The Lightnin' Hopkins Style
by Jim Burger
Below is a classic example of the Hopkins style. It contains a three-bar intro followed by a standard 12-bar progression. On the following pages we will take apart this example and analyze the key pieces of it. Following this example, there is a solo in the Hopkins style analyzed starting on page 6.
Before we start, let's talk about a couple of the overriding themes of Lightnin's playing:
1. Everything here is in the key of E, you'll find that a lot of what Lightnin' plays is in E - it's the simplest key to play blues in.
2. If you don't know the blues scale well yet, don't take this lesson until you do. Almost every note he plays in any given solo or fill is either taken from the chord he's playing or from the blues scale.
3. Although Lightnin' almost never played alternating bass, he often used a thumb bass on the low E and A strings. I play a thumb bass almost all the time because I play solo with no pick, but if you have a bass player you don't need this. If you use a pick you will obviously find this difficult, so just leave it out -- concentrate on learning the stuff on the high strings.
4. Everything here is much simpler than it sounds, but it sounds really good!
The below example features several Hopkins touches taken from various songs, so you won't find it on any single CD, but you're sure to recognize a lot of it if you listen to Lightnin' playing standard 12-bar blues. The intro is from a song called "Bring Me My Shotgun."