Take your pick

Mark Hanson’s ‘The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking’ is one of the guitar tuition books I’ve returned to most often over the years.

If you love players like Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Scotty Moore or John Renbourn, Travis picking is a style of playing you’ll really want to add to your guitar skillset.

I certainly did – but for years I was put off by the complexity of it, ending each attempt feeling clumsy and useless, like I’d

swapped my fingers and thumbs for uncooperative sausages.

That all changed when I found Mr Hanson’s book. Progressing from basic lessons which get your fretting and picking hands working together on simple (but very practical) patterns, ‘The Art of…’ helps you build a solid foundation for this very rhythmic thumb-and-fingers style of playing (named after one of its pioneers, the peerless Merle Travis).

Once you’ve spent the time mastering each new set of exercises, Mr Hanson presents you with a piece of music – clearly presented in notation and tab, with clear instructions on which finger should be doing what. The complexity of these tunes ramps up quickly, but as

Mark Hanson’s excellent ‘Art of Contemporary Travis Picking’

long as you’ve put in the practice time with the exercises in between, it’ll be a pleasing challenge rather than an infuriating leap.

I find myself working through it whenever I feel like my fingerpicking skills are getting rusty, but also enjoyed the follow-up book, ‘The Art of Solo Fingerpicking (which takes the lessons to a rather more advanced level).

If you want to dip your toes – or, rather, your fingers – into the world of Travis/fingerpicking, there really isn’t a more clear, concise and well-paced book to get you started.

You can find out more about Mark Hanson and find some of his great guitar books here: http://markhansonguitar.com

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