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Sleepy Time Gal (arr. by Merle Travis)

PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:38 am
by RandyBuckner
This is my transcription of Merle Travis' recording of "Sleepy Time Gal", an old Tin Pan Alley tune. The song is on the box set, "Guitar Rags and a Too Fast Past." Merle recorded it in the 1950's - the song was intended for the "Merle Travis Guitar" album, but for some reason was never released until the 1990's.

Thanks for watching, and hope you all like it -


Re: Sleepy Time Gal (arr. by Merle Travis)

PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:10 am
by RandeDager
Randy, that was really nice but I'm wondering why you're limiting yourself to just the thumb and index finger? I know that
Merle played that way but from the perspective of someone who is formally trained and puts so much time into
practice and special exercises, wouldn't that be considered less efficient?

This isn't a criticism but maybe I'll learn something here about tone and Merle's way of thinking.



Re: Sleepy Time Gal (arr. by Merle Travis)

PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:21 am
by RonBloor
Thanks so much Randy. I'm fascinated by Merle tunes (or his arrangements of them). He seemed to have certain elements in many of his tunes. He would modulate and do single note melodies in parts of them. That along with his thumb and index finger trademarks (and more) gave his music a very distinctive "stamp". That tune reminds me a bit of "Rose Time" Anyway, great as always. Thanks.

Re: Sleepy Time Gal (arr. by Merle Travis)

PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:36 am
by Larry Lenhart
Randy, That was just great ! I really enjoy those types of tunes that Merle played and made his sure captured the essense of that tune, Travis style...very very nice job ! I am always looking for those types of tunes that seem to lend themselves well to his style, so I will try to work on that one, in my own way,,,but not to your level, obviously

Re: Sleepy Time Gal (arr. by Merle Travis)

PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:42 pm
by RandyBuckner
Rande, Ron, & Larry - thanks for your kind words, I really appreciate feedback from the board. :D

Rande - You've posed the same question I've asked for many years, and the answer finally dawned on me as a result of reading Wolf Marshall's articles:

I want to sound as authentic as possible when playing a Merle song, so I need to use Merle's right hand technique when playing his songs. If I use thumb/two or thumb/three-finger to pick, then I'll sound like Chet imitating Merle. There's a slight millisecond difference between the two right hand techniques, but it's enough to alter the sound, and the Travis Groove - that's why Eddie Pennington insists on using just a thumb and one finger approach.

If you were to watch my right hand during a gig, it would change depending on the song and style I'm playing. I use the Chet right hand for his songs, Merle's for his, and Jerry's for his. When I play jazz, I'll use either a thumb/three-finger approach like Ted Greene, or even a straight pick. What I'm focused on is the end result-the sound that I hear in my head. Working on fingering exercises, right hand exercises, and so on, just gives me the ability to mimic any style I want to, within reason.

I also follow Bruce Lee's approach: he advised that when studying somebody's technique, take what is useful to you and discard the rest. What I'm saying is this: take the time to learn some fingering and right hand exercises, and figure out what is useful to you with respect to your musical goals. I guarantee it's going to be different from what I do, or anyone else for that matter. Bruce Keener works from a Christopher Parkening book, while I work from both Carcassi and George Van Eps books. It depends on what you respond to musically.

I hope this helps answer your question, and I haven't rambled on like a politician- :lol:


Re: Sleepy Time Gal (arr. by Merle Travis)

PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:35 pm
by keener
That was Great, Randy! Merle would be proud.

Thanks also for the reply to Rande. I really appreciate when an artist takes time to talk through the thought process behind his techniques. I agree with you 100% that each artist has to find what works for him/her. That means a lot of experimentation. Ultimately one wants to get to where you're not having to think about most of the things your fingers are doing (on either hand) ... you strive for automation of the tough parts, so your thinking can center on putting feeling into what you're doing.

I think one should never stop experimenting and learning new techniques, and improving on old ones (even if that means going through a period of unlearning and un-automating some things, which seems to be harder as we get older). For me, for the past several years, I have played mostly Reed stuff, or done things with a Reed flavoring. For the most part, that meant I didn't really have to practice, because I could play a lot of Reed stuff in my sleep ... not because I am good, but because I've done it for so many years. I have found that going without practice has really had a Huge negative impact on playing, though, any time I try to get out of the "Reed mold." So now I am trying to correct that, and I am Slowly (so Slowly) working my way through some of Parkening's stuff.

Anyway, great playing and great discussion. Thanks.

Re: Sleepy Time Gal (arr. by Merle Travis)

PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:34 pm
by RandeDager
Randy, that was a perfect explanation for me. Yes, to sound like someone else we might need to use their technique. Of course it will always remain a mystery to me how Brent Mason sounds like he is using a flat pick, at least a little bit, but doesn't. That's encouraging to me because I really don't want to and yet I want that sound once in a while.

Thanks for sharing your reasoning.!

Re: Sleepy Time Gal (arr. by Merle Travis)

PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 1:41 pm
by RandyBuckner
Bruce & Rande - Thanks for the responses, I like getting to talk to people about the serious side of the guitar.

Bruce - I totally agree with your comments except the part about me being an artist - I'm just a hillbilly from the Ozarks who's trying to figure out how to play the guitar. :lol:

Have a good day gentlemen, and I'll talk to you all soon


Re: Sleepy Time Gal (arr. by Merle Travis)

PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 11:46 pm
by bill_h
Never heard this one before Randy. Awesome job!!! I'm just a hick from the river bottoms who's been trying to learn to play one of these for years. I love me some Merle Travis though. Again awesome job.