This month I'd like to show you a cool rockabilly picking pattern called Travis picking. Travis picking sounds as fresh and immediate today as it did 40 years ago on Elvis records such as “That’s Alright Mama” and “Mystery Train.” If you’re into rockabilly and roots country, it’s essential to have a strong Travis groove in your bag of tricks. It took me a while to figure out how to get the sound because even though I knew there was only one guitarist, it sounded like there were two playing at the same time. When I finally figured it out I realized that it’s two parts played simultaneously: an alternating bass and a simple independent chord pattern on the higher strings.
This lesson is a 12-bar blues consisting of four must-know Travis-style rockabilly licks and some classic bass note “walk ups.”
Here are some playing tips:
Play it using the classic country righthand technique called hybrid picking: flatpick plus middle and ring fingers.
The foundation for each lick is the strong, alternating quarter-note bass line. Play it with flatpicked down strokes.
Practice each lick slowly until you feel a rolling flow, and then link them together as a progression.
Barre the second position A chord with your 2nd finger by rolling it over from the E7 chord.
In bar 9, use a barre at the 5th fret to hammer into A7. Follow this with a quick 7th fret half barre, which swings you into a quick D triad. Use the same move a whole step higher for the B7 lick in bar 17.
Bars 19 and 20 feature descending diatonic barre chords picked using a banjo roll. Watch the right-hand fingering and keep the bass steady. Be sure to palm mute the bass notes.
Add a slapback delay at 125ms with one repeat and off you go! —Steve Trovato