Fred Sokolow – Travis Picking for Beginners
Mar 27 2015
Merle Travis’ brilliant fingerpicking style inspired Chet Atkins and generations of country, folk, bluegrass and rock guitarists. Travis picking is a very complete use of the guitar: when you play steady, alternating bass notes with your thumb and pick melodies with your fingers you’re playing lead, rhythm and bass all by yourself. But how do you keep that thumb-bass independent so it doesn’t get derailed when your fingers pick the melody?
Fred makes it easy for beginners or intermediate guitarists by breaking it all down and taking each song step by step. First you learn the melody, then add the bass, then add the syncopation that makes it swing. Split screen versions of the songs with closeups of both hands will help you learn Travis style, and the booklet that comes with this video has all the tunes written in tablature and music … it’s a great introduction to fingerpicking! Songs include Nine Pound Hammer, I Am a Pilgrim, Windy and Warm, Whispering and Mack the Knife.
Fred’s videos are actually designed for the rank beginner, however. They’re designed for intermediate to advanced to skilled players and are pretty well labeled as to their level. The video in question is designed for competent rhythm guitarists who want to learn “Travis” style fingerpicking. This is generic “Travis picking.” That is, what’s called Travis picking on the street. It is not and frankly has nothing to do with the manner in which Merle Travis actually played the guitar. There are a few videos out that address his very sophistocated style of thumb and one finger guitar playing. This video is devoted to a three finger style of playing very popular among “folk” musicians of the 60s like Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Judy Colins and many other players. This video concentrates on right hand technique. If you don’t know basic chord forms you’ll find yourself frustrated like the previous reviewer. Anyone who can strum “Louie, Louie” can probably learn the techniques on this video. If you can’t do that however, you probably need a more basic instructional video. Sokolow’s video is very well organized to do what it does: teach pick players a basic form of fingerpicking. Fred is an expert fingerstyle player and has many more comprehensive videos on fingerstyle technique.
His books are always very well laid out and he gives clear, concise explanations of things, and generally his books are geared toward intermediate guitarists. This video gives ample time to explanations, slowed down passages and practice tips, and the camera work is excellent (plus you get a tab booklet).
For example, in the 16+ minute chapter on the first song (yes, 16 minutes for a simple song – how is that not sufficient instruction?) Fred lays it out. He basically says that Travis picking just requires repetition of the various syncopated picking combinations until muscle memory takes over and things click. That pretty much says it all, and when you break down the songs on this video into little bits and pieces you then get the exercises needed to learn this difficult style.
Running time: 01:57:33
Video: MPEG2 NTSC 4:3 (720×480) VBR
Audio: AC3, 2/0 ch, 192Kbps
Booklet: Yes (PDF)
Size: 4.5 Gb