Teaching guitar in general is not easy. And teaching thumbpicking and fingerstyle guitar is down right tough. I think of two things about guitar learning that were credited to two guitar masters. The first is Andre Segovia. When asked if he taught himself to play or was trained, he answered ‘all guitarists are self-taught'. Someone can show you chords or a slick lick but until you sit sown by yourself, find it and do it until it is right, you haven’t learned. You can find a ton of great references on the web for learning music theory, chords and chord relationships, TAB for song after song, programs for reading and writing TAB and standard notation and more. This page will help you find some useful sites for a variety of guitar learning. Use it as a guide but put in the time on the fretboard.
Oh yeah, that second master was Chet Atkins. In his intro to Windy and Warm he explains how to thumbpick. He says ‘you play a chord like this and alternate the bass’ as he plays an A minor and thumbpicks the bass alternating between A and E while he hits the chord on beat. Then he explains ‘you do that ....... for about 10 years and then you add the lead’. That always gets a chuckle since most listeners are expecting something more like ‘10 bars’. But it hits on another point in learning thumbpicking. You need to have your basic skills down then work on alternating that thumb until you can do it in your sleep. It needs to go into automatic to play some of the syncopations and varied leads while holding the bass line steady. Did I mention putting in fretboard time?
TUNING - It is basic to playing well but it is not necessarily basic. There are a lot of philosophies about tuning and intonation on guitar. These sites will get you started with a simple tuner on line and a site to download a tuner program. There are also sites discussing intonation, B compensation and the guitar’s tempered tuning problems.
A simple on line tuner
Tuner program to download for your own PC.
Taming the Beast - Intonation by Taylor Guitars
B Compensation, Intonation and more than you asked for probably
CHORDS - Everyone wants to learn to play lead first. That’s good, cause it shows how important the melody is to the music. You can copy great leads but you can’t learn to create and improvise leads without understanding the underlying chord structure. These sites will introduce some music theory to understand chords and provide online chord dictionaries, downloadable chord programs and archives of chord.
OnLine Chord Dictionary - use it on line to find any chord shape needed
Another OnLine Chord Dictionary - use it on line to find any chord shape needed
Easy Chord downloadable chord dictionary program to use anytime.
Guitar World has a great lesson on chords and many others on scales, fungerpicking...
Chord Charts for open and barr, chord movement, some light theory on how they are formed and music movement through chords.
TABLATURE - Tablature is a special notation for guitar (and other stringed instruments) that shows you exactly where to put your fingers on the fretboard without knowing scales, EGBDF, key signatures or anything about reading standard music. It is a great tool for learning guitar and playing music. It is here in the lessons section since many of the lessons use TAB to illustrate points and define licks or chords.
Reading TAB is the first step. This site has a great explanation on reading TAB
Writing TAB is the natural next step. It is the same as reading except you need to know a bit more about music writing in general and the concepts of time, measures...
Tabledit is a great program to use to read, write, listen to and print TAB. This site has several programs for TAB and references to some TAB archives.
TAB Archives that contain loads of great picking tunes in Tabledit Format.
THUMBPICKING - Teaching thumbpicking isn't easy cause thumbpicking isn't easy. You have to really put in the time picking and working that thumb into independence. Here are some sites that have some advise and some sites to buy helpful learning tapes.
Learning Videos - Stephan Grossman has a variety of tapes and TAB books on fingerpicking and thumbpicking. Also check out the DVD books available.
Travis Picking - Great on-line lesson on Travis style picking. It has a great description, TAB and sound files to help you get the hang of it.
Alternate Picking - This site teaches alternating bass picking with a plectrum or flat pick. All the discussion is applicable to thumbpicking as well.
Finger picking - This site has a series of lessons teaching alternating bass and fingpicking the lead notes. It begins with simple pattern picking and moves on to tougher picking.
Travis Picking Lessons - Another fine site with TAB and sound files along with a detailed explanation of thumbpicking. It teaches pure thumb, hybrid picking and involve syncopations such as 3 against 4, etc.
Dobro Picking - An interesting parallel. The lessons on dobro picking are perfectly applicable to guitar thumbpicking. Of course, the GBDGBD tuning may give you fits but the right hand is the same.
Folk Patterns - Some of the flok picking patterns work well for thumbpicking too. Also, it can be a good intermediate step from pop/rock playing to getting that thumb independent and ready for Chet and Travis thumbpicking.