tell me i'm not hopeless (travis picking, etc)

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by yellowecho, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. yellowecho

    yellowecho Member

    Messages:
    3,284
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2006
    Location:
    Alabama
    I can't seem to get comfortable with fingerpicking (Travis and the like).
    I'd really like to play more delta blues-type stuff, but I can't seem to separate my bass and melody lines and do so with speed.

    Is it one of those practices where you start really really slow and work up the speed? I started practicing yesterday by working on Dear Prudence, but I'm still sloppy. I think I'm just being inpatient.
     
  2. Ooogie

    Ooogie Member

    Messages:
    485
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2008
    Thumb independence takes time and it is just a matter of practice but there are some exercises that help. There is some good instructional material out there though, here are a couple I think are good...they start off really basic but cover pretty much everything.

    Fingerstyle Blues Handbook - This covers the steady bass style (check out the free samples by clicking the See This Now link). There are quite a few samples to get you started...

    http://truefire.com/fsbhandbook/handbook.html

    Fingerstyle Blues Handbook 2 - This is the second part and moves on into the alternating bass style...

    http://truefire.com/handbook2/handbook2.html

    Homespun also has a good DVD with Happy Traum...

    -Mark
     
  3. OlAndrew

    OlAndrew Member

    Messages:
    2,350
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
    Location:
    Sedona, Arizona
    Not hopeless, just takes a lot of time playing it. Just do something slow and easy, and keep at it until it feels easy, then start adding little things. There's a lot of easy stuff you can do in E minor or A minor. Maybe listen to some early John Fahey for ideas, but mostly just sit back and play around with it. Takes awhile, just take it easy and keep at it.

    How I did it, (to the extent that I did)
     
  4. Stringmaster

    Stringmaster Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,344
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    Location:
    North San Diego County
    I struggled with the same thing--thumb independence, for about 30 years--finally several years ago, I took a "make it or break it" approach--I decided to practice "ad nauseum", solely on the alternating bass--I gave it a whole summer, and it paid off. I would just sit in front of the TV and go "boom-chuck" for hours, focusing on good time and not speed. I think most instructors will tell you that--your're better off staying slow and accurate, vs fast and sloppy. Then just build from there, adding small challenges such as gripping different strings, in sync, and later adding simple syncopations. There are a lot of materials out there to help you along. I think this thumb independence comes more naturally to some than others, and I've definately had to work on it (and continue to do so). So I'd say keep at it--have a structured practice routine and avoid "noodling". Keep it simple at first, and once a concept is mastered, move on to more challenging things--one step at a time!
     
  5. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Messages:
    7,026
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Travis picked for a long time, and went to a seminar by the son of travis, Thom Bresh, he had a lot of great suggestions.

    1) Use a thumbpick, this lets you palm mute the bass A and E string, to get the great thud when its picked

    2) its a two time through out 1 & 2 & , trying to make it a four time just screws things up.

    3) He played an electric, acoustics are hard to find a neck that you can
    use your thumb to cover the Bass A and E strings.

    4) use your thumb to cover the bass A and e strings.

    5) Merle only used his thumb and index finger, so does Doc Watson, Thom used his index ring and middle fingers, he let the ring finger just follow his middle finger, pinky anchored the hand.

    Hope there is something there that helps.
     
  6. yellowecho

    yellowecho Member

    Messages:
    3,284
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2006
    Location:
    Alabama
    Thanks for the links, those are excellent tutorials!
    the hand positioning taught in the first lesson is already a big help.

    Thanks for the encouraging words and advice from everyone! I'm off to practice now!
     
  7. sausagefingers

    sausagefingers Supporting Member

    Messages:
    10,283
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2007
    Location:
    'Neath the shade of an old walnut tree
    The new Guitar Player magazine (Sept issue with Metheny cover) has a feature on Travis picking, including some nice exercises to develop your thumb independance.

    Me, I have decided to keep the regular pick, (rather than drop it for true Travis style) and then I just use middle and ring for the upper notes. Brian Setzer (and other rockabilly types) does something similar, and for that looser style, you can get away with it.
     
  8. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Messages:
    7,026
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    personally I have stopped using a pick, found them to limiting in my playing just palm mute the bass strings, its easier with a thumb pick, but the thumb pick really limits what you can play. Of course I am a lefty playing righty, so the pick is not natural to begin with for me, and I can do everything I did with a pick now.
     
  9. CrazyFingers

    CrazyFingers Member

    Messages:
    198
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2007
    Location:
    The Garden State
    If you're just starting out, try this: seems very simple but it's a good way to get the 'feel' of thum/finger independence.

    Finger a G chord.

    Just thump the 6 & 4 strings. thump, thump, thump.....
    Keep that going until you really get rhythm going

    Now add an open string (any one of the top 3) while keeping the thumb going.

    At first, you'll tend to hit it at the same time as the thump, thump of the bass. That's fine. Switch upper strings any way you want. Keep the thumb going....

    ...then try syncopating the higher strings (i.e. hit them off the thumb beats).

    Keep it simple, just one at a time. It may sound crummy at first, but concentrate on keeping the thumb going. If you try to fix two things at once it will all come crashing down.

    Pretty soon you won't even be thinking about the thumb and you can focus on the higher strings.

    If you're real brave, try using the bottom three strings for the bass:
    6-4-5-4
    6-4-5-4
    6-4-5-4
    6-4-5-4

    etc.

    Good luck. Have Fun!
     

Share This Page