This Travis Picking edition of Take 5 from Muriel Anderson is an accelerated curriculum designed to help get your Travis Picking technique up and running quickly without having to struggle through a lot of tedious exercises and boring etudes. Work through the course and you’ll have a basic but solid Travis Picking technique under your belt and five Travis Picking pieces in your repertoire!
”For me, learning guitar as a kid was a fun, natural, and very gradual process. But the thing that really grabbed me was Travis picking. I had learned to change chords and strum and sing along folk songs with other people, and occasional bass runs and arpeggios, but when my teacher came in with this Travis tune that was it! How cool was it to keep a bass going and play the melody at the same time!
But it wasn’t until I was an adult many years later that I actually heard the music of Merle Travis after whom the style was named, and I realized that what he was doing was really quite different from the Travis picking I learned as a kid. So, what I’d like to do is give you an intro to Travis-style picking and also work in some of those cool little details, some of the things that he was doing to give it that Muhlenberg County authentic sound”
You’ll start the course with a quick primer during which Muriel will give you seven lessons that you can do to achieve a more genuine Travis picking technique: Muting the bass and “choking the strings” as Travis called it, Using the Thumbpick, Bracing the Pinky, Moving the Thumb in Little Circles, Hitting More Than One String on Beats 2 & 4, Bass Notes, Use of the Thumb on the Neck to Fret Notes and Play Bass Runs, Two Fingers are Enough, Syncopation, and Good Solid Beat.
Muriel will then guide you through 5 Travis Picking performance studies, progressing from basic to more advanced applications of the technique.
Level 1: Travis Picking
”Let’s start with just an accompaniment part using the thumb only. We’ll use “I Am a Pilgrim,” a traditional song that Merle Travis played a lot. It’s a great one to start with because it uses a lot of the typical chord positions that he used in the key of E. We’ll do the A chord three different ways.”
Level 2: Travis Picking
In this next version of “I Am a Pilgrim”, we’re going to add in some of those melody notes (not all of them). We’ll work in that index finger and also add a syncopated feel. So instead of everything on the beat, we’ll be playing notes in between the beats as well. Adding melody notes while keeping the bass going — that’s what Travis picking is all about!”
Level 3: Travis Picking
Travis had some really cool accompaniments to his singing. He was really well known for a traditional tune called Nine Pound Hammer (also known in other contexts as “Roll on Buddy” and “Take This Hammer” ). In this song, he’s got that bass going, a melody riff, and adds bass runs. So, this is really 3 exercises in one–you can just work on the bass-chord accompaniment to keep it simple if you like, and/or add the melody, then the bass runs.”
Travis had some really cool accompaniments to his singing. He was really well known for a traditional tune called Nine Pound Hammer (also known in other contexts as Roll on Buddy and Take This Hammer.”
Level 4: Travis Picking
Next, we’ll do a little instrumental break that Merle Travis played in between singing the verses in “Nine Pound Hammer”. He played it a little differently each time and you can do the same — you’ll eventually want to develop your own style. But first, it’s best to get a solid feel and learning this note for note will help you do that.”
Level 5: Travis Picking
This final version of “I Am a Pilgrim” gets a little closer to how Travis might have done it in concert. We’re going to fill in some of those melody notes and add some of Travis’ signature riffs. We start with a little syncopated intro that starts on the “and” of the first beat (the offbeat). Now that you’re more comfortable with syncopation, you can decide on the fly whether to play on the beat or syncopated.”
Muriel will explain and demonstrate all of the key concepts and approaches along the way. You’ll get standard notation and tabs for all of the Performance Studies. In addition, you’ll be able to loop or slow down any of the videos so that you can work with the lessons at your own pace.
Grab your guitar and let’s “choke some strings” with Muriel Anderson!
About the Take 5 Series
TrueFire’s Take 5 courses feature an accelerated curricular approach to help students get up to speed quickly on a particular style or technique. Each Take 5 course starts with a primer on the particular style or technique and then guides the student through 5 performance studies progressing from basic applications to more sophisticated approaches.