Top 4 Fingerpicking Guitar Patterns (Travis Picking Style)

beginning guitarist free download: chords with color rhythm guitar solo guitar / fingerstyle song learning technique Jun 14, 2022

These are the top four fingerpicking guitar patterns in the Travis Picking style.
🎸 Get my FREE amazing chord options chart called ‘Chords with Color’


⏱️ Video Content Outline

0:00 - What is fingerpicking & Travis Picking?
1:26 - Lesson overview
2:02 - Fingerpicking Guitar Pattern #1: Inside-Outside
6:10 - Fingerpicking Guitar Pattern #2: Outside-Inside
7:35 - Fingerpicking Guitar Pattern #3: The Pinch
11:22 - Fingerpicking Guitar Pattern #4: Descending Arpeggio
13:16 - Guitar solo! :)
13:42 - Free PDF / which pattern is your favorite?


🔗 Links & Lessons Mentioned in This Video

🎸 Full playlist of this series
🎸 How to get that lead guitar country sound
🎸 Get my FREE amazing chord options chart called ‘Chords with Color’
🎸 SEE THIS NEXT: Autumn Leaves solo guitar arrangement


💬 Lesson Description

I've been wanting to make this lesson for a while.

In this video I teach the top four fingerpicking guitar patterns in the travis picking style.

If you're interested in fingerpicking or travis picking, then these are the essential right hand patterns to learn.

Here's what's in this lesson:

  • I describe and show the tabs for all 4 fingerpicking guitar patterns
  • I play each pattern through a common chord progression (slow, then fast)
  • I demonstrate each pattern in the context of a song
  • And I even sneak in a guitar solo (couldn't help it!)

I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful.

Let me know in the comments which of the fingerpicking guitar patterns you like best :)

Thanks! :)

- Jared


More of a reader?

Here’s the whole lesson adapted in written form just for you ⬇️


What is Fingerpicking & Travis Picking?

Travis picking is a fingerpicking approach named after the guitarist Merle Travis.

In this lesson I'm going to teach you the top four fingerpicking guitar patterns in the Travis picking style.

You can play them as they are, or you can expand on them later to play some very advanced fingerstyle guitar and solo guitar arrangements.

Players like Chet Atkins did this.

These fingerpicking guitar patterns are used in music all over the place.

The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and Bob Dylan accompanied themselves with some of these exact fingerpicking guitar patterns, along with tons of folk guitarists, country musicians, and singer-songwriters today.

The signature of the Travis picking sound is that the thumb is constantly alternating bass notes.

Then the fingers fill out the chords with various patterns and notes on top of that.

Melody can even be played on top of those two things as well.

When you put that all together, it creates a lovely fingerpicking guitar sound.

When we’re Travis picking, we're playing the role of at least two musicians, if not three, which creates a full, rich, and self-contained sound with just one instrument.


Lesson Overview

I’ll show you how to play these four fingerpicking guitar patterns with different string groupings, so you’ll be able to play them over any chord.

I include timestamps throughout this article if you want to reference the video to hear me demonstrate the patterns.

In my demonstrations, I also play each pattern with a section of a song so you can hear how it sounds in real music.

In this article, I provide detailed diagrams to help you understand the patterns and learn at your own pace.

Let’s do it!


Fingerpicking Guitar Pattern #1: Inside-Outside

The first pattern is called the “inside-outside” pattern.

Every pattern is named based on what happens above the bass, because the bass in all four patterns is going to be the exact same.

Highlighted is the bassline (red) if you're playing a G chord:

The bass plays scale degrees one-five-one-five.

In all four patterns, that alternating bass is always going.

“Inside-outside" refers to the other two notes in this pattern, which we play on the third and second string.

Highlighted are the inside (yellow) and outside (blue) notes.

Alternating between all those, you have: bass-inside-bass-outside

And here's the plain diagram:

Quick side note: don't ever put fingers down with the left hand that you don't actually need.

With any sixth-string rooted chord, skip the fifth string and play the rest of the notes above the root on the fourth, third, and second string.

In order, you would play the:

  • root on the sixth string
  • string three with your index finger (i)
  • string four with your thumb (p)
  • second string with your middle finger (m)

If you're going to play a fifth-string rooted chord, then the pattern is contained in all four middle strings.

If it's a fourth-string rooted chord, then you just play the top four strings.

