Before tackling this course, you should be comfortable with all the material from Sus Chords Part 2

Welcome to our Travis Picking course part 1! In this course, we will introduce you to finger-style guitar by learning this classic picking technique. The technique is all about keeping a moving bass line with your thumb and melody notes with the fingers, so it is pretty challenging! However, we will break it down nice and slow for you and apply everything we learn to a cool folk song at the end of the course. Have fun!

Summary: Travis Picking

Travis picking is the first step towards acoustic finger-style playing. The creator of Travis picking is Merle Travis, an American country and Western musician, who was the pioneer of this syncopated picking technique and therefore the style was named after him.

To begin with, let’s look at the finger symbols that you may well see on TAB. The picture to the left shows how each finger is named with either c, a, m, i or p. For Travis picking, we mainly use the thumb, first and second finger, with the occasional use of the third finger. We very rarely use the little finger in this technique. The basic concept behind Travis picking is that the thumb plays a note on every beat. This moving thumb bass-line often creates the sound associated with the style. Below, we will look at your first picking pattern.

Exercise: The 4 step pattern

Below is a link to the tab for the 4 step picking pattern. Remember to play it nice and slowly using the slow down function and loop it for as long as you want!

Summary: Adding Chords

To start with, let’s learn the chord shapes. You should be very familiar with G, but maybe not with Cadd9. We won’t go into the theory at this point, but just be aware that you can generally interchange C major chord for Cadd9. It creates a slightly different effect, but is fundamentally the same chord. The chord shapes are as follows:

Exercise: Moving chords

We will practise our travis picking by moving between these two chord shapes. Notice that when you move to the Cadd9, the root note is now on the A string. This means your thumb plays the A strign rather than the E string. Here is the tab for this exercise so remember to use the looping and slow down features to help you practise.

Summary: 'Let Them All Go'

Travis picking can take a few weeks for your fingers to get used to, and what better way than to spend those weeks than playing this awesome song? This song uses the pattern we have learnt so far as well as a number of beautiful open chords that really add character to the song. Listen to the entire tune before moving onto the next lesson and starting to learn it!

Summary: The chorus

When you use travis picking, altering chords very slightly can have a massive effect on the sound. In this song, we take only a few basic chords and subtly alter them by changing the root notes. Let's start by learning the chord shapes for the chorus section.

The chord chart

Here are the chords in order for the chorus sections, which is all you need to worry about for the moment!

  • Choruses
  • G /// // G/F# / Em7 /// // G/F# /
  • G /// // G/F# / Em7 /// // G/F# /

Materials: Song Tab

Below, you will find a link to the full chord chart in tab format. You only need to worry about the chorus parts at the moment. Use the slow down function to make sure you are in control of the right hand picking pattern.

Summary: The verse

We will now take a look at the chorus and then piece the entire song together. The course has exactly the same picking pattern, just a different set of chords. The chords are as follows:

materials: The chord chart

Here is the full chord chart, including the verses that we are currently learning. The song is very repetitive, so you only need to learn the verse and chorus and then repeat!

  • Chorus
  • G /// // G/F# / Em7 /// // G/F# /
  • G /// // G/F# / Em7 /// // G/F# /
  • Verse
  • G /// //// Dsus4/F# /// //// Cadd9 /// G/B / G/A / G /// D (///)
  • Repeat this section 5 more times

Materials: The Tab

Below, you will find a link to the full chord chart in tab format. This will help you gradually piece the song together and also allows you to slow the song down as much as you like. As well as the video file on the tab, there are audio files that allow you to focus in on the guitar without the vocals and other guitar parts.

Audio: 'Let them all go'

Just as with the tab above, you can also find the audio tracks here to play along to. These are all at full speed so make sure you have practised with the tab version before trying these. Good luck!

Ready to move on? Remember to check out every lesson in this unit first – then try the next unit...

Travis Picking Part 2

We will start by learning two new finger-style patterns which we will apply to some new 7th chord shapes. These 7th chords will expand your open chord shapes. We then tackle a beautiful folk tune to ensure you apply all of your new skills!