Travis Picking: The Basics and Variations
November 18, 2009
from the Hal Leonard Acoustic Guitar Method
This first example demonstrates a basic Travis picking pattern that should help you get a feel for the technique. Note the fingering indications for the right hand: T = thumb, 1 = first finger, 2 = second finger, etc.
Here we’re moving between C and G chords. Notice the difference in the thumb pattern: we’re rocking back our forth between strings 6 and 4 on the G chord. It should be noted that the “and” of beat 2 is often slightly accented in Travis picking patterns such as these, providing a gentle syncopation that helps create a sense of momentum. Also notice that we’re not playing string 5 during the G chord at all. This means, for all practical purposes, that we don’t have to fret that string. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with fretting that string if you so choose; the point is that you have the option.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s take a look at some common variations. In example A, we’re simply striking the first two notes on beat 1 at the same time, creating a quarter note instead of two eighths. In example B, the right-hand thumb is working overtime, substituting the low 5th every other time for the root. Example C omits the first treble note altogether, beginning only with a bass note on beat 1. Example D elaborates on C, making use of the third finger to create an interesting pattern. Example E introduces a right-hand shift, which is another option when accessing higher strings. Example F elaborates on this idea with syncopation.