Travis Picking Guitar

Those Gamblers Blues (St. James Infirmary) – #Travis #Picking #Guitar #Tablature

This song was published in Carl Sandburg’s book “The American Songbag,” in 1927 as “Those Gambler’s Blues.” Most references that I could find regarding the song “St. James Infirmary” say that it was written and copyrighted by Joe Primrose in 1929. It’s definitely the same song, and Carl Sandburg not only didn’t mention Joe Primrose in 1927, he spoke of the song as if it was already an old song with apparently no known author.

I haven’t recorded it but I’m including an easy Melody & Accompaniment arrangement with strumming and a fingerstyle Travis Picking arrangement.


Melody & Accompaniment:


Travis Picking:

House of the Rising Sun – Pattern Picking for Guitar


House of the Rising Sun provides great practice for beginners because all of the chords are basic chords that you will use many times in the future. The melody notes in the “Melody & Accompaniment” arrangement are very simple and should be fairly easy even if you are just starting out. This song has been recorded by everybody from the Animals to Doc Watson and everybody does it a little differently. My recording is a combination of the 6/8 arpeggio pattern and the 4/4 pattern picking arrangements but you can play the song any way you choose to.


Melody & Accompaniment:


6/8 Time Arpeggio:

(I played this at the beginning of the recording)


4/4 Time “Pattern Picking”:

(This is what I played while singing the verses in the recording)


Intermediate Flatpick Solo:

(This is not on the recording but is another example of how you can play the song)

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…


We Three Kings – Guitar Tab


The first tablature is a Travis picking arrangement. It’s what I played on the recording before singing the first verse. Traditionally this song is played in 3/4 time, but on the recording I played it in 4/4 time, which I prefer for this song.

I didn’t tab out the fingerstyle accompaniment that I used but it’s basically the same style without anything extra (just the chords).


Here’s a simplified chord accompaniment arrangement (bottom line) along with the melody (top line).


If you prefer 3/4 time, here’s an melody and accompaniment arrangement for you.

Good King Wenceslas – Guitar Tab


I recorded this song in kind of a bluesy Travis Picking style. Here’s my arrangement that I played for the breaks on the recording. For the verses I just played the chords, in the same style but without the melody.


The Melody & Accompaniment arrangement below shows an easy way to accompany a song fingerstyle (the bottom line of tab). Just use your thumb to alternate the bass notes on the counts of 1 and 3, and use your index and middle fingers to pluck up on the other two notes I’ve written in. They’re all part of the chord so you don’t have to worry about playing notes outside of the chord. Of course, the top line of tab is just the basic melody of the song, which you can play for extra practice on playing melodies.


Here’s an easier fingerstyle solo. In arranging this I mostly just put a chord at the beginning of each measure and then followed that with melody notes. That’s an easy way to create your own arrangements that works well many times. For those chords on the count of 1 that require you to play 3 notes, use your thumb for the lowest one (the bass note), your index finger for the middle note, and your index finger for the highest note, which will usually be a melody note.