After years of wanting to, I finally some time getting the Travis Picking pattern into my fingers. It's still new, so I'm not nearly as proficient as I am with, for example, my forward roll.

The problems I still see are:

  • A time gap when switching chords, especially C to G
  • A tendency to stick to the middle four strings, avoiding the G note of the G chord

Beyond "use the metronome", which is the obvious, correct and everpresent advice for most musical failings, what can I practice to get closer to Merle Travis's guitar style?

1 Answer 1


I suspect the time gap when changing chords has little to do with picking - after all, it's the responibilty of the fretting hand!

Only concerning that aspect - practise hammering-on the chord shapes - all, not just C and G. Finger a chord shape, play it, then lift off around a quarter of an inch, then simultaneously slam all fretting fingers onto the fingerboard, and hold down for a couple of seconds. continue, till you can make the fretted strings sound together. That will mean that eventually, each chord will be played more promptly, as everything will be in place sooner.

Try hammering-on a C chord, then a G chord, then a C, then a G. Don't worry about the open strings - that's where the Travis picking - with the other hand - comes in to play.

  • It's more "I need to get the sixth string in, where's my thumb?" I can keep ... decent tempo? ... even just going for the third on the fifth string, but I sacrifice having the root for tempo, or vice versa. Oct 11, 2020 at 1:21
  • Is your picking hand/arm floating around, or anchored? Try keeping your forearm on the belly of the guitar, so putting the whole of your hand in place over all the strings.
    – Tim
    Oct 12, 2020 at 8:16

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