Guitar Tricks Blog
Posted: September 26, 2018

Travis Picking with Songs for Beginners and Advanced Players

You’ve probably heard of Travis picking, which is a very popular type of fingerpicking technique. Travis picking is when the guitar player uses their thumb to strike alternating bass notes while controlling the treble notes with their other fingers. This type of fingerpicking is widely used in blues, ragtime, country, folk, pop and more. 

For the creation of this alternative picking style, guitar players may thank Merle Travis, a country singer known for songs such as “Sixteen Tons” and “I am a Pilgrim.”  A number of artists and guitar players have adopted this fingerstyle like Chet Atkins, Doc Watson, James Taylor, Dave Von Ronk, Jim Croce and more! 

With that being said, here are just a handful of songs you have to learn to get started on your Travis picking. 

Hang Me, Oh Hang Me by Dave Van Ronk

This song is a great song to start off with if you’re new to Travis picking. It’s a slow one so it gives you a lot of space to practice picking alternating bass notes with your thumb. It also only uses a handful of open chords so if you’re solid with your fundamentals, this is a great place to begin your finger picking journey. Sure, the song is a bit of a downer, but you’ll have a lot of fun fingerpicking! Learn how to play “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” here.

 

Just Breathe by Pearl Jam 

The Travis picking employed in this song is a bit faster than the previous song on this list but it’s exactly the same pattern just at a faster tempo. The great thing about Travis picking is that it’s more or less the same patterns but every artist and guitar player adds their own flare and embellishments. Just as Dave, the instructor for this song says, the picking sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Give it a try. Learn how to play “Just Breathe” right here.

 

Deep River Blues by Doc Watson

If you want a challenge with Travis picking, this is a great song to learn. Not only does it feature standard Travis picking but Doc Watson also adds some runs across the bass notes and a handful of fast chord changes. The song will ask the player to move up and down the neck, as well as bend and slide. If you want to learn how to sound like a one-person band, mastering Travis picking on guitar is a great way to do that. Learn how to play “Deep River Blues” right here.

What do you think of Travis picking? If you're a fan, we have an entire series of lessons right here. Do you find it difficult? Or do you prefer another type of fingerpicking guitar style? Let us know in the comments! And don't forget to share this with your friends.

Get More Tips

More Content By Category