Travis picking! Where to start?

thechad

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It’s been a while since I’ve attempted to learn Lindsey Buckingham “never going back again” and I have recently returned to it. I can almost pull off a “passable” version of the song but it isn’t how it should be.
The reason being that my Travis picking skills aren’t very good.

I’d be very interested if anyone could share some helpful tips or tricks, or even songs to learn that would help get the basics and then another song that would add in some additional elements.

I’m inclined to think that it would be beneficial to get the technique down better to have another tool on my belt so to speak, and would like to not pass this one off as a “close enough” situation.

Thanks in advance!
 

ahiddentableau

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I did this a few years back. Near as I can tell, there's no trick to it. You just have to sit down and woodshed the right hand patterns until you can play them smoothly and without much thought or effort. For the most part Travis style songs use the same few patterns plus the odd embellishment so it's not like there's a heck of lot of material to master. But there's a lot of subtlety and if you haven't been fingerpicking it's very slow going at first. Until I started practicing Travis style picking I used a pick 100 percent of the time so it took me a long time to get comfortable with it. If you haven't fingerpicked before it's almost like that feeling you had when you first picked up the instrument. Not great!

Some threads on other boards recommend the Mark Hanson book. I bought it and used it and it's fine. But I don't think a book is necessary. There are so many songs out there that you could use, and I probably would have found it more interesting to play contemporary music instead of the old folk stuff in the Hanson book. But that's a minor complant. Practice practice practice.
 

Fenderbaum

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Learn "Freight Train"
Good song to start with. A very easy finger pickin song that also gives you some excersise on breaking that thumb away from the other fingers.
Also a song that can be played very easy, or more advanced. Sounds good either way.
Also listen to Townes Van Zandt. He was not entirely Travis style, but he did took borrowed much from it so it became cooked down to a more simpler playing style. Many Townes songs are very basic chords.. or cowboy chords so to speak, but Van Zandt had a very clean, precise and direct playing style (When he wasn't hammered):)
 

Chiogtr4x

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I did this a few years back. Near as I can tell, there's no trick to it. You just have to sit down and woodshed the right hand patterns until you can play them smoothly and without much thought or effort. For the most part Travis style songs use the same few patterns plus the odd embellishment so it's not like there's a heck of lot of material to master. But there's a lot of subtlety and if you haven't been fingerpicking it's very slow going at first. Until I started practicing Travis style picking I used a pick 100 percent of the time so it took me a long time to get comfortable with it. If you haven't fingerpicked before it's almost like that feeling you had when you first picked up the instrument. Not great!

Some threads on other boards recommend the Mark Hanson book. I bought it and used it and it's fine. But I don't think a book is necessary. There are so many songs out there that you could use, and I probably would have found it more interesting to play contemporary music instead of the old folk stuff in the Hanson book. But that's a minor complant. Practice practice practice.
Funny...
( note: I'm a self-taught ( pretty much by ear, don't really read music or tab) that has developed a few versions of Travis Picking ( listening to Dylan, John Prine. Doc Watson, Merle Travis)
... and I do any fingerstyle/fingerpicking one of two ways:

-using a thumb w/thumbpick and just one other finger ( index or middle- not both or others)and no fingerpicks- and no long nails

- or when using a flatpick, then it seems like I can actually do 'something' with my middle and ring fingers together - I play electric rockabilly and some fast blues like this.

Just observing that multiple fingers work when using a flatpick, but not with a thumbpick-

Kind of set in my ways now with these inferior styles- but I have pretty good speed/ fretting accuracy
 

bottlenecker

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Don Ross at YouTube makes nice, calm tutorials on Travis picking. This particular one is for beginners - I couldn't find the exact Don Ross tutorial I had in mind:


EDIT I never even heard NeverGoing Back Again :) but, I spied this at YT:


Wow, he's right about not knowing much about Merle Travis' music. It sounds like he assumed Merle did simplistic stuff because he only used his thumb and one finger.
Well, check it out and see.

 

loopfinding

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Learn "Freight Train"

I agree. Cotten rarely alternates the lower bass note.

So on the C chord, it’s mostly G and E on the thumb, there’s no C in there until she uses it for the return to the I before starting the cycle again. On the G chord, it’s just G and D. On the E and F it’s just octaves.

That’s a good place to start to get the thumb automatic. John Fahey too almost only does the octave, but the lessons/transcriptions out there are going to be harder to find.

Then after you can look at the Chet version of freight train for doing the whole alternating low note and inner dyad thing.
 

codamedia

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In country, that’s you’re I IV and V.

You lost me on that line.... did I miss your point? (I'm sorry if I did)

Travis picking existed before Country Music became a "known genre", and and it is anything by I IV V.
That would be like suggesting Glen Miller arrangements are equivalent to "Shake, Rattle and Roll"
 

billy logan

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Lotsa Merle Travis history and technique in here!

At 3:28 Mose Rager (hard "g" in Rager)
At 8:00 John Knowles


Did you know Merle Travis and Grandpa Jones were hunting and fishing buddies? I didn't!

That documentary stayed interesting and entertaining the whole way to the point I gotta name names:

Kentucky Educational Television copyright 2015

Producer/Director ... Tom Thurmann
Executive Producer for Kentucky Muse ... Teresa Day
Videography ... David Dampler and Frank Simkonis
Location Audio/Audio Post ... Brent Abshear

btw In home movies Merle Travis swings a golf club like a lefty ... Was he left-handed?
 
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rsclosson

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I don't have this book. but I have others from the same author:


His other books are very well put together and understandable. I wonder if anybody here has tried it.
 




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