Guitar Strumming

Camptown Races – Travis Picking and Guitar Strumming

“Camptown Races” is a comic song by Stephen Foster, published in 1850 in Foster’s Plantation Melodies. I’m including three of my own arrangements of this song but I haven’t recorded it. It’s an easy melody and is a great beginner song for learning Travis picking on the guitar.

The first arrangement is Melody & Accompaniment, with alternating bass and strumming in the guitar part (bottom line).

The simplified arrangement below might be best thought of more of an exercise or a demonstration of how Travis picking works. If you go along and just play the notes on the top three strings you will be playing the melody. If you just play the notes on the bottom three strings you are playing alternating bass notes. Playing them both at the same time takes some practice. In this exercise there are only quarter notes so you’ll have less to worry about while getting used to the technique. When you’re ready for a challenge try the more advanced Travis picking arrangement of Camptown Races.

When playing the G chord, be sure to use fingers 2, 3, and 4, with your 4th finger (pinky) holding down the 2nd string most of the time instead of the 1st string (because the melody happens to be on the 2nd string). Remember, any time you see a chord chart it tells you the general position your fingers should be in, but if the tablature tells you to play a different position while holding the chord you should make that change but still hold the chord if possible. In this case much of the melody is on the 2nd string 3rd fret and very little on the 1st string 3rd fret, so it’s easy to hold down the 2nd string with your pinky while still holding down the regular chord position for the G chord on the 5th and 6th strings.

The D chord is also different in this arrangement than you are probably used to. The 1st string and the 6th string are both tuned to E when played open, so played at the 2nd fret they would both be F# notes. Therefore in order to get a better bass sound we’re playing the F# on the 6th string and not worrying about holding down or playing the 1st string unless necessary.


Here’s the standard Travis picking arrangement. It takes the arrangement above and adds in eighth notes, hammer-ons, and pull-offs…


Bury Me Beneath the Willow – Flatpick Guitar Tablature

I’m including three different tablature for this tune: a “Melody and Accompaniment” arrangement that includes two lines of tab (the melody on the top line and what I played while singing the verses on the bottom line), an intermediate flatpicking solo that I played between a couple of the verses, and a simplified solo for beginners.



Melody & Accompaniment:


Flatpicking Solo that I played on the recording:


Simplified Flatpicking Solo:

Blue Mountain – Easy Guitar Strumming – 3/4 Time

This is one of my favorite old cowboy tunes. I’m not sure of its origin but I think it’s probably from the early 1900s. The two tablature lines include the melody on top and the simple 3/4 time strumming pattern I played on the recording.


Here are the complete lyrics…

Blue Mountain

My home it was in Texas
My past you must not know
For I seek a refuge from the law
Where the sage and pinion grow

Blue Mountain, you’re azure deep
Blue Mountain with sides so steep
Blue Mountain with a horse head upon your side
You have won my heart to keep

For the brand “LC” I ride
And the sleeper calves on the side
I’ll own the hip side and shoulder when I grow older
Zapitaro, don’t you tan my hide

(Repeat chorus)

I chum with Latigo Gordon
I drink at the Blue Goose Saloon
I dance at night with the Mormon girls
And ride home beneath the moon

(Repeat chorus)

I trade at Muns’s store
With bullet holes in the door
His calico treasure my horse can measure
When I’m drunk and feeling sore

(Repeat chorus)

Yarn Gallus with shortened lope
Doc Few-Clothes without any soap
In the little green valley have made their sally
And for Slicks there’s still some hope

(Repeat chorus)

In the summer time it’s fine
In the winter the wind does whine
But say, dear brother, if you want a mother
There’s Ev on the old chuck line

(Repeat chorus)

Big Rock Candy Mountain – Flatpick Guitar Tablature

This is one of my favorite songs in this style. I learned the song from the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and it was one of the most popular songs from the movie. It’s an old hobo song that was originally recorded back in the 1920s. Over the years the bum lyrics have been replaced and cleaned up in some more modern versions (e.g. cigarette trees have become peppermint trees, etc.).


My first arrangement contains the backup that I played throughout my own recording, which is similar to the Harry McClintock recording from 1928. Note that the first 21 measures are just the intro at the beginning of the song. The actual first verse begins at measure 22.


The arrangement below is what I played on the guitar break after singing the 2nd verse.


Here’s the 1928 Harry McClintock recording…