Hi`ilawe was written in the late 1800s, and is still very popular today.
It tells the story of a love affair that takes place at Hi`ilawe, the highest
waterfall on the Big Island. The song was written as a long series
of brief verses, and it is usually performed with an instrumental interlude
("pa`ani" in Hawaiian) between verses.
The tab here is typical of pa`ani, where the soloist doesn't play the
melody directly, but instead adds his own style and embellishment to the
melody. This arrangement contains many of the elements that you might
hear in a slack key guitar rendition of the song (with some notable exceptions,
of course: the ukulele doesn't have the guitar's bass strings, and
we're using standard, not slack, tuning of the instrument).
The melody is only four measures long. The last two measures in
the tab are a kaholo (turnaround), another typical characteristic of Hawaiian
music. Some musicians perform this song with a one-measure turnaround,
rather than the two measures shown here, so if you're providing the pa`ani
for a singer, make sure you've both agreed on how long the kaholo should
The tab is a .pdf file, so you'll need an Adobe
reader (it's free) to display and print it.
Download the tab for Hi`ilawe
Here are a few explanatory notes about the tab.
The notation below the tab staff shows suggested right-hand fingering
for the song. (The left hand fingering is not called out here.
A good guide for the left hand is to form the chords shown above the staff,
and use this hand position as the starting point as you start to pick the
individual strings.) Basically, a different finger of the right hand
is assigned to each string: the ring finger plays the first (A) string,
the middle finger plays the second (E) string, the index finger plays the
third (C) string, and the thumb plays the fourth (G) string. The
thumb is also used to strum chords. Of course, you can use different
fingering, but this is a good style to learn, and will serve you well as
you move on to faster fingerpicking.
The "hammer on" and "pull off" are nice ways to embellish a note.
Here, you sound the note using your fretting (left) hand, rather than the
right hand that you normally strum with. For a hammer on, bring one
of the fingers of your left hand down fast and hard onto the string at
the indicated fret, causing the note to sound. For a pull off, use
your left hand to pluck the string as you pull off of the previous note.
Here's a detailed description of how you might perform that hammer on and
pull off in the fifth measure of the tab:
Don't be put off by the long description above. It's less complicated
than it sounds, and after a few minutes of practice you'll have this hammer
on and pull off sounding good!
You've just finished playing the chord on the first beat of the measure,
and you're still holding that G7 chord with your left hand: index finger
on second string first fret, middle finger on third string second fret,
and ring finger on first string second fret.
To play the second note of the measure, continue to hold the ring finger
of your left hand on the second fret of the first string, and pluck that
string with the ring finger of your right hand.
Immediately after you pluck the string, bring the little finger (pinky,
baby finger, whatever) of your left hand down fast and hard onto the first
string third fret. Leave the ring finger of your left hand in place
as you do this. This is the hammer on.
Immediately after the hammer on, pull the little finger of your left hand
off of the first string, plucking the string with this finger as you pull
it off of the string. Recall that the ring finger of your left hand
is still on the second fret, defining the note that will sound as you perform
the pull off. This hammer on/pull off combination creates a little
"trill" above the original note, a very pretty effect.
The third note of that measure is another pull off. Pull the ring
finger of your left hand off of the first string, plucking the string with
this finger as you pull it off of the string.