I saw this moving last night, about a week in the life of a struggling folk singer in 1961 New York (think an unsuccessful Bob Dylan type). I thought as a hobby song-writer who usually plays acoustic/classical, I'd like it, and it has a lot of great reviews, but honestly I did not care for it. It has some nice imagery and some very nice musical performances if you like that folksy stuff, but the movie itself failed to make any kind of statement, no strong emotions. I never cared for the main character, there was not really any hero's journey, no climax, or anything. I just did not see the point in it, except as a contrived vehicle to be able to showcase some of that type of music.

But this is not a movie review. I did like the lead actor's guitar playing and singing. I was curious what his style playing would be labeled, for those who saw it. It seems like he fingers a chord shape and then does a bit of finger-picking (not using pick). But I'm not sure...is this a particular type of playing, like "fingerpicking" or is this just basic "folk" guitar, or even "classical"?

The difference, I think, is that his playing has walking bass lines, and other places where it has walking melodic lines on higher strings. Overall, it seems like the choice of notes is more complex than, say, simple arpeggios. By contrast, my own playing / fingerpicking efforts generally involve moving between chord shapes, while my right hand does a certain fingerpicking pattern that is some kind of arpeggio variation (e.g., 4-3-2-1-2-1). It's easy for me to just play the same fingerpicking pattern over and over while shifting chords. I guess I want to know how to bridge the gap between that, and what I saw the player in the movie doing. If there's a label for that style playing, I can go to a guitar teacher and ask for it. If it just involves learning particular skills (like playing walking bass line), then I'm interested to know the names of those skills so I can focus on them. If it is more about just being better in general as a guitar player, or more versed in music theory, then that's another thing for me to keep in mind.

I've only been playing a couple years. Maybe when I've been playing longer, I'll just know when I move between chord positions what my note options are and I can chose to fingerpick with more variety, and in a more thoughtful and complex manner, than sticking with the same pattern over and over, so maybe it's not learning a particular technique or set of techniques as it is just being more comfortable playing in general. Anyway see the movie and have any thoughts on this?


Bernie Sanders for President!
For the most part, it's what we back then were calling "Travis picking" but would be more correctly called "pattern picking". (Merle Travis was, like Chet Atkins, a sophisticated musician who used many advanced techniques and complex chord voicings)

This is pretty much how any of us who were around for this music started out. Working out a basic, syncopated "pattern", with alternating bass played over the chord changes.
You can take this pretty far by incorporating bass runs, single-note runs, changing the patterns, and so forth.
Early Dylan would be an example of the simpler stuff... Peter, Paul, and Mary and Paul Simon for more advanced techniques.
BTW, many contemporary watchers may not know that the "Davis" character is essentially Dave Van Ronk, the movie and the music are based on his life and music.
Also, if you can catch it, Showtime released a concert video of a whole bunch of contemporary folkies playing this type of music; very well done.