Name: Darin Leong
Town: New York, New York
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
At what age did you start playing guitar and why?
During high school in Hawaii, I heard a Hawaiian duo called Hapa playing at a trade show for cars in the local convention hall. The group was two guys, who both sang, one on a twelve-string and one on a beaten up sunburst shallow-body Washburn. Their sound was enormous, rich, beautiful, lush harmonies, and the lead guitar player coaxed sounds out of that cheap Washburn that I did not know were possible. It was like nothing I'd ever heard before, but maybe that's cause I grew up on an island. That concert was one of those experiences that a lot of guitar players have, like hearing Tommy Emmanuel for the first time, or Alex Degrassi for the first time. A light switched on in my head that said, "Oh, so that's the standard of how well a guitar can be played." From that point, I was hooked.
Seagull S6, still in my opinion, the best steel string in the $300 price range
Lots of Hawaiian slack key players like Sonny Chillingworth, Ledward Ka`apana, Bobby Moderow (Maunalua.com) and Barry Flanagan (Hapa.com)
9th grade talent show. I got together with three high school friends and played a song by a traditional Hawaiian group called the Makaha Sons of Ni`ihau (one of the members of that group was the late Israel Kamakawiwo`ole, or "Iz", who sang the now famous version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World). We practiced, and practiced and practiced. One day while we were practicing (and struggling with the music), my mother walked into the practice room, paused, looked around for a minute and said in an annoyed tone, "Maybe you guys should record yourselves. . . hear what you sound like." That wasn't a compliment.
Acoustic Guitars you own:
classical guitar built by Jack Sanders, luthier and professor of music at Pomona College (sandersguitar.com), Olson SJ, cedar and rosewood (a guitar that never stops vibrating)Taylor 614ce (black), the workhorse that takes beating after beating, and still manages to stay in one piece
Taylor 614ce, with the older mic/pieza blender system. versatile and rugged.
Your Style, and how you developed it:
I learned basic fingerstyle right hand technique and chord theory by studying Hawaiian slack key guitar, which is relatively simple in terms of technical facility and harmonic content. Then I went east to California and studied classical guitar for four years. Then I moved further east to New York and learned that there are steel string players, using classical technique, but playing really innovative yet accessible music.
Like many musicians, I hold a "day" job, which severely limits practice time. So, I block out an hour each morning before "work." By necessity, that time needs to be efficient. So here's what helps me:
-write everything I do down
-Giuliani right hand studies (great for fingerstyle)
-hammer and pull-off drills with the left hand
-use a metronome as much as possible
-always learn a few measures of something new
-refresh memory on pieces I already know
Allison Krauss and Union Station
Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your playing style or your views on today's music in general?
Teach. It's important that the music and technique we learned from people who taught us gets passed on. And the beautiful thing about it is that everyone - with little regard to ability - has something they can teach to others. The guitar is a wonderful instrument because you can play solo, with others, sing and play, and take it with you to your friend's house, the park, beach, wherever. It's a great tool for sharing and connecting with others.
Visit Darin's website at www.hawaiiguitar.com to learn more about Darin and his music.