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Left Hand Technique (Guitar Lesson)


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Jim Deeming

Left Hand Technique

In this lesson, Jim Deeming talks about Merle Travis' left hand technique.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Style of Merle Travis seriesLength: 10:52Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Left Hand Technique

Thumb or fingerstyle arrangements are usually combinations of chord shapes with melody notes added around them so both can be played together.

Travis picking is no exception to this. The thing that makes it unique is Travis’ choice of chords, chord shapes, and how he chose to fret them.

First, because as we talked about before, the lowest note used in a chord is not always the root note, it is necessary to accommodate that whenever possible. For example, fretting the low G note on the sixth string above a C chord sounds better than ringing it as an open E.

Second, because it’s not always possible to fret an "acceptable" note everywhere the thumb may strike, it is often appropriate to engage left hand muting – muffling certain strings or portions of chords so that they don’t ring out a wrong tone, but still provide a percussive sound.

Third, Merle Travis rarely – if ever – played a barre chord. He almost always used the left thumb over the top of the neck to provide the lower notes of what would otherwise be a barre chord. He also used this to play such things as a B9 instead of the common open B7 chord.

There are many other examples of these that the student will encounter while exploring more Travis style songs and techniques.



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Style of Merle Travis

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Merle Travis is one of the biggest names in the world of Fingerstyle guitar. In this series Jim Deeming will walk you through the tricks Merle employed to give his music that unique "Travis Picking" sound.



Lesson 1

Introduction and Right Hand Technique

Jim Deeming talks a bit about the history of Merle Travis and his guitar playing. He also explains the basics of his right hand technique.

Length: 10:59 Difficulty: 2.5 FREE
Lesson 2

Left Hand Technique

In this lesson, Jim Deeming talks about Merle Travis' left hand technique.

Length: 10:52 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Merle Travis Turnaround

Jim Deeming teaches a turnaround in the style of Merle Travis. Get your thumbpicks ready!

Length: 15:44 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Travis Style Chords

Jim Deeming teaches several chord shapes that Merle Travis used extensively.

Length: 15:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Travis Style Banjo Roll

Jim Deeming demonstrates how Merle Travis played a banjo-style roll.

Length: 4:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes JamPlay.com is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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