There are two basic strokes for the right hand in Hawaiian Slack Key guitar: the free stroke and the rest stroke. Both must originate from a good right hand position. Most slack key is played with the free stroke which, when executed correctly, produces a clean, strong sound.

Elements of the free stroke are: preparation, execution, and follow through. To prepare, relax the right hand and place the index finger beneath the first string. Execute the stroke by plucking the string toward the palm of the right hand. For the follow through, the finger should continue away from the string as far as possible toward the palm of the hand.

free stroke with the right hand

Preparation and follow through are the most important aspects of good free stroke technique. Practice the free stroke using the index, middle, and ring fingers, in turn, on the first string. Do the same exercise on the second string, playing slowly and with good free stroke preparation to avoid plucking the wrong string.

When this begins to feel comfortable, practice on all six of the open strings, beginning with the first and ending with the sixth. Try to connect all the notes smoothly, moving from one string to the next without hesitation. If you accidently play the wrong string, slow down the exercise and be sure you are getting under the string for good free stroke preparation.

It is important that a student never hurry through a technical exercise. Start all exercises slowly with careful attention to the steps involved. When you can play an exercise legato (in a smooth, connected fashion), speed it up slightly, still keeping the notes connected. In this way, the exercise begins slowly and progresses gradually to a faster tempo while retaining accuracy.

Next lesson: Rest Stroke