The thumb holding a steady beat, alternating between the bass strings, while a finger or two are up top, picking out the melody, adding licks and syncopation. The right hand dampening the strings evey now and again, to really give it a bounce on the off-beats. Throw in a couple of single-string lines, add some wonderful Blind Blake-style double-thumbing... ah, my second great love, the acoustic guitar!
I taught myself "Travis" picking (or alternating-bass style, as I prefer to call it) one August in my room when I was 15. I learned a few "patterns" from a book and fell in love with the style. I've played on and off through the years, and have really enjoyed learning - and especially writing - songs on guitar. I've never really got much past alternating-bass style... but then, it is such a wonderful style, it's hard to get tired of. Perfect for folk, blues and old-time music, but also for more modern singer-songwriter type tunes. There's just so much you can do with it.
So perhaps it is time for a little tune. I write lots of different kinds of things, but this a short song with a ragtime-blues flavor. It's meant to be an old-fashioned jingle for a fictional perfume called "Summer Rose". In the key of C and I tried to get a little more involved with the guitar than a simple "back-and-forth" bass line. I throw in a lot of syncopated bass notes (á la Blind Blake) and it's a tricky thing to do, I find, but a wonderful style of playing. Once you are into playing that way, it's a little hard to go back - it gives you so many options for variations and changes the whole way you look at the melody - it "shifts" things around in such a cool way, it's lots of fun to try. Even if you don't try the style - you should really listen to Blind Blake. The best guitarist ever, in my opinion. He may have been a little limited in his repetoire - but what he did, no one has ever done better (and it's almost 100 years ago he did it...).
My wife Martha was kind enough to sing it for me, and I play my Larrivee OM-03 along with a washboard using plastic thimbles (but for the video, I play an old no-name parlor guitar...). I just record this stuff at home on a ZoomH2 - so the quality is not perfect. I'd be happy to tab it, if anyone would be interested.