Stephen Foster

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…


O Susanna – Clawhammer Ukulele

Another Stephen Foster classic, “O Susanna” works out well in the clawhammer style for ukulele. Sorry about the quality of the video. It’s an old video from about ten years ago and I haven’t gotten around to re-recording it since then.

There are four tab arrangements, with the first being the melody and then three levels of clawhammer uke arrangements including a beginner arrangement, an intermediate arrangement with slurred notes but no drop them, and finally an arrangement that includes drop thumb.




Clawhammer Arrangement #1 (Basic):


Clawhammer Arrangement #2 (Intermediate – Includes slurred notes but no drop thumb):


Clawhammer Arrangement #3 (Advanced – Includes slurred notes and drop thumb):

My Old Kentucky Home – Clawhammer and Bluegrass Ukulele

I’m including four tablature arrangements of this song — the melody, two clawhammer ukulele arrangements, and a bluegrass ukulele arrangement that uses bluegrass style rolls on the uke. I haven’t done a lot of bluegrass style arrangements for the uke but it works out well for many songs and if there’s any interest in it I’ll do some more in the future. Let me know if you’d like more of those.

As always, if you’re not familiar with the clawhammer ukulele technique you should watch my four videos that teach this technique.

The video is actually just my original MP3 recording from 2005 that I put in video format so I could upload it to YouTube. Since it’s a well known Stephen Foster song that’s now in the public domain there are no copyright restrictions so I may do a more in depth video tutorial on it at sometime in the future.



All of the other arrangements use this one as their basic foundation.


Clawhammer Arrangement #1 (Basic):


Clawhammer Arrangement #2 (Intermediate):


Bluegrass Arrangement:

This arrangement uses bluegrass-style banjo rolls adapted for the ukulele.

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