Composing an Original Song Using Travis Picking (Fingerstyle)

Lesson #230 • Apr 12, 2019

Video Overview

Instructional PDF 3 pages

Follow along with the print-friendly PDF! It includes all of my notes for this lesson, allowing you to follow along at your own pace. You're free to download, print, and share the PDF across your devices.

Thanks for being a Premium member of Song Notes! Your support makes these lessons possible.

Download PDF

Follow along with the print-friendly PDF!

It includes all of my notes for this lesson, allowing you to follow along at your own pace. You're free to download, print, and share the PDF across your devices.

To download the PDF, upgrade to premium or log in.

Lesson timestamps

  • 0:00 Preview & lesson overview
  • 1:54 Playthrough w/ tab
  • 2:49 Travis picking overview
  • 3:55 Chords I’m using
  • 5:14 The groove I started with
  • 6:42 Developing the chorus melody
  • 8:03 Fleshing out the chorus section
  • 10:46 Connecting the end to the beginning
  • 13:19 Farewell & final thoughts

Editor’s notes

Hey friends! In this video I’ll dive into the process I recently undertook of composing a multi-part arrangement for fingerstyle guitar. This happened quite unexpectedly: it started with me messing with some familiar Travis picking patterns while I watched the NCAA men’s basketball finals the other night. As I continued to play, I began to settle into some melodies – and an hour later, unexpectedly was able to stitch them all together into following instrumental song/arrangement. This is no doubt inspired by the last several songs I’d learned in this style: Let Him Roll (Guy Clark), Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars (John Moreland), Clay Pigeons (John Prine), and If I Had a Boat (Lyle Lovett). With each of these songs under my belt, my Travis picking confidence has grown – and it felt great to get to this point where I could make up my own sequence using all I’ve learned so far. I hope you enjoy the song, as well as this dive into the process of putting it all together. - David Potsiadlo (Apr 12, 2019)

Chords

Here’s the chord shapes I’m using. Because I’m playing these in the Travis picking style, in many of these I’m not playing the 5th string at all. Right thumb will play thickest 2-3 strings (alternating bass notes), while the right index and middle fingers will play the thinnest 3-4 strings. See my video lesson for reference.

E –––––––––  –––––––––  –––––––––  ––––––––0––
B ––0–––3––  ––1–––3––  ––0–––3––  ––3–––––3––  <== left pinky plays all 3rd
G ––0–––0––  ––0–––0––  ––0–––0––  ––2–––––2––       fret notes on this string
D ––0–––0––  ––2–––2––  ––2–––2––  ––0–––––0––
A –––––––––  ––3–––3––  –––––––––  –––––––––––
E ––3–––3––  –––––––––  ––0–––0––  ––2––––––––
      G          C        Em Em7    D/F# Dsus2

Chord progressions

Here’s the chord progression I ended up mapping out. I started with just “Part 1”, and almost made a mini lesson just for that sequence - but then I got the chorus melody stuck in my head. I tried to find a place to fit that in, and in turn came up with the chorus (as well as the “Part 2” which leads into the chorus).

PART 1    G ... G ... C ... G ... x2

PART 2    Em ... G ... Em ... G     ...
          Em ... G ... Em ... Dsus2 ...

PART 3    Em7 ... D/F# ... G ... C ...
          G   ... D/F# ... G ... C ...
          G   ... D/F# ... G ... G ...

Melody tab

If you want to learn this song/sequence, one way might be to focus just on these melody notes first. This helps get the bass notes out of the way (you can either add those in now, or wait until later).

Section A

E ––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––3–––––––––3–––––––––––3–––––––––1–––––––––1–––––0–––––––––0–––––
G ––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––  x 2
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––3–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––
    G               G               C               G
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Section B

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––1–––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––3–––1–––
G ––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––0–––––––––––––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––0–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––
    Em              G               Em              G
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––1–––––0–––––––––3–––––––––––––3–––––––
G ––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––0–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    Em              G               Em              Dsus2
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Section C

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––––––––3–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––3–––––––––1–––––3–––1–––––
G ––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––
E ––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    Em              D/F#            G               C
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––1–––––3–––1–––––
G ––––––––0–––––––––2–––––––––2–––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––
E ––3–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    G               D/F#            G               C
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0–––3–––––––––––––––––––––
G ––––––––0–––––––––2–––––––––2–––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––3–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––
    G               D/F#            G               G
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Full tab

Here’s the full tab. Once you have the melody under control, you can refer to this tab to see where you’ll add the alternating bass notes (always played with the right thumb).

Section A

E ––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––3–––––––––3–––––––––––3–––––––––1–––––––––1–––––0–––––––––0–––––
G ––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––
D ––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––2–––––––2–––––––0–––––––0–––  x 2
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––3–––––––3–––––––3–––––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––3–––––––
    G               G               C               G
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Section B

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––1–––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––3–––1–––
G ––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––0–––––––––––––––
D ––––––2–––––––2–––––––0–––––––0–––––––2–––––––2–––––––0–––––––0–––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––0–––––––0–––––––3–––––––3–––––––0–––––––0–––––––3–––––––3–––––––
    Em              G               Em              G
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0~––––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––1–––––0–––––––––3–––––3~––––––3–––––––
G ––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2~––––––––––––––
D ––––––2–––––––2–––––––0–––––––0–––––––2–––––––2–––0~––––––––––––––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––0–––––––0–––––––3–––––––3–––––––0–––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––
    Em              G               Em              Dsus2
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Section C

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––––––––3–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––3–––––––––1–––––3–––1–––––
G ––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––2–––––––2–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––2–––––––2–––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––3–––––––
E ––0–––––––0–––––––2–––––––2–––––––3–––––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––
    Em              D/F#            G               C
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––1–––––3–––1–––––
G ––––––––0–––––––––2–––––––––2–––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––2–––––––2–––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––3–––––––
E ––3–––––––3–––––––2–––––––2–––––––3–––––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––
    G               D/F#            G               C
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0–––3–––––––––––––––––––––
G ––––––––0–––––––––2–––––––––2–––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––2–––––––2–––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––3–––––––3–––––––2–––––––2–––––––3–––––––3–––––––3–––––––3–––––––
    G               D/F#            G               G
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Browse Related Lessons

Click any tag below to view other lessons I've made in that category:

About Song Notes

Hey there! My name is David Potsiadlo, and I'm the creator of the 400+ weekly lessons here at Song Notes, going back to 2013. Here’s my guitar story »

Get Free Lessons Each Week!

Join the 20,000+ readers who get my new lessons dropped in their inbox each week. I teach a fun mix of songs, weekly riffs, practice ideas, and more!

Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!

If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).

Thanks!


Subscribe to my YouTube channel

Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!


Recent Lessons

Browse All Recent Lessons →

Browse my all lessons

By lesson type

By technique

By musical genre

By decade

By musical key

By popular artist


← back to homepage