Maybelle Carter Style and Travis Style
Just about everyone knows this great old country/gospel song. It’s sung and played at least once at every jam session and campfire singalong, not to mention being the perfect ending to an evening concert. A. P. Carter picked it up from an old hymn, written in 1907, and he, Sara and Maybelle inspired its unending popularity when the Carter Family recorded it in1935.
“Mother” Maybelle’s guitar style has become iconic through the years, with its precise, powerful bass notes and driving rhythm. Happy starts with the basics, then builds an instrumental version of the song step-by-step. He shows, in close-up detail, how to produce strong melody notes with your thumb while keeping the chords flowing with your fingers. (This technique can also be played with a flatpick, if that’s your tool of choice.)
You’ll first learn how to find the notes to the basic melody. Adding bass runs, hammer-ons and pull-offs will help enhance your arrangement and make it more exciting. Once you have this song solidly in your grasp, you’ll be able to pick out and play many other country, bluegrass and gospel numbers using the same technique.
In his previous lesson, Happy taught this much-loved song in the thumb-lead style, playing the melody in the bass with rhythm back-up learned from the playing of Mother Maybelle Carter. In this session, you’ll learn how to play Will the Circle Be Unbroken using the alternating-thumb fingerpicking style made famous by Merle Travis and many other country, blues and folk guitarists.
In this picking method, the thumb keeps the rhythm going on the bass strings while the fingers pick out the melody in the treble. You’ll play the notes first on the beat, then off to create the syncopated bounce that typifies this infectious style. The basics are covered for novices, but the lesson quickly advances as Happy shows you the embellishments that give this, and many songs, the full-on “Travis style” effect.
Learning this iconic tune will be the gateway to innumerable other songs with similar chord and melodic patterns, so this lesson will be the key to much musical fun in your future.