With all four of these fingerpicking guitar patterns, the string groupings are as follows:

  • sixth-string rooted chord: strings six, four, three, two
  • fifth-string rooted chord: strings five, four, three, two
  • fourth-string rooted chord: strings four, three, two, one

These string groupings are the foundation of Travis picking patterns.

You can add more complexity later once you become comfortable with them.

Watch the video at 4:39 to hear this all the string groupings of this pattern played fast and slow.

Continue watching for a demonstration of the pattern over one of my favorite country songs of all time - "Love's Gonna Live Here" by Buck Owens.


Fingerpicking Guitar Pattern #2: Outside-Inside

Time for pattern two.

We won’t spend much time here because it’s the flip of what we just did.

It's called the “outside-inside,” and you already know what it's to be.

We're keeping the bass the same all the time, but you're going to play bass-outside-bass-inside.

You just flip the order of the outside and inside notes.

Here's the plain diagram:

Watch the video at 6:35 to hear this all the string groupings of this pattern played fast and slow.

Continue watching for a demonstration of the pattern over "Love's Gonna Live Here."


Fingerpicking Guitar Pattern #3: The Pinch

This is when it gets fancy!

This is called the “pinch” pattern, and it’s the most common fingerpicking guitar pattern of all time.

If there's only one you're ever going to learn, it should be this one.

It is just fantastic.

It sounds good slow and it sounds good fast.

The first two are a great foundation for this pattern, especially the outside-inside, because the pinch pattern is very similar to two outside-inside patterns in a row.

On the first beat we’re going to do what’s called the “pinch.”

It’s called this because you pluck with your thumb and the middle finger at the same time, and they move towards each other in a pinching motion.

Here's the pinch highlighted in grey:

Because we play those two notes together, we let them sustain for one beat.

That means we aren't playing constant eighth notes anymore.

This rhythmic variation is what gives the pattern a “bouncing” sound.

Starting on beat three, you play a normal outside-inside, except I like to take away the very last eighth note (the last inside) as well.

That means we sustain for all of beat four as well.

That gives the pattern even more bounce.

Another reason for taking that last note away is that if you want to work towards playing fast fingerpicking, it gives you a little more time to transition between chords.

So you got: pinch-bass-inside-bass-outside-bass

Here's the plain diagram:

The grouping of the strings is the same as the other patterns.

Watch the video at 10:06 to hear this all the string groupings of this pattern played fast and slow.

Continue watching for a demonstration of the pattern over "Love's Gonna Live Here."


Fingerpicking Guitar Pattern #4: Descending Arpeggio

The last fingerpicking guitar pattern in the list is called the descending arpeggio, because it does exactly that.

It arpeggiates the chord from the top downward.

We're going to do a pinch, followed by the middle note, while the thumb maintains its pattern.

Now, the top note of the thumb bassline is part of this descending arpeggio structure.

Here's the plain diagram:

You can apply that pattern to the middle four strings or the top four strings, as you would for fifth-string and fourth-string rooted chords respectively.

Watch the video at 12:22 to hear this all the string groupings of this pattern played fast and slow.

Continue watching for a demonstration of the pattern over "Love's Gonna Live Here."

For the last demonstration I also throw in a guitar solo!


Free Practice Resource: “Chords with Color”

If you want some beautiful chords to practice your fingerpicking guitar patterns with, then definitely download my chord chart called "Chords with Color".

It's unlike any other chord chart out there.

It shows a bunch of chords through several keys and tons of alternative options for each of those chords.

You can add color, extensions, and beautiful alterations that work equally well in whatever setting your chord comes up in, whether it be a song you're practicing, performing, or just playing around with.

It's wonderful for listening to sounds, practicing technique, studying chord theory, and working on fingerpicking guitar patterns.

Click here to get the free PDF: Chords with Color.

Which fingerpicking guitar pattern was your favorite, and which one are you going to learn to be able to use in any song you work on next?

Was it the inside-outside pattern, the outside-inside pattern, the pinch pattern, or the descending arpeggio pattern?

Let me know in the comments.

I would love to hear from you.

I post new lessons every week, and next week’s lesson is about a solo guitar arrangement of “Autumn Leaves.”

It’s a beautiful, simple, and easy arrangement that I provide sheet music for too.

Hope to see you in that lesson.

Thanks for reading, take care, and happy practicing!


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