Double thumb Travis picking pattern for low G ukulele

Mirek Tim Patek

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Every Travis picking tutorial for ukulele says "alternate your thumb". This video on low G ukulele is different - the thumb plays each string twice so it matches the placement of the notes played by the double bass (root and fifth of the chord) in the measure. The root shall be played on the first beat, the fifth shall be played in the middle of 4/4 measure, i.e. on the third beat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72En3jkkUIg

The rule of thumb is: play the root - root - fifth - fifth of the chord. The exception is: before the chord change (in the last measure of old chord) play the root - root - fifth - root. The reason for this exception is to avoid early landing on the root of the new chord if it is accidentally the same note as the fifth of the old chord (e.g. when G chord changes to D chord).

The order of bass strings depends on the chord shape. As the G chord shape 0232 has the root on the 4rd string, the thumb starts at that string. In case of the C chord shape 0003 (and D chord shape 2220) the root is on the 3rd string, so the thumb starts at that string.

If possible, select the chord voicings with the root and fifth at the two thumb strings, e.g. Em chord shape 4432. In case of Am chord shape 2000 add the fifth of the chord so the shape changes to 2400.

Some chord shapes have the root on the treble strings, e.g. F chord shape 2010. Here the thumb plays the third - third - fifth - fifth of the chord. Or you may consider alternate shape 5510.

You can morph any Travis picking pattern from the "alternate thumb" to the "double thumb" version. Let the index and middle finger do their original job and change just the thumb pattern. You may add also some walking bass...
 
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anthonyg

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Nice picking and a good tutorial.
Now,
I'm not quite sure why I'm the guy doing this, but I just am.
Your tutorial isn't Travis picking.
OK, I'm just picking up on a technicality here but consider it something like Champagne. Lots of countries and companies make sparkling wine but if its called Champagne it has to be made in a very specifc way in a specific region.

If your Travis picking then yes, you MUST alternate the bass strings with your thumb. It's a rule.
Also another rule of Travis picking is that you MUST palm mute the bass strings to get the, thump, thump, thump happening.

If your alternate picking without dampening the bass strings then your more likely to be Peidmont picking.

Lets just call what most are doing, Alternate Bass Picking.

Your double bass note picking is interesting and has a kind of a banjo feel/rhythm going on.
All good work but it needs its own name.

Travis picking fundamentals are that, you palm mute the bass strings and alternate pick the bass strings. This is the fundamentals of Travis picking.
 
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anthonyg

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Mirek, I fully understand that there are MANY people out there and on YouTube who call Alternate Bass Picking, Travis picking, and many of them aren't dampening the bass strings with their palms.
This is just the current state of affairs and I disagree with ALL of them, so why do I have a bee in my bonnet about it?

OK, look I don't want to accuse you or anyone here or most of the people on YouTube for having done anything particularly wrong, yet there is unfortunately a likely race/culture angle here to understand.

LONG before Merle Travis came on the scene, black/coloured musicians in the USA were employing the never stopping alternate bass pick technique yet they weren't dampening the bass strings like Merle Travis. This style is broadly known as Piedmont picking.
Merle Travis took the alternate bass picking and added the palm muting to the bass string, and this became his own style which is the basics of Travis picking. Merle also has his own particular techniques/style for playing the treble strings yet its the dampened alternate bass pick which is the fundamentals of Travis Picking.

So why am I being a stickler for the fundamentals here? Unfortunately because of the race angle.
Merle Travis was a good ol white boy so its all being named after him, when in reality anyone who is alternate bass picking but not palm damping is really Piedmont picking, which is a black music style that predated Merle Travis by MANY years and was Merle's inspiration to begin with.
My angle is, lets just credit the right people with the right style and give recognition to those who are owed it.
 
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Mirek Tim Patek

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You can morph any Travis picking pattern from the "alternate thumb" to the "double thumb" version. Let the index and middle finger do their original job and change just the thumb pattern. You may add also some walking bass...

The example of Double thumb Travis picking pattern with walking bass in the chord progression of Jesse James (verse + chorus) in three different keys (key of C, G, and D) is shown at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nt0OG6kpbkM
 
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Mirek Tim Patek

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Guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel explains the basics of "thumbpicking" in four steps on several YouTube videos, e.g.


1st step - thumb only (the guitar has three bass strings, low G ukulele has only two, so the "rule of thumb" has to be modified - and here is presented the double thumb approach)

2nd step - add the pinch of the chord on the 1st beat (low G ukulele has two treble strings, so the pinch is done by index and middle finger only)

3rd step - add another pinch to the "and" of the second beat

4th step - instead of pinches play the arpeggiated chord by middle and index finger, while keeping the thumb on autopilot


I made the tab + sheet music for these four steps, applied to low G ukulele and the chord progression G - C - D7 - G with the voicings 0232, 0033 (you can play 0003), 2223. Yes, I have intentionally chosen the chord shapes which do have their root and fifth on the 4th and 3rd string. Note that Tommy emphasises the rule that the root shall be picked on the first beat. That is why the thumb pattern sometimes starts on the 4th string (at G chord) and sometimes on the 3rd string (at C and D7 chords). If you stick with your alternating thumb approach, you should consider at least this advice.

