Tiple and Slack Key – Duets with Ledward Kaapana

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

The Martin tiple is an unusual instrument, but one that turns up in some surprising places. In addition to blues and vaudeville, the tiple made its way into Hawaiian music. Ledward Kaapana tells me that one of his aunties used a tiple as her instrument at their legendary Kalapana parties. My Wai`ehu Sons album has a cover picture of Sheldon Brown with his tiple and the sound is prominent on the recording. And Ry Cooder used the tiple as his instrument when he recorded with the Gabby Pahinui Band.

I found a tiple on Ebay and got Led to play it, but at the time it had terrible action, almost no saddle, and worn out frets. Since then I had the instrument rebuilt with a neck reset, new frets, and a new saddle, and the result was lovely. And Led has been having a lot of fun working up different approaches to the tiple, using his virtuoso knowledge of the `ukulele and his deep musicality to pull out some wonderful arrangements.

I captured one of these sessions with my cameras and studio recording system and made a couple of YouTube clips from the result.

First we have He Aloha No `O Honolulu, a classic by Lot Kauwe that Ledward has recorded a couple of times as a slack key instrumental.

One of the songs I nearly always ask for when we play together is Aloha `Ia No `O Maui. He tells me this was the showpiece of one of his uncles, and Led has recorded it as a slack key instrumental, but I don’t think anyone has ever done anything like the tiple arrangement Ledward pulls out for this recording.

I hope you enjoy these duets as much as I do.

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  • Slack Key in the Guest Room - "Beautiful Kaua`i"
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    I have recorded a CD called Kaleponi, all solo acoustic slack key instrumentals, mostly traditional pieces, a few originals.


    You an buy a copy of the CD or download the tracks at CD Baby.

    If you prefer, you can download individual tracks or the whole album from iTunes as well.

    The complete liner notes and back cover notes of Kaleponi are available here.