Travis Picking 101 – Inside/Outside

Want to learn an easy way to get into finger style guitar or just general finger picking?  The Inside-Outside Travis picking pattern is a great place to start. Here’s the basics of how Travis Picking works:

  • Fingers of the picking hand are labelled p (Thumb) i (Index) m (Middle) a (Ring).  These are the first letters of your fingers names in Spanish and Latin .
  • Thumb or “p” controls the E A D strings of your guitar (Strings 6 5 4). The thumb (p) bounces back an forth between 2-3 notes creating an alternating bass line.
  • Index or ” i” controls the G string (3rd). (Inside)
  • Middle or “m” controls the B string (2nd). (Outside)

With that being said, let the Travis Picking Begin! The reason this pattern is called “inside-outside”, is because of how the “i” finger (inside/index) and the “m” finger (outside/middle) alternate. The picking pattern is p i p m, with the thumb also alternating between 5th and 4th.

Pattern

Thumb

Inside

Thumb

Outside

Fingering

p

i

p

m

Strings

5

3

4

2

Travis Picking - Inside Outside

Practice Notes:  Master the pattern on any one of the chords shown, before playing the entire progression. That way you only have to worry about one hand until you’ve got it down.  If you don’t like the fingering for the Fsus2 chord in the 4th bar, feel free to replace it with another bar of Am or G/B.  Both changes sound great 🙂

Lastly, you might be wondering what happens when you encounter a chord with its root on the 4th string (D, Dm, D7, F, Bm etc.) or 6th string (G, E, F Barred, D/F#, etc).  Simple, see the chart below for the fingering adjustments needed to play those chords using 2 bass notes for each chord.

Fingering

p

i

p

m

Root 4

4

2

3

1

Root 6

6

3

4

2

Some ideas presented, have been adapted from Mark Hanson’s Contemporary Travis Picking book

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