Learn how to use the Travis picking technique on guitar with Lars Schurse. It can be really useful when you play folk music, but also everything from ragtime to the blues.
Named after country guitarist Merle Travis, the Travis picking technique is achieved by alternating the thumb between two (and sometimes three) bass strings in steady quarter notes while the fingers pluck the higher strings, usually between the quarter notes (on the off-beats).
Due to the father of this guitar style, you call this technique “Travis picking”. Today we will examine this technique and with a little practice you should be able to write your own Travis picking arrangements.
This exercise shows how Travis picking can be used to play a jazz standard such as John Coltrane‘s Giant Steps.
Let’s break this technique down into its components.
This exercise shows you the bassline, the basis of the arrangement. You play the root on beat ‘1’ the fifth on beat ‘3’ of each bar. Be sure to palm mute those bass strings and use downstrokes exclusively.
Example 3 adds chord notes on D- and G-string. These are played on beat 2 and 4. Again you should strictly use downstrokes.
The final step is adding melody notes on the higher strings. Those should be plucked with your middle finger (m) and ring finger (a).
In this case, you’ll find the fifth for the alternating bass in the same fret as the root, only on the E-string.
Add chord tones on ‘2’ and ‘4’.
Melody notes on B- and E-string.
Now you should experiment with this technique: Write your own Travis picking arrangements!
You can find Giant Steps on my album Noodlin’ which is available on iTunes and Amazon.
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