Steel Trappings

Haumana: A Student's Journey Through Hawaiian Music and Steel Guitara

Learning the Steel Guitar: The Beginning Stages

June 12, 2017 • Steve TylkaEducation and Training

In my previous articles I discussed my start in Steel Guitar, correspondence with professional musicians, and basic chord theory. Since this is the fourth installment of the Haumana series, I'd like to discuss the beginning stages of learning steel guitar. Before we get started, I would like to say Mahalo to Troy Brenningmeyer for having me on his podcast. If you aren't familiar with Troy's podcast series, check it out at I am very thankful for opportunity to appear on episode #24, where we discussed steel guitar as it occurs to me, as well as the therapeutic qualities of Hawaiian music. Mahalo, Troy!

As I mentioned in my first article, I started studying under Alan Akaka at Ke Kula Mele in August of 2016. Ke Kula Mele is the premier school of Hawaiian music in the Hawai'i. Kumu Alan Akaka describes his school as a place where creative and musical ideas can be developed, nurtured, and shared in a supportive environment. I can confirm that students at Ke Kula Mele will find intriguing and challenging material designed to help each player grow with every lesson! I have noticed a lot of growth in my playing and understanding of steel guitar and look forward to continuing to improve as a musician! I strongly recommend finding a Kumu to all players, young and old, novice or professional. A good teacher helps students of all levels grow. For me, Kumu Alan Akaka is the right choice. For those of you interested in studying under Kumu Alan Akaka, you can find information at

Many new players may discover that learning an instrument, especially steel guitar, is a great way to relax. Having worked with the military based music therapy program, Sounds Of Acoustic Recovery (SOAR), I witnessed the calming effects music has on a person. With SOAR, I encountered many service members recovering from various injuries and illnesses. Many were uncomfortable speaking about their experiences, but found comfort in music. I am a firm believer in the use of music as a therapeutic tool and consider myself lucky to have experienced such a wonderful organization. I encourage our readers to use music as a positive way to relieve stress, you will be able to improve your technique and will most likely brighten your day! If you'd like to learn more about SOAR you can find them at

After studying with a Kumu, and developing your own practice and playing rituals, you will want to find a way to share your passion for Hawaiian steel guitar. Some of you will have the ability to play with Hawaiians, or those who appreciate Hawaiian music. For those of us with limited access to musicians playing Hawaiian music, there are alternatives. Many states throughout the mainland have at least one Hawaiian Civic Club. Many of these clubs are chartered by the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs of Hawai'i. It is important to find a club with ties to Hawai'i as this adds to credibility while serving the interest of Hawai'i. Most clubs offer Hula and music groups as part of its performance workshops, which appealed to me. I was able to locate one of these clubs, Hui Hawai'i O Tenesi Hawaiian Civic Club located in Clarksville, TN. Since we are located in a military town, many club events are geared towards our men and women in uniform as well as those Hawaiians away from home. For the last few months I have been able to share my love of Hawaiian music and Steel guitar by performing alongside our Hula group. Performing with a civic club not only helps give back to your community, but it is a great way share your music. I encourage our readers to seek out a civic club near you and share your passion for steel guitar. Hui Hawai'i O Tenesi and information on other Hawaiian Civic Clubs can be found at If you can not find a Civic club in your area, there is an opportunity to play your guitar at the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association's annual conference in Ft. Collins, CO. You can perform at the open mic session held during the first day of the festival, and spend a few days discussing Hawaiian steel guitar with new friends. There are numerous videos of great musicians playing the HSGA conference on YouTube. Find out more about the festival at

As always, I hope this article finds our readers in good health. Hopefully a portion of my writing has appealed to you and will help you in your steel guitar adventures! I would like to make mention of two new steel guitar groups on social media. The first is I Steel Guitar on Facebook, The second is ILoveSteelGuitar on Instagram, Please add both groups to your social media accounts. The steel guitar community is relatively small and we could use a stronger footprint across social media. I'd like to extend a big Mahalo to Addison Ching, Troy Brenningmeyer, and Alan Akaka for everything they do for the Steel Guitar community!


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2023 Festivals and Workshops

Maui Steel Guitar Festival - CANCELED
October 14, 2023 – 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST
The Shops at Wailea, Wailea, Hawai‘i
October 15, 2023 – 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST
Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, Kahului, Hawai‘i

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September 9, 2023 – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Maui Steel Guitar Festival Reprise
October 14, 2023 - 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Maui Steel Guitar Festival - CANCELED
October 15, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, – 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST

Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday — CANCELED
November 19, 2023 – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Experience at Mauna Lani
December 15, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM HST

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September 21-23, 2023 – Odd Fellows Lodge, Cupertino, CA
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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.