Steel Trappings

Steeler Stylings

The Many Styles of Greg Sardinha

September 20, 2016 • Don TouchiEducation, Entertainment

Greg Sardinha is one of the few "masters" in Hawaiian steel guitar. His unique style of playing is what got my attention because his music is not exclusive to Hawaiian or Country which is what many in Hawaii associate with the steel guitar. Instead of the traditional Hawaiian pattern playing, Greg often mixes things up to include various playing styles. His recent CD, "Stainless - Steel Guitar Stylings of Greg Sardinha" was a Na Hoku Hanohano award winner for 2014 for Instrumental Album of the Year, and is a clear example of how Greg pushes the envelope on the Hawaiian steel guitar with his style variations.

I recently had an opportunity to discuss Greg's playing styles with him. Here is that interview.

DT: I notice that you experiment with the steel guitar a lot and do not limit your sound to Hawaiian or Country music.

Greg: At first I felt the same way that the steel sound was primarily associated with Hawaiian and Country music. I love the Hawaiian sound like everyone else. Even within this, there are many styles.

DT: How so?

Greg: The 20s acoustic steel, the 40s-50s classic electric steel phrases and the Rogers single note style. For me, the lap steel should be able to play any genre of music. A guitar or piano isn't limited to one style of music and the same principle applies to the steel.

DT: So you experimented?

Greg: What I'm doing is not really new. In my opinion, 'ukulele gained popularity not because of Hawaiian music, but because of contemporary music. Jake Shimabukuro, Taimane (Gardner), Brittni (Paiva) and others have proven this with their music.

DT: I heard your rendition of the Beatles' song "Something" and there were parts where there are two solos going at the same time: You with the steel on top and your bass player Kata Maduli with the bass on the bottom. And no one was stepping on anyone's lines.

Zach, Greg and Kata

Greg: As far as "Something," Kata is a veteran bass player and sometimes these things just kinda work out almost like magic.

DT: Now on your rendition of the Peter Moon song "Hawaiian Lullaby", you've changed it into an entirely different song. The listener has to listen closely before they realize what song that is.

Greg: Zach (Castro) our guitar player introduced his version to us and we liked it. Invariably, there will be a few people who will be critical and ask why we changed the song. Really, for no particular reason. I have a few songs like that right now where I changed the whole thing, including the chords and melody. There are a lot of commercials out there where artists have changed familiar melodies.

DT: I've heard you play certain licks one way the first time through and then made it sound different the second time through even though they're the same notes and phrases. For instance, legato the first time and staccato the second time.

Greg: I guess the theory there is how to take three notes and play it 20 different ways.

DT: Thanks for taking the time to give us your insights, Greg.

Greg: I hope this helps, Don. Mahalo.

Another song with styling variations that was a part of the 2016 Waikiki Steel Guitar Festival is a seldom-heard Dick McIntire song, "Aloha Tears." Traditionally, this Hawaiian love song is performed in a relaxed, melancholy manner desribing the emptiness resulting from the departure of a loved one. In the middle of this performance, Greg speeds up the tempo and creates a jazzy variation of the song, drawing the audience out of its grief and into a more festive mood.

Greg, Zach Castro on guitar and Kata Maduli on bass, perform daily at the Honolulu International Airport, entertaining the visitors and wecoming them to our Island home. Greg also appears at the Outrigger Reef's Kani Ka Pila Grille every Thursday with Kawika Kahiapo and every Saturday with Nathan Nahinu and Ka Hehena. Greg performs every other Wednesday at the Elks Club in Waikiki with George Kuo and every 3rd Friday at the Elks Club in Kailua (Elks Club membership needed or come with a member). Greg is featured every 2nd Friday at Big City Diner in Kailua. Coming soon, Greg will appear once a month at Hawaii City lights (at the old Fisherman's Wharf in Kaka'ako). Greg is also a regular featured artst in steel guitar festivals produced by HIMELE. For a complete list where Greg's playing, see his website.

Photo Credits:
Photo 1: Greg Sardinha. pc-Don Rostow.
Photo 2: Zach Castro, Greg Sardinha, and Kata Maduli. PC-Don Touchi.

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HIMELE is a Hawai'i non-profit corporation that supports music enrichment and education for people of all ages. Our purpose is to educate, promote, and perpetuate Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian musical instruments.