How To Create Fingerpicking Guitar Arrangements - Travispicking

How To Create A Travis Picking Arrangement On Guitar

By Simon Candy


Fingerpicking Guitar Arrangement Article 2 PicTravis Picking is the foundation of the style of such guitar greats as Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and Tommy Emmanuel. It is a great way to arrange a song on guitar without needing anyone else to play along with you.

In this lesson, you learn a step by step method for creating your own travis picking arrangements on guitar.

The following video will help reinforce and enhance the art of travis picking in your playing. Bookmark it and watch it after completing what follows below:



Travis Picking Guitar Arrangement

The following is a step by step guide for turning a melody into a travis picking arrangement on your guitar.

I will be using the tune “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” throughout to demonstrate.

Breaking down the process in this way can make it much easier to understand and execute. This can be especially helpful if you find this technique to be complex and difficult.

Step 1: Bass

The bass component of travispicking alternates using a combination of the lower 3 strings on the guitar.

You have some choices regarding bass patterns you can use with travispicking. It will largely come down to which string the root note of the chord is on.

For root 6 chords you have:

6, 4, 6, 4

6, 4, 5, 6

For root 5 chords you have:

5, 4, 5, 4

5, 4, 6, 4

* The numbers refer to the strings the bass notes fall on, and in which order

Here is an arrangement of the bass part, isolated, for our tune “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”


Travispicking Guitar Arrangement Bass


Step 2: Melody

Once the bass part is sorted, it’s time to add the melody. 

To begin, keep the melody straight. By this I mean keep it on the beat and directly in line with the bass. 

Here is our tune with bass and melody parts together:


Travispicking Guitar Arrangement Melody


Step 3: Syncopate Melody

Once you have the melody and bass parts together, the next step is to syncopate the melody. This will have your travispicking arrangement come to life. By syncopation I am referring to moving some of the melody notes so that they fall on the off beats, in-between the bass notes.

Here is our tune arranged in such a way:


Travispicking Guitar Arrangement Syncopation



Step 4: Harmony

Finally, it’s time to fill in the arrangement with some harmony.

This step should be left until last to ensure you know the lowest and highest notes, allowing you to fill in the harmony parts accurately. This has been established by working out the bass and melody parts of our arrangement first.

Here is our tune with some harmony added:


Travispicking Guitar Arrangement Harmony



Discover more ways to create fingerpicking guitar arrangements