Carter Family picking

Carter-style lick.[1] About this soundPlay 

Carter Family picking, also known as the thumb brush, the Carter lick, the church lick, or the Carter scratch,[2] is a style of fingerstyle guitar named after Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family's distinctive style of rhythm guitar in which the melody is played on the bass strings, usually low E, A, and D while rhythm strumming continues above, on the treble strings, G, B, and high E. This often occurs during the break.[3] The style bears similarity to the frailing style of banjo playing and is the rhythm Bill Monroe adapted for bluegrass music two decades later.[2]

With this technique, Carter, who "was among the first" to use it as such,[4] "helped to turn the guitar into a lead instrument".[5] It is unclear how Maybelle developed her then-unique style.

It is known that Maybelle first learned the blues fingerpicking technique around 1930 from Lesley Riddle, an African-American guitarist who used to frequent the Carter family household.[6][7][8] Carter can be heard playing in this style on a number of Carter Family recordings. She also played slide guitar and, later, with a flat-pick.

Walking bass provided by bass notes, stepwise motion in blue.

About this soundPlay 

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sokolow, Fred (1997). Complete Country Guitar Book, p.9. ISBN 978-0-7866-2841-4.
  2. ^ a b Sid Griffin and Eric Thompson (2006). Bluegrass Guitar: Know the Players, Play the Music, p.22. ISBN 0-87930-870-2.
  3. ^ Traum, Happy (1974). Bluegrass Guitar, p.23. ISBN 0-8256-0153-3.
  4. ^ Susan Ware, Stacy Braukman (2005). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, 5, Completing the Twentieth Century, p.105. ISBN 0-674-01488-X.
  5. ^ Holly George-Warren, Laura Levine (2006). Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country and Western Music, p.4.
  6. ^ Carter, Maybelle (May 30, 2009). Mother Maybelle Carter talks about Autoharps and Fingerpicking (YouTube video) (audio recording). YouTube. Event occurs at 2:20. Retrieved Jan 26, 2012. I'll play a little bit of a tune here [in] the style that I learned from a colored man that used to come to our house and play guitar, and he played with his finger and his thumb.... His name was [L]esley Riddles.
  7. ^ "The Lesley Riddle Story". 113 Green Mountain Drive, Burnsville, NC: Traditional Voices Group. 2011. Retrieved Jan 26, 2012. [W]hen Seeger was recording Lesley, he could see and hear the similarities between Lesley's picking style and that of Maybelle Carter so he asked him if he ever gave her lessons. Lesley replied, 'No, I didn't have to. She would just watch and learn. She was that good.'CS1 maint: location (link)
  8. ^ Peterson, Richard A. (Nov 24, 1997). Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-226-66284-8. Retrieved Jan 26, 2012. Leslie Riddle, an African American guitar player, ... taught Maybelle Carter how to play melody and pick rhythm on the guitar at the same time—a style for which she became famous.