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Finger Picking Lessons; Picking Patterns #5 – 9

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Finger picking tab.
Picking Pattern
#5  (Travis pick)

This next finger picking pattern is the same picking pattern as Pattern #2 but the only difference is the picking hand position.  This position for this pattern is in the middle 4 strings (5,4,2,1,) whereas Pattern #2 is on the high strings (4,3,2, 1).  So this picking pattern will be easy for you to learn because you have already it.  It’s just that now you’ll have a different anchor position. 

If you haven’t read about “finger picking hand position” yet you need to now because in these lessons we are going be working on the skill of using them.  Read Finger Picking Hand Position to learn about it or refresh your memory.

First lets work on the patterns, then will work on developing your skill at changing your picking had position.

Hand Position for these patterns is;

          Audio samples /   /  /

.  DD Chord

        2    T    1    T    2    T    1        T    2    T    1    T    2    T    1

So we are going to work on you hand position with these exercises.

You must learn to move your finger picking hand position as you are playing. Usually you will do this one notch at a time.  So this is what will do.  Moving your picking hand position “down” on the strings as you play, means moving you position so as to pick the middle strings and not the high strings.  (Moving “down” means toward your “nose” not your “toes.”  This is because “down” has to do with the pitch of the notes and not the direction of the string.)   As for the audio samples for Patterns #5 and #2 – They sound similar but they are not exactly the same. The #2 pattern is done on the four high strings of the guitar – e, b, g, and d strings.   The #5 pattern is the same finger picking pattern except it’s done on the middle strings of the guitar – the b, g, d, and a strings.  Some have told me they are the same but they’re not.

    Try this finger picking exercise;

After you get comfortable with your anchor change for this pattern, try this exercise. Try to play pattern #2 and then switch to pattern #5 and then back to #2 and then again to #5 and so on over and over until you learn to change your anchor hand position as you continually play the same picking pattern.  This will help teach you to change your anchor while still playing.  To help you with this keep in mind what we talked about in the finger picking lessons #1 -4.  Namely that your “anchor” doesn’t have to be “plastered” or “glued” to the guitar top.  The only purpose the anchor is serving is to help you keep your orientation in relation to the strings.  Once you “know where you are” so to speak, you don’t have to keep “pushing” down on your anchor to keep it stationary.  This will hinder the “music” you are trying to make.  Learn to lighten up on the anchor so that it’s almost just a touch on the guitar top.  This will help you in changing your anchor position.  After a while it will happen naturally and you will give it little thought.


Finger picking tab.
Picking Pattern
(Travis pick)

 Audio samples /Pat.6.slowPat.6.slow /

      C  chord
II—–3———————————-I- –3———————————–II
        3    T    1    T    2    T    1          3    T    1    T    2    T    1
……..T                                              T


Finger picking tab.
Picking Pattern #7
(Travis pick) 


This pattern is the same as #6 except you will start the finger picking by pinching 5th and 1st strings instead of 6th and 1st
              Audio samples /  /

C  chord  

II-*——-  2——————2——–I———2——————2——–*-II
        3    T    1    T    2    T    1         3    T    1    T    2    T    1
       T                                              T

Finger picking tab.
Picking Pattern #8
(Travis pick)

In this picking pattern you will be “skipping” the ‘a’ string with your thumb.  Your thumb will be jumping from the bass ‘e’ string to the ‘d’ string, or with this chord it’s the ‘g’ note and the ‘d’ note on the bass strings.  So consentrate on the thumb and what you’re doing with your thumb.


   Audio samples / Pat.8.slow / /          

         3    T    1    T    2    T         3    T    1    T    2    T
         T                                       T  

Finger picking tab.
Picking Pattern
(Travis pick)

This picking pattern is similar to pattern #8 except you will be adding just the one not at the end of each measure, it is the ‘g’ note played with the 1st right hand finger.  This give a little bit different rhythm to the pattern as can be heard in the “fast samples.” 

               Audio samples / /  

G   chord

………3     T    1    T    2    T    1           3    T    1    T    2    T    1
T                                                T

  Time to do some chord changes with
Travis picking patterns.

Once you’ve learned these 9 basic Travis picking patterns of the “beginning finger picking patterns” then you can start to think about your left hand and chord changes. Choose a key or a song you like with its Tonic, Dominant and Sub-dominant chords The key of G, for example is  G, C, D.  Start by changing between G and C. while using picking patterns #9 and #7.  Then add a D chord using picking pattern #1 and #3.  To do this your “hand position” or anchor must change.  If you have done the exercises mentioned for pattern #5 you will have no problem with this.   From there you can use the chord D7 which is a naturally way to throw you back to the Tonic chord G.  You can also add some relative Minor chords as well.  For example you can progress to an Em after the G, and Am after the C chords.  This is a standard type chord progression that sounds nice.  Your goal is to make these chord changes while smoothly continuing to pick so that one flows into the other.

Next try to add some notes as you change chords.  When changing from the  G chord to the Em for example add the note  f#.  Between the C and Am  add a ‘b’ note.  Between the D7 and G chord add an  f #.  This will make the  progression flow better.  To do this smoothly will take some practice.  By now though it is starting to sound like music which will make practice  a little more enjoyable.  My Dad use to say “Make it sound like music.”


Let your “Thumb Be Your Guide”

As you make chord changers and use different patterns as you go, you will find it helpful to concentrate mainly on the “thumb.”  Let the “thumb be your guide” to what you are doing.  Concentrate on the thumb and just let the fingers naturally follow the thumb.  You will need to learn to think this way especially as your picking speed increases.  Perhaps you have already noticed that as your speed increases you cannot mentally keep up with everything you are doing as you’re doing it.  This is exactly what you want! This is why you have  been “burning” these patterns into your brain.  When you begin to play faster then you can think, this means that all that repetition is paying off.  This is what you’ve been working so hard to achieve.  So good job!  Keep it up!

So to help you to “KNOW” what you are doing as you play think about concentrating on that picking hand “thumb.”  In your mine think of the bass line of notes and let the fingers follow “without giving them any thought” at all. This will help simplify things in your mind so you can play fast and clean.         

The most enjoyable way to learn to finger pick is to learn songs rather then just boring patterns.  My first music album Relax And Reminisce incorporates these 9 patterns throughout the different songs.  If you master these basic “Travis” style patterns you can learn to play most of the songs on this CD similar to the way I did when recording these songs.  By using my CD and the lyrics and chords pages of this site you can play them too.  It is tremendously helpful to listen to how the songs are played on the CD so you can try to imitate those things being done.  You will hear not just plain chord changes but you will hear interesting progressions, melody lines, harmony guitar accompaniment.  Also you will hear counter part, and counter point guitar work that all make for enjoyable, easy to listen to music.  The nice thing about this particular CD is that all the songs are rooted in these picking patterns you have learned on this site.  These are well known songs (of my generation) and you can get  some really good ideas by carefully listening to the guitar work.  As one of my students said, “Relax and Reminisce, it’s great stuff.”    
      Buy it!  You wont be sorry you did.         I promise!

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