Next we use our newfound Travis picking knowledge to break away from 1st position and apply this technique to a typical chord progression (Ex. 5). In measure six, pre-plant the G in the melody with the barred first finger, so the note sustains over the barline. When arranging for solo guitar it can be advantageous to anticipate a melody note this way, because it gives you an extra split second to get a chord into position.
Ex. 6 demonstrates a simple triplet fill that can add some spice to any progression. On beat 3, use thumb, index, and middle fingers to roll the triplet figure. Once you play the open G, hop over with the thumb for the “thump” on beat 4. I think of this as a fingerstyle rudiment, one of many that you will find popping up frequently in this style. It gives your playing a bit of a ragtime feel. Take this one slowly! Make sure you don’t rush the triplet or the whole thing will fall apart.
Now let’s put this triplet into a simple C–E7–Am–G chord progression (Ex. 7). To enhance the harmonic motion, country songwriters often include the III7 or VIm (E7 and Am, in this case) in their chord progressions. With all the action going on in the accompaniment, try not to forget about our friend the melody line. There’s lots of syncopation going on in this one. How much fun is that?
To get the most mileage out of this lesson, take this new right-hand technique and apply it to different chord progressions you already know. Travis picking sounds great in everything from simple country tunes to harmonically tricky jazz standards. Until next time, may the chords be with you!