the world of Kī Hōʻalu – the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar occurred when I was quite young. It taught me to look at the art form not so much as skill or technique, but rather as a sweet story of life.

Many years ago, I sat on the porch with my grandfather. In the growing afternoon shadows, we listened to the sound of the wind and watched as it moved upon the open fields. I was a young man then and I had many questions about life. My questions were not very important and to this day I have absolutely no recollection of what they concerned. Still, I chattered on incessantly, blah blah this, blah blah that, looking to my grandfather for empathy and guidance. On that day, the old man didn’t feel like speaking, so I slowly ceased talking and as the shadows of the clouds tumbled across the pasture, I sat quietly with my grandfather on those old wooden steps listening to the beautiful, soft sound of the wind.

It went on like that for quite a while, neither of us speaking, until my grandfather took out the guitar. Then, from chords shimmering and deep, a melody began to appear. Soon there was a stirring bass line, with the melody framed in a sort of halo. The music seemed to grow more radiant and more evocative as the old man played on. It was as if the individual notes of his guitar had suddenly taken on a life of their own, luminescent in the evening air.

I wondered if my grandfather was trying to tell me something. Something that I couldn’t quite get. “What is really happening here?” I asked myself. So I looked in my grandfather’s eyes and for the first time in my life, I saw him really reaching out to me.

I quieted the foolish questions in my mind. I opened my heart.

Pono Beamer

My Grandfather – Francis Keali’inohopono (Pono) Beamer

It was a beautiful story. I heard of his love for the world, for his family, for my grandmother, for me. I heard of his conquests and his disappointments. As he continued to play, the singing strings beneath his hands spoke of the qualities of life that fulfilled him and the little things he yearned for still.

Today, the strings of that old guitar still sing in the deepest part of me. It seems a wonderful irony that my grandfather could have revealed so much of himself to me, yet had not spoken a single word. In that brief period of time I learned a great deal about the man who was my flesh and blood.

What I had discovered was the Old Hawaiian way of learning. It continues on to this day and can best be described as:

  • Paʻa Ka Waha – Close The Mouth, (remember me yapping on the porch?)
  • Hoʻolohe – Listen
  • Nānā I Ke Kumu – Look to the Source

Through these pieces of the Intermediate Realm, I will be your kumu (teacher), as we proceed. You will begin to gather the tools you need to help you form the skills to make beautiful music. Try for competence in the piece you are currently working on before you go on to the next one. Practice a minimum of at least 30 minutes a day to move reliably forward. Remember that the technical exercises you have already learned should be constantly reviewed and played for dexterity and development of technique. (After many, many years, I still zip through the Spider exercise, just to warm up.)

I hope that some day, I will be fortunate enough to hear you play, for I believe that in the strings, your own story will unfold. Flying like the ‘iwa bird and radiant in the cool evening air.




Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

For your first lesson in the Intermediate Realm, go to Kolowaka