Merle Travis was certainly instrumental in sparking wide interest in the guitar picking style known as Kentucky Thumbpicking but there were many others then, as they are today, who helped give the style worldwide recognition.
Mose Rager, Ike Everly, Kennedy Jones, Chet Atkins, Eddie Pennington and Tommy Emmanuel are just a few masters of the style who helped put Kentucky Thumbpicking squarely on the map.
We’re thrilled to welcome a pure-blood Kentucky thumbpicker to the TrueFire family, Alonzo Pennington. Mose passed on a few intricacies of the style to Alonzo’s father, Eddie Pennington, who in turn passed on to his son what he learned from Mose, as well as a few of his own innovations.
Alonzo now passes on what he knows to you here in this Kentucky Thumbpicking Handbook. Fortunately for we students of guitar, Alonzo is not only a masterful player, he’s also a naturally gifted educator.
Alonzo organized the Kentucky Thumbpicking Handbook into two main sections. In the first section, he demonstrates 11 key Kentucky Thumbpicking concepts and techniques: Right Hand Techniques, Alternating Bass, Simple Thumb & First Finger Pattern, Travis Pattern, Travis Pattern B, Simple Walk-down/Ending in E, The $2 Ending, The 3 Finger Roll, The Mose Rager Roll, Walk Up To The 4, and The C Walk-down.
In the second section, you’ll start building your repertoire as Alonzo shows you how to apply all of the key concepts and techniques, from the first section, across the following four Performance Studies…
Blues In E: Very similar to "Blues Stay Away from Me". Just dressed up a little more. Here we use the walk-down, turnarounds, and "simple thumb and first finger patterns" that were shown in earlier sections. This breaks down the arrangement. To break down the individual walk-downs and picking pattern, please revisit Section 1.
9 Pound Hammer: One of the most popular thumbpicking and bluegrass songs of all time. Merle Travis recorded this on the "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" album with a capo on the 3rd fret as to be in the key of "G" Here is the same arrangement but in the key of “E". Here we use the walk-downs and endings we learned in Section 1. We also use the Travis pattern A and learn to put the melody in with it.
Avalon: This is my take on a Jazz standard that's very similar to Chet Atkins' version. In the key of C, it gives us a chance to use the picking patterns we've learned in section 1 as well as the C Walk-down.
Cannonball Rag: The Thumbpickers National Anthem (or so it's called in the picking circles). There have been a lot of versions of this recorded, but this is the Merle Travis Version. Travis Pattern B is what this whole song is built around, or at least the main verse of it. We'll incorporate the 3 finger roll, that Mose Rager Roll, and learn this Thumbpickers National Anthem!
Alonzo demonstrates the songs and then breaks them down, emphasizing the right and left-hand techniques required to play the pieces authentically. All of the key demonstrations, performances and examples are tabbed and notated for your practice, reference and study purposes. You’ll also get Guitar Pro files so that you can loop and/or slow any section down as you work through the lessons.
Grab your guitar and let’s get a grip on Kentucky Thumbpicking with Alonzo Pennington…