I wrote this somewhere else but didn't quite get a definitive reply..

I've been playing finger style for about 2 years and travis picking for about a year now. I've always played the same basic patterns thought, until recently. I've been watching chet atkins, merle travis, doc watson and that kind of rockabilly style and want to learn to play more like that, more melody rather than chord shapes with the left hand, and a lot more complex.

At the moment I'm pretty competent at playing with no pick (thumb pick) or nail, just bare thumb and fingers, but I've noticed that almost all of these old players use a thumb pick and mute the bass notes to get a more boom-chick kinda sound. I've been trying to mute the bass strings with the ball of my palm and play the bass with my thumb but I've found that the angle my thumb ends up at makes it difficult for me to consistently hit the strings and have full movement of the three fingers. I sort of don't want to go down the pick route because I like the fact that wherever I am, when I see a guitar I can play everything I know as best I can, I always thought it looked like a pain in the ass when someone has to ask for a pick and can't play a shred of what they can play without one. I could be tempted though to take up a pick if it's significantly better than bare fingers and if I can't eventually play the bass strings well with a bare and nail-less thumb.

So my question is: would I ever be able to achieve the same effect as merle travis or doc watson (or near enough) with just a thumb. Is it just a question of getting used to the new hand position with the muted bass notes(palm muting bass strings whilst picking)?

Also does anyone know any examples of serious travis/ chet style rockabilly pickers who don't use a thumb pick??

Advice is much appreciated


Edit: Video showing Doc Watson muting the bass strings like I was describing

Last edited by EddYerb at Oct 7, 2013,