Hawaiian Steel Guitar
Hawaiian Steel Guitar refers to a guitar with its strings raised higher off the frets, played in the horizontal position. Pitch change is achieved with the skillful sliding of a steel bar against the strings, used with one hand, and with thumb and finger picks, used by the other hand. The Hawaiian Steel Guitar was invented by a Hawaiian named Joseph Kekuku, born in 1874 in the village of La`ie on the island of O`ahu. To relate the story of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar is to tell the story of Joseph Kekuku. Both Joseph and his cousin, Sam Nainoa, were close companions through their music. By the time they were eleven years old Joseph became quite proficient with his guitar and Sam equally skilled with his violin. Joseph admired the long sustaining melody lines that Sam played on his violin and was therefore inspired to create that sound on his guitar. This sparked him to experiment by placing different objects on the strings while he played. He found that the clean metal of steel resulted in the longest sustain and clearest tone. In the fall of 1889, both boys were invited to be boarding students at The Kamehameha School in Honolulu. Joe spent countless hours in machine shop, designing and making his steel bar with the help of his instructor, John Padigan. At last, he produced a slim steel cylinder about four inches long, convenient to hold in his left hand and able to slide noiselessly along the strings of the guitar. The strings were changed from gut to wire for longer sustain. Kekuku perfected the playing method, taught fellow students, then in 1904, he left the Hawaiian Islands to perform throughout the world.
The future of Hawaiian Steel Guitar is bright because of Jerry Byrd, who has graduated many students and charged them all with the responsibility to continue the teaching of Hawaiian Steel Guitar.
Source: "The Hawaiian Steel Guitar and its Great Hawaiian Musicians"