The tab can be downloaded at
http://mirekpatek.com/lowGukulele/Thumbpicking%20on%20low%20G%20ukulele.pdf

As there are two measures for each chord in this tab, on the first measure there applies the standard double thumb rule "root - root - fifth - fifth", while on the second measure which leads to another chord the thumb plays "root - root - fifth - root". Accidentally, in the chord progression G - C - D7 - G it would be possible to play always the "root - root - fifth - fifth" but the thumb autopilot should be prepared for the progressions as G -> D or C -> G, where the fifth of the former chord is the same as the root of the latter one. In such case there would be "early landing" to the root of the new chord which should be avoided.
 
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Ziret

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That’s a really good point. I think it’s possible that it’s too late to get that horse back in the barn, but I’ll personally try to be more accurate from here on out. It will probably do no more than cause me minor distress when the wrong term is used—my influence is nonexistent.

Mirek, I fully understand that there are MANY people out there and on YouTube who call Alternate Bass Picking, Travis picking, and many of them aren't dampening the bass strings with their palms.
This is just the current state of affairs and I disagree with ALL of them, so why do I have a bee in my bonnet about it?

OK, look I don't want to accuse you or anyone here or most of the people on YouTube for having done anything particularly wrong, yet there is unfortunately a likely race/culture angle here to understand.

LONG before Merle Travis came on the scene, black/coloured musicians in the USA were employing the never stopping alternate bass pick technique yet they weren't dampening the bass strings like Merle Travis. This style is broadly known as Piedmont picking.
Merle Travis took the alternate bass picking and added the palm muting to the bass string, and this became his own style which is the basics of Travis picking. Merle also has his own particular techniques/style for playing the treble strings yet its the dampened alternate bass pick which is the fundamentals of Travis Picking.

So why am I being a stickler for the fundamentals here? Unfortunately because of the race angle.
Merle Travis was a good ol white boy so its all being named after him, when in reality anyone who is alternate bass picking but not palm damping is really Piedmont picking, which is a black music style that predated Merle Travis by MANY years and was Merle's inspiration to begin with.
My angle is, lets just credit the right people with the right style and give recognition to those who are owed it.
 

anthonyg

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That’s a really good point. I think it’s possible that it’s too late to get that horse back in the barn, but I’ll personally try to be more accurate from here on out. It will probably do no more than cause me minor distress when the wrong term is used—my influence is nonexistent.

Thanks for your support. Yes it may seem like I'm just banging my head against the wall but you have to start somewhere.
It was actually a video I was watching of Jerry Reed talking about Merle Travis that first got me thinking about this as Jerry Reed made the point that what most people call "Travis picking" wasn't what Merle Travis was doing anyway.
Then I learn't about Piedmont picking and realised that what most name as Travis picking is really much closer to being Piedmont picking which predates Merle Travis by quite a bit.
 

Mirek Tim Patek

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Travis picking - change of Alternate thumb to Double thumb pattern

You can morph any Travis picking pattern from the "alternate thumb" to the "double thumb" version. Let the index and middle finger do their original job and change just the thumb pattern.

Lets show an example of morphing the alternate thumb to double thumb version. Here is the Travis picking tutorial for low G ukulele by Lara Markowitz:


Note that Lara plays the pattern on the C major chord voicing 0003, but her thumb starts on the 4th string - i.e. it plays the fifth of the chord.

The image below shows the pattern as presented by Lara, then with the thumb starting on the 3rd string so the root of the chord is played on the first beat. Then there is shown what half notes the bass player would play (in some lower octave) - the root (note C) on the first beat and the fifth (note G) on the third beat. Finally the double thumb version is shown which matches these positions of root and fifth in the measure. The same process is applied to the variation 1 and variation 2 patterns from Lara's video.

Click on the image for bigger size.

Lara Markowitz.jpg
 
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Mirek Tim Patek

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I have modifed the tab from my previous reply and used it in the handout of my workshop at the 9th Czech Ukulele Festival https://www.ukulelefestival.cz/en/#workshops

Here is the quote from the handout:

Maybe you have come across some tutorial of so called Travis picking on ukulele, where the thumb alternates between G and C strings on every beat. I cannot resist to claim that for the low G ukulele there is better pattern that matches the position of double bass notes – the double thumb pattern when there are G and C strings picked by thumb in pairs.
Look at the example where on the 1st measure there is basic boom-chick pattern on the C chord 0003 with two bass notes – root on the first beat and fifth on the third beat. Those two notes would be also played by double bass or guitar.
The 2nd measure shows one of the Travis picking patterns presented in YouTube tutorials. For now it is not important what is happening on the treble pair of the strings – focus on the thumb. The thumb alternates G and C strings on every beat. You see that the first bass note is not the root, but the fifth of the C chord – that is musically wrong and does not match what the double bass would play on the first beat.
The 3rd measure starts with the correct note (the root of the C chord) however as the thumb alternates on every beat, it comes on the third beat again to the root. But that also does not match what the double bass would play on the third beat.
Finally the 4th measure shows the pattern where the thumb plays every string twice. You can see and hear that there is root on the first beat and fifth on the third beat.
So – whenever you see any Travis picking instruction for ukulele and you play low G ukulele, try to change the alternate thumb pattern to double thumb.
Double thumb Travis picking.jpg
 

Ziret

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The ukulele festival looks like it was a great experience, I wish I could have been there. Please post information about future festivals here!