I’ve been doing some work on my thumb-picking the past few days. Specifically, I’ve been working on the main guitar part for my song Going to Memphis. I realized a while ago that there was a fatal flaw in the way I played that part.

I always thought that song felt really square and flat-footed but I never knew why. I figured it was probably due to the fact that the drums were programmed and just couldn’t swing like a real drummer would. But it turns out that wasn’t it. It was the guitar.

That song was the first song I’ve ever written that used that style of guitar playing so I was very new to it at the time. I thought it was pretty cool that I could do it at all so I was pretty thrilled with it back then. But now I’ve gotten a lot better with that type of playing and now I know why it didn’t work right.

The thumb part was playing half notes going from the root to the fifth. But to really be stylistically accurate it should have been doing quarter notes from the root, to the third, to the fifth and back to the third. That’s how the guys who really play that style do it.

So a few nights ago I decided to try and figure out how to do that. The chord voicings I used don’t really lend themselves very well to the new thumb part so it’s taken quite a bit of practice to get it right but I’ve at least got it in the ballpark now. It swings much better this way and feels much lighter.

Click here to hear the mp3. This is one pass through the chorus with the original guitar part and one pass through the chorus with the new guitar part.

Click here to download the full version of this song.