Where can I learn to play traditional instruments in Hawaii?
March 7, 2011 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm travelling to Hawaii this summer and want to spend a couple of days learning ukulele, steel guitar or slack-key guitar in the traditional Hawaiian style. I have some music background so I'm looking for more than just a tourist novelty class. Any suggestions from local experts?

I'm a keen amateur musician who's taking a trip to Hawaii for the first time this summer.

I'm really excited by the idea of spending some time (1-2 days) learning ukelele, steel guitar or slack-key guitar (which I've read are the main traditional Hawaiian instruments.)

Do you know of any courses or teachers who could provide a short intense tutorial?

I'm competent on acoustic guitar and a few other instruments so I hope I could pick up the basics pretty quickly and get a feel for the instruments. I'm hoping for something a bit more substantial than a generic tourist class (but even that would be much better than nothing!)

I haven't yet decided which island I'll be staying on, so suggestions for any of them are welcome.

Also, apart from being a big Israel Kamikawiwo'ole fan I don't yet know many Hawaiian artists - so listening suggestions would also be very welcome.

posted by ChristopherS to Education (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It would help to know what city, or town, in Hawaii you are going to be in. . .
posted by Danf at 12:15 PM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: The Hawaii Ukulele Festival takes place in July on Oahu (the Big Island event just passed, the Maui event set for October):

posted by pzarquon at 12:25 PM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: On the Kona coast of the Big Island, Paul Santos, who co-runs a shop called Just Ukes, is a super-nice guy. I don't know for sure that he gives lessons (though I bet he does) but it'd certainly be worth at least a phone call to talk to him if you end up planning to be around there, or even just to ask his advice about planning the trip, or get more info about who else gives lessons.
posted by RogerB at 12:44 PM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: Memail me if you decide you'll be in Kona on the Big Island - my mom takes weekly private lessons as well as going to a large group play-along and I can get the name and contact info of her instructor if you so wish.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 1:05 PM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: A really good place to ask these questions would be the Ukulele Underground forums.

If you're going to be in Honolulu at all, there are places you can take free ukulele lessons - try to catch Gordon Mark at the Aloha Tower Marketplace. Ukulele Puapua also offers free lessons, and the Royal Hawaiian Center has free lessons.

If you want to hire someone for a one-on-one tutorial, Gordon Mark would be my first choice - you can look him up on YouTube, he's an excellent player. I'd also recommend asking Tyler at Ukulele Puapua, or stopping at the Kamaka ukulele factory and asking around. You should definitely take the Kamaka tour if you're interested in the ukulele!

As for Hawaiian artists - you can catch so many for free in Waikiki. Cyril Pahinui on Wednesday nights at the Kani Kapila Grill, Pa'ahana and the Sunset Serenaders at House Without a Key, Troy Fernandez on the corner of Kalakaua and... Lewers, I think it is, on Friday nights... Taimane Gardner at the bar at the Hyatt Regency sometimes... to name just a few. If you want to do some listening before your trip, start with Gabby Pahinui, Sol Ho'opi'i, the Brothers Cazimero, the Sunday Manoa, Keali'i Reichel. For ukulele soloists, try Herb Ohta Sr., Byron Yasui, Benny Chong, Brittni Paiva.
posted by chez shoes at 1:48 PM on March 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the excellent tips! It sounds like Oahu has some great options and I'm delighted to hear I might catch the Festival. I'll follow up on these suggestions - thanks all!
posted by ChristopherS at 8:42 AM on March 9, 2011

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