Tips & Techniques
Q&A: Travis Picking vs. "Normal" Fingerstyle
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Hey friends! Answering a listener question today from Patreon. The topic is Travis picking, and what makes it different from traditional fingerstyle guitar. I’ll explain the absolute basics of Travis picking, show how they’re different than “normal” fingerpicking, and we’ll look at one tab (the intro to Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide) which can be played using either style.
On the topic of Landslide in particular, this is a song I originally learned using “normal” fingerpicking, where each of my right-hand fingers was “assigned” to a string (e.g., thumb only played the 5th string for the C, G/B, and Am chords). In recent years I learned of the Travis Picking technique, where the thumb alternates between the 5th and 4th string on those same chords (for this particular riff) – and I find it’s a helpful example to look at when describing these techniques.
Here’s some video lessons I’ve made that use the “traditional” fingerstyle approach:
- True Colors (Justin Timberlake)
- Yesterday (The Beatles)
- House of the Rising Sun (The Animals)
- Lookin’ Out My Backdoor (CCR)
- The Wind (Cat Stevens)
- You’ve Got a Friend in Me (Randy Newman)
- …and many more!
And here’s some video lessons I’ve made that use the Travis picking style:
- Hello In There (John Prine)
- Clay Pigeons (John Prine)
- My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight (John Prine)
- If I Had a Boat (Lyle Lovett)
- Sleeping on the Blacktop (Colter Wall)
- Let Him Roll (Guy Clark)
- …and many more!
PDFs are available for all lessons via the links above.
As always, I hope the explanation & demonstration is helpful! Thanks Scot for the question. If you have a question you’d like me to answer, send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ll see what I can do.
Thanks all! David
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