First Hawaiian Conservatory and Eddie Alkire Instructional Methods for “Aloha ‘Oe,” 1926 and 1949

 “Aloha ‘Oe,” also known as the song of the lover’s embrace, was written by the last Hawaiian monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, in 1877. The piece was among the first songs to travel to the mainland after the annexation of Hawaii by the United States in 1893. While the earliest recording of the piece dates to 1902, its popularity grew through a series of recordings made by the Portuguese guitarist Frank Ferera in 1924. Since then the melody has been included in numerous music instruction books and correspondence courses. The First Hawaiian Conservatory of Music taught beginning guitarists to play this song using different strumming and fingerpicking techniques for the acoustic guitar, but relabeling them with “Hawaiian” terms.

For instance, the Conservatory’s 1926 lesson teaches performers to play an appoggiatura (a “grace note” that is played before the beat), but relabels it a “Hula pick.”  Eddie Alkire’s 1949 method, despite its relatively easy rhythms and harmonies, teaches legato slides, the technique of moving the steel bar to a different tuning position on the neck. He describes this as moving between “Do and Sol forms.”  Like all of the Alkire’s instructional lessons, this one includes a short written exam that students were required to complete and pass, and a set of preparatory exercises to help students prepare for that lesson’s solo.  According to Alkire, this instructional approach was more effective for teaching this distinctive slack-key technique.

Compare “Aloha Oe” from the First Hawaiian Conservatory of Music and from Eddie Alkire’s method below: