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  1. #1

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    I've always liked this music but haven't played at it much in a long time.

    But now I'm working on it, and by "it" I mean "Mystery Train", "That's Alright, Mama", and "Milkcow Blues Boogie" (Scotty Moore with Elvis, Sun Sessions) and the rudiments of Travis picking. (With a thumb pick and finger picks. I do some finger picking w/out such picks but I want to learn to use them, if only for special occasions.)








    I love that sound. It's not all I want to do, but I would love to have 3-4 pieces in my rep in this vein (Gene Vincent's "Race with the Devil" might be one and Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" might be another, although the latter is not exactly Travis picking. O, and Merle's "Sixteen Tons.")

    Anyone else play much rockabilly?
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    I've always liked this music but haven't played at it much in a long time.

    But now I'm working on it, and by "it" I mean "Mystery Train", "That's Alright, Mama", and "Milkcow Blues Boogie" (Scotty Moore with Elvis, Sun Sessions) and the rudiments of Travis picking. (With a thumb pick and finger picks. I do some finger picking w/out such picks but I want to learn to use them, if only for special occasions.)








    I love that sound. It's not all I want to do, but I would love to have 3-4 pieces in my rep in this vein (Gene Vincent's "Race with the Devil" might be one and Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" might be another, although the latter is not exactly Travis picking. O, and Merle's "Sixteen Tons.")

    Anyone else play much rockabilly?
    You bet! I used to a lot, and I still use Cliff Gallup licks in my jazz improv. As far as Travis picking, I like what Brian Setzer is doing with it, he seems to naturally going between swing strumming and fingerpicking like Travis. He does it a lot, actually. Check this


  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    You bet! I used to a lot, and I still use Cliff Gallup licks in my jazz improv. As far as Travis picking, I like what Brian Setzer is doing with it, he seems to naturally going between swing strumming and fingerpicking like Travis. He does it a lot, actually. Check this

    I hear more Johnny Smith in there than Merle Travis, but it's cool.
    I got into Travis' style a few years ago when I came across an old Mel Bay method book on it, and I was looking to add fingerpicking & bass accompionment to my solo playing. It's interesting the way he adds '9' chords, etc. to otherwise simple major chord stuff.

    Check out "Walkin the Strings" for great Merle Travis solo playing.

  5. #4

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    this is the style I always played before turning to jazz. I actually had to "unlearn" it to be able to play any other fingerstyle music! I suggest you go the Chet Atkins route, though, and use a thumbpick but forget the finger-picks. On a banjo they make sense, but on the guitar your nails will be better.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone View Post
    this is the style I always played before turning to jazz. I actually had to "unlearn" it to be able to play any other fingerstyle music! I suggest you go the Chet Atkins route, though, and use a thumbpick but forget the finger-picks. On a banjo they make sense, but on the guitar your nails will be better.
    I've tried that, Lawson. I use my fingertips rather than nails---don't have nails---and they get sore pretty quick. It's not bad if I'm fingerpicking a jazzy blues or a standard, but rockabilly is pretty fast and I lose definition of notes. (It would help if I wasn't using flatwounds but I'm sticking with 'em for now.)

    Nothing about this is etched in stone for me. I certainly have tried just-the-thumbpick. Never liked fingerpicks, though I'm using some Fred Kelly Freedom picks and they're the best I've found. Nice sound.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  7. #6

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    merle travis was huge influence on chet atkins and in turn cliff gallup and scotty moore

    who was merle travis' influence??

    ike everly..the dad of the everly brothers!

    probably my fave of the bunch tho is james burton...who took the fingerpicking thing to a fender tele..where it still remains firmly entrenched..burtons a master

    there were also more obscure great session guys like grady martin and phil baugh

    heres phil playin em all



    great style..have fun

    cheers

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone View Post
    this is the style I always played before turning to jazz. I actually had to "unlearn" it to be able to play any other fingerstyle music! I suggest you go the Chet Atkins route, though, and use a thumbpick but forget the finger-picks. On a banjo they make sense, but on the guitar your nails will be better.
    Agreed. This type of fingerstyle has long been my background, whereas “jazz” is a marginal interest, mainly for absorbing some working knowledge of harmony and theory for songwriting. Thumb pick is very useful for Chet/Travis playing; fingerpicks not so much (for me.)


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  9. #8

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    I have always wanted to play in this style; it seems to me that it is something every guitar player should be able to do. I am making good progress on it this year; the tunes I am working on are Sandman, Chinatown, Freight Train, and I'll See You in My Dreams.

    I find thumbpicks very uncomfortable. The style can definitely be played with a flat pick and fingers; here's proof:



    Some stuff I needed to figure out early:

    1. Damp the bass strings and be strict with the alternating bass; it is the only way to get it to sound right.
    2. Don't worry too much about double stops or chords with the fingers; check out videos of Merle Travis, he plays with the thumb pick and his index finger, with three fingers anchored on the pickguard. Play the melody as clean as you can. If you have the bass steady and the melody clean, you got it.
    3. Record yourself. If you are like me, you will find out that the bass line needs lots of work.

    Not posing as an expert on this; just sharing a beginner's viewpoint.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by nopedals View Post

    I find thumbpicks very uncomfortable. The style can definitely be played with a flat pick and fingers; here's proof:



    Some stuff I needed to figure out early:
    Chelsea Constable's really got it down. I was unfamiliar with her. Thanks for posting that.

    I want to work on this more in 2018. It won't be my main style but I do want a half dozen "boom-chick" numbers in my repertoire. (That way, I should always have one I feel like playing when the mood strikes.)

    Merle Travis was amazing at it, kept that thumb going all the time. "Cannonball Rag" is my far horizon for this style. One of these days... Chet was great but when the style becomes too polished, it loses part of iss charm (for me). I like Jerry Reed a lot too. Like Chet, he played a lot of nylon string guitar.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  11. #10

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    two of the greatest pickers-





    & revisited by the two years later!!



    cheers

    ps- dig maphis' mosely (mosrite) modded out gibby with legendary carvin ap-6 pickup!!..

  12. #11

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    Scotty Anderson is not that well known, but he has taken this style about as far as it can go.


  13. #12

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    Merle could flatpick with a thumb pick, a skill which eludes me. Johnny Winter used a thumb pick and could play lightning fast blues-rock licks with it. That always left me shaking my head. "How in the heck...?"
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  14. #13

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    Flatpicking with a thumbpick is no different than using a flat pick, at least to me. I can do that easily enough. I just can't thumbpick worth a darn.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    Flatpicking with a thumbpick is no different than using a flat pick, at least to me. I can do that easily enough. I just can't thumbpick worth a darn.

    It sure is different for me! Upstrokes are harder---the string is pulling the pick away from the thumb. Or so it feels.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  16. #15

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    You are holding the pick with your forefinger, like holding a flat pick, no? It does take a slightly different angle to get it to work.

  17. #16

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    much depends on the actual thumbpick..hit a shop up that sells picks and get as many different thumbpicks as you can...(there's not that big a choice!!)...also where you "wear" it on your thumb makes a big difference...newbies tend to stick it on the the thumb tip end...it's comfortabe and feels natural there...but if you push it down closer to the thumb joint, it really changes play


    picks have a break in time like anything else guitar related!! give'm time..don't get discouraged


    cheers

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    You are holding the pick with your forefinger, like holding a flat pick, no? It does take a slightly different angle to get it to work.
    Not lately, no. (I've been wearing finger picks on three fingers. Don't think that's a permanent change but it sure does enhance the volume and clarity of notes.) I can see where it would make a difference if I used the forefinger too, though I angle my flat pick in a way that I don't think a thumbpick would comfortably go.

    For the record, I'm using a Fred Kelly Bumble Bee pick lately. Good pick. It's a pick with a loop, really. The pick is shaped like a Jazz III (but made of Delrin) and a loop attaches it to the thumb. It's the most comfortable thumb pick I've found.

    Here's Fred Kelly himself demonstrating his Bumble Bee thumb pick (-he makes more conventional looking ones too) and his Freedom finger picks.

    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  19. #18

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    Well, ISTM that if you're not holding it like a flatpick, you're not playing it like a flatpick. Maybe we're talking about different things. Semantics can sometimes be important.

  20. #19

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    been sportin mismatched nails on my hands for years..my left hand nails are cropped short as can be...no banging against the fretboard..poor rosewood!...but the right hand nails go long enough so that i can decide (on the fly) between fingertips or nails on the right hand fingerpicking

    also don't mix your blues thumbpicking tradition ala johnny winter (who i saw & dug) and merle travis style..2 different styles requiring different thinking and hardware!! hah

    my guy, james burton flatpicked, but used the remaining three fingers to fingerpick...probably about the fastest method i've heard...at least the way he does it!!! hah



    cheers

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    Well, ISTM that if you're not holding it like a flatpick, you're not playing it like a flatpick. Maybe we're talking about different things. Semantics can sometimes be important.
    Well, if I was going to use a thumbpick like a flat pick, I wouldn't use one at all. But I noticed that Merle Travis, who used a thumbpick the normal way, could also play fast single lines with a thumb pick when he wanted to. Joe Maphis too. But for both of them it looks like they have the same orientation of the pick to the strings. (Flat, not angled.) I can't even play fast that way with a flat pick! ;o) It may work well for others, but I can't hold a thumb pick the way I hold a flat pick, esp when I'm trying to play fast. Truly a case of "different strokes for different folks."
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  22. #21

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    From the videos, it looks to me as if they both hold the thumbpick like a flatpick when they do that, and so did Chet and others, as far as I can see. But I may be wrong. I never saw any of them in the flesh. That's the way I do it, though, on the few times I use a thumbpick.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    Not lately, no. (I've been wearing finger picks on three fingers. Don't think that's a permanent change but it sure does enhance the volume and clarity of notes.) I can see where it would make a difference if I used the forefinger too, though I angle my flat pick in a way that I don't think a thumbpick would comfortably go.

    For the record, I'm using a Fred Kelly Bumble Bee pick lately. Good pick. It's a pick with a loop, really. The pick is shaped like a Jazz III (but made of Delrin) and a loop attaches it to the thumb. It's the most comfortable thumb pick I've found.

    Here's Fred Kelly himself demonstrating his Bumble Bee thumb pick (-he makes more conventional looking ones too) and his Freedom finger picks.

    What a messy, scratchy, clanging clatter that is from those noise prosthetics. Oof


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  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    I've tried that, Lawson. I use my fingertips rather than nails---don't have nails---and they get sore pretty quick. It's not bad if I'm fingerpicking a jazzy blues or a standard, but rockabilly is pretty fast and I lose definition of notes. (It would help if I wasn't using flatwounds but I'm sticking with 'em for now.)

    Nothing about this is etched in stone for me. I certainly have tried just-the-thumbpick. Never liked fingerpicks, though I'm using some Fred Kelly Freedom picks and they're the best I've found. Nice sound.
    My nails are nothing great either, but I used finger picks (National steel picks, of course) for about 4 years before abandoning them. Kept clacking together and producing a lot of stray noise. I don't grow my nails out like a classical player, but just enough to not use the pad of the finger. Finger pads just don't produce a good attack, but a little bit of nail can. You keep the nails hard by trimming them every couple days, just shaving back a sliver somehow keeps the nails hard. I noticed this because one day i got aggravated that my left hand nails, that I clipped all the time, were hard as rocks, but the RH nails were soft and split. I decided maybe the trimming had something to do with it, and starting giving my RH nails a very slight trim and smoothing with an emory board every day or two, and the RH nails got stable.

