Finger style guitar is a very common way to play through songs where you are performing the baseline, the harmony and the melody line simultaneously. Travis style fingerpicking it’s a sub-genre of finger style guitar and it got its name after Merle Travis who in turn learned it from Mose Rager. in fact, this style of guitar playing can be traced back to the music traditions of Eastern Kentucky.
In its earliest form was played and developed by blues guitarists such as Mississippi John Hurt and Blind Blake. therefore many believe that this style of guitar playing should in fact be named after one of them however it was Merle who brought it to the mainstream and wider public appeal say he was credited for it’s development.
You can easily recognize Travis picking by the fact that it has a constant alternating bass line being played while the melody sings along over the top of it. In early blues this style was known and Piedmont Blues and you can still hear the early recordings today that have been cleaned up as much as possible and put into digital format. The sound is hardly Hi-Fi but for any blues enthusiast it’s a goldmine of music.
Technically in order to play Travis style picking you need to be able to establish be alternating bass notes as being completely independent from the melody line for which is being played above it. This can take some practice to achieve however it is essential that you can maintain this constant alternating bass regardless of what you’re playing over the top of it. The best way to learn how to do this is to follow in sequence a series of exercises on guitar which gradually teach your fingershow to isolate one element from the other.
And What About Barre Chords?
Travis picking is mostly played using open chords as the open strings allow for many suspensions to happen as chords transfer from one to another however it’s also employed extensively with barre chords such as in Rockabilly (for a great course on barre chords click here) and you should check out Chet Atkins for examples of how awesome this style of guitar can sound. This is were acoustic style travis fingerpicking got modernized into electric guitar and the mainstream.