I’m a decent fingerpicker, but one of the things I’ve never learned how to do well is to play with a thumbpick and incorporate right-hand muting the way that players like Chet Atkins do. The thumbpick allows for muting the bass strings while maintaining a bright tone, but it feel’s pretty awkward at first. When done right, this approach results in the illusion of two guitar parts: one playing ringing melody notes and another playing a crisp boom-chuck accompaniment part.
To work on the technique I decided to take a well known tune from Chet’s repertoire and work on it in hopes of mastering the technique. The tune I’ve chosen is “Windy and Warm” which was written for Chet by John D. Loudermilk in the early 60′s. I’ve only been hitting the song hard for a couple of days, and I’m having good but mixed results. Sometimes it sounds and feels great and other times I lose it completely. I’ve also noticed that because I’m still very uncomfortable with the thumbpick, I’m unconsciously tensing the muscles in my left hand while I play and pressing down much harder than I normally would on the strings. This tension results in a loss of mobility in that hand and some really painful fingertips. Talk about unintentional side effects!
So far I’ve really only been working on The “A” section of the tune. While I’m waiting for the technique to come together I’m starting to think about how I want to play the rest of the song. There are as many versions of this song as there are players it seems. Even Chet played different arrangements during his career. So while I working I’ll be listening to all of the versions I can so I can decide how to treat the “B” and “C” sections of the tune. Tommy Emmanuel, Doc Watson, and John Knowles all have great arrangements, but I think I’ll be using the version embedded below as my touchstone.
I’ll update with my progress in a week or two. In the meantime if anyone has any tips for this approach I’d love to hear them!