    There is also stuff you can apply to them, but I never got to the point of needing that.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post

    my guy, james burton flatpicked, but used the remaining three fingers to fingerpick...probably about the fastest method i've heard...at least the way he does it!!! hah
    He's wearing a fingerpick on his middle finger. I had heard he did that. Makes sense, if you're using a flat pick (-I mean, the middle finger is to a flat picker what the index would be to a thumb picker). "Tele-master" for sure. Great player, very creative. Love his playing on Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues."
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  26. #25

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    yes haggard had roy nichols with him for years..highly rated picker in his own right (rip)..a legend....but when haggard went into the studio..he liked to have james burton in there!!!

    who wouldn't?..from ricky nelson to elvis...presley & costello! haha



    cheers

    ps- burton pioneered super light strings..on his tele..using a banjo string for the high e and moving the rest of the strings up...in the 50's...ernie ball began his slinky strings company based on burtons set...08-38...or later 40

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post
    yes haggard had roy nichols with him for years..highly rated picker in his own right (rip)..a legend....but when haggard went into the studio..he liked to have james burton in there!!!
    Merle also had Clint Strong for awhile.
    Here's a snippet of Clint teaching how to transcribe. It's not rockabilly but it's a valuable lesson, and his examples are jazzy.

    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  28. #27

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    National?
    Dunlop?
    D'Addario?
    Herco?
    Fred Kelly? (Fred makes "slick picks" as well as the Bumble Bee" shown above.)
    Saddle pick?
    Something else?

    Attachment 48791
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  29. #28

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    Herco, heavy. You can use them like a flatpick, too. The mediums are too flexy

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G890A using Tapatalk

  30. #29

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    i like the hercos too...they feel the most like a typical "celluloid style" pick..in old days i used national..whites..used to reshape the picking surface edges...very tight on thumb they are...hercos are comfy..and you can put'em back nearer the thumb joint (like i mentioned ^)

    cheers

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    National?
    Dunlop?
    D'Addario?
    Herco?
    Fred Kelly? (Fred makes "slick picks" as well as the Bumble Bee" shown above.)
    Saddle pick?
    Something else?

    Attachment 48791
    Dunlops and Nationals for me. Heat ‘em up in hot water and stretch/reshape ‘em for optimum fit.


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  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Garrett View Post
    \ Heat ‘em up in hot water and stretch/reshape ‘em for optimum fit.
    hah..haven't done/thought about that in a long time!!! the old tricks!!! still great

    cheers

  33. #32

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    This is another kind of thumb pick. I haven't used one. I think Ron Eschete uses something like this. (He's not a conventional thumb picker at all---I think he ran into problems holding a flat pick the normal way.)

    http://www.saddlethumbpicks.com
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    This is another kind of thumb pick. I haven't used one. I think Ron Eschete uses something like this. (He's not a conventional thumb picker at all---I think he ran into problems holding a flat pick the normal way.)

    http://www.saddlethumbpicks.com
    You can use a thumb pick as a flat pick if you don’t mind doing mostly downstrokes. They are less friendly on upstrokes. I never got used to a flat pick myself and really like the control and handiness of a thumb pick. It’s always “right there” where I want it.


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  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Garrett View Post
    You can use a thumb pick as a flat pick if you don’t mind doing mostly downstrokes. They are less friendly on upstrokes. I never got used to a flat pick myself and really like the control and handiness of a thumb pick. It’s always “right there” where I want it.
    For me it's the opposite: using a thumb pick has lead to a change in the way I hold a flatpick. I'm liking the results but I want to see if they last more than a week before saying anything else about them.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    For me it's the opposite: using a thumb pick has lead to a change in the way I hold a flatpick. I'm liking the results but I want to see if they last more than a week before saying anything else about them.
    I know what you mean and I remember having that sensation for awhile: time with the thumb pick trained how I felt with the flat pick. But I always kind of reverted back to the feeling of lacking exactitude with the flat pick. I don’t why. I used to flat pick bluegrass lines, and everything else and just never loved the flat pick. Eventually the index finger became a great friend for single note lines (a la Hubert Sumlin or JJ Cale), and I sometimes use a thumb pick for lines depending on the sound I want.

    If I didn’t feel horribly limited with the flat pick I wouldn’t have explored other directions, and I’m glad I did!




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  37. #36

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    Don't forget Tommy Emmanuel. He has a few boom chick lessons on Truefire (I have the first one and can recommend it). There are also many videos of him explaining his style on YouTube.

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Garrett View Post
    Knopfler was very much a JJ Cale disciple. Great player!
    Here's Knopfler doing one of JJ's songs.




