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Lightnin' Hopkins': 12-Bar Blue with Jeff Massey & Reverb.com.

Samuel "Lightin'" Hopkins was born in Centerville, Texas, on March 15, 1912. At a very young age, he developed a talent for singing and playing guitar and was encouraged by the older legendary blues talent

Blind Lemon Jefferson. Lightin' also occasionally wrote and recorded music on the piano and the guitar.

Although Hopkins may not be considered a household name, his playing has strongly influenced acoustic and electric players in the blues community. His style—which incorporated single-note patterns between vocal phrases and rhythm—applies to acoustic and electric playing.

While players like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter popularized "amped up" versions of Lightin's licks, Lightin' himself added a pickup to his acoustic guitar later in his career, resulting in a somewhat raunchier and electric tone.


In this lesson, I focus on Hopkins' approach to the 12-bar blues—the basis for much of his material. Notice how Hopkins often stays on the I chord rather than turning around to the V, as most 12-bar blues jams turn around. This gives the piece a different feel and is a signature Hopkins trick.

Lightnin' also tends to jump up to the higher register of a scale amid a 12-bar blues rhythm, flawlessly weaving between thumping rhythms with his thumb and single note lines with the index finger.

Grabbing a couple of Lightnin’s licks for your trick bag will spice up your blues playing and open your mind to some other melodic possibilities within a blues framework, so be sure to check out the whole lesson in the video above.




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