Travis Picking Simplified: Introduction

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Hey y'all, this is Caren for Guitar Tricks and today I'm delighted to be speaking with you on the subject of Travis picking. The Travis pick has its roots in countless musical styles: blues, jazz, country, pop, folk, ragtime, and more. Travis picking can be taken into innumerable musical directions from the beautifully simple to the fantastically complex. Today we start with a basic pattern that will provide a great accompaniment for many of the songs you already know.

The beautiful thing about the Travis pick is that you control the time/rhythm and the bass via your rotating thumb (alternating bass) which is the technique that ties virtually every style of Travis playing together. This alternating bass motion is fundamental to the Travis pick. Not only do you get 2 bass notes for every chord you play, but you get control over your down beats.

You control the treble/top strings with your fingers. Today we'll be using a repeated pattern, but as your independence builds you will be able to play endless melodic variations with your treble strings against the steady beat of your rotating thumb. Rhythm, bass, harmonic content, you're a band in a box with the Travis pick!

In this tutorial we'll learn a very basic Travis pick I call the "Simplified Travis". I feel it is the easiest to play and with this pattern we can learn all the good habits we need to see us on to more advanced Travis picking in the future.

We will be taking a detailed look at our right hand and learn about something I call "the position" and how using it is crucial to being a truly excellent picker. We'll start with fundamentals and work our way up to using the simplified Travis in 3 different keys.

I have an easy, extremely useful exercise for you that will get you up and running quickly. As a songwriter, performer and a teacher I have been using numerous variations of the Travis pick for many years and have developed my own specific style. Feel free to browse over to my website, there's a little jukebox on my home page and you can hear some of my picking there!

Caren Armstrong
Instructor Caren Armstrong

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