    I found a copy of the whole CD as a YouTube video augmented with lots of photos. Made a separate thread of that, for fear of derailing this one any further!. (My apologies.)
    Last edited by MarkRhodes; 12-24-2017 at 03:03 PM.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  39. #38

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    Company has left and at last I got a chance to record with the iphone. Just one chorus of a generic rockabilly backing (-only slower).

    Sent this straight from the iPhone to YouTube without. Hence the absence of a title frame. Guitar's not plugged in. May monkey with the placement of the phone, but one has to start somewhere and "this must be the place." Be kind---it's the holiday season! ;o)

    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  40. #39

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    nice..intro line based on the classic old blues -junco partner...performed by many..inc our louis jordan...but, here's nice version by bay area legend mike wilhelm...just about the best/most knowledgeable on the west coast for vintage authentic blues/folk picking



    cheers

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    Company has left and at last I got a chance to record with the iphone. Just one chorus of a generic rockabilly backing (-only slower).

    Sent this straight from the iPhone to YouTube without. Hence the absence of a title frame. Guitar's not plugged in. May monkey with the placement of the phone, but one has to start somewhere and "this must be the place." Be kind---it's the holiday season! ;o)

    Lovely! Love your hammered-on third. That’s the stuff.

    I wear my thumb pick low too, a bit close to the thumb joint.


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  42. #41

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    If I sit down to play dedicated Chet or Merle, I use a Fred Kelly thumb pick. If I'm working with a band, I use a Fender 358 heavy pick and use my fingers as needed. I've been doing it this way for so long that it's just part of my playing. I tried the James Burton thing with using a fingerpick on my middle finger but couldn't get used to it or would forget to put it on. I've always used the fleshy pad of my fingers - I don't like the feel (or sound) of using nails.

  43. #42

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    Hey Phill Baugh is awesome, can't believe I never heard of him.


    Maybe the way he practiced might have been the real key to his facility.

    I don't think his choice of thumbpick had anything at all to do with it. But then I like practicing more than buying stuff.

    D.

  44. #43

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    I have enjoyed playing this style for many years...cant say that I do it great, but I get by. I used to play with herco but switched to Fred Kelly and use those for everything,,,guitar, steel, banjo...they really feel good to me. I might have overlooked it, but I didnt see Thom Bresh listed...Merle's son and a great entertainer. Merle's style was so influential and addictive to me...love it !

    Last edited by pcpicker47; 02-25-2018 at 01:49 PM.

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcpicker47 View Post
    I have enjoyed playing this style for many years...cant say that I do it great, but I get by. I used to play with herco but switched to Fred Kelly and use those for everything,,,guitar, steel, banjo...they really feel good to me. I might have overlooked it, but I didnt see Thom Bresh listed...Merle's song and a great entertainer. Merle's style was so influential and addictive to me...love it !
    Thom Bresh is a fine player and entertainer. I've enjoyed a lot of his stuff.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  46. #45

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    What I always found remarkable is that, unless I'm mistaken, Merle Travis played with his thumb and just one finger not fingers. The great Rev. Gary Davis did the same thing.

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by picodogg View Post
    What I always found remarkable is that, unless I'm mistaken, Merle Travis played with his thumb and just one finger not fingers. The great Rev. Gary Davis did the same thing.
    Yes you are absolutely right ! And how he got all of that sound and speed with just the one finger is truly remarkable ! When Chet heard Merle play on the radio, he said he knew thats what he wanted to be able to do, but in copying it came up with a different approach,,,both in the thumb work and by using all of his fingers. Chets thumb played alternating bass on the bottom 3 strings whereas Merle just tried to keep a bass line and chord sound going and often played thru several of the bottom strings to create his sound. I read where Chet said that if it werent for Merle, he would have still been looking at the rear end of a mule plowing fields. Chet named his daughter "Merle" after Merle Travis.

  48. #47

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    Merle Travis doing "Lost John". I love this song.

    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  49. #48

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    that's cause merle had his right hand pinky looped through his bigsby vibrato arm!!!



    cheers

  50. #49

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    I just starting getting into this. This is a nice channel;




  51. #50

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    thanks Stevebol for posting that...cool stuff !! I am going to work on those