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Acoustic Blues Guitar Video Lesson Preview - Baby, Please Don't Go by Lightnin' Hopkins

Of  course, this song has been recorded before by many people, like Big Joe Williams.

Big Joe has a great voice but his guitar work doesn’t have the power and depth of Lightnin’s sound. His rhythmic style and sure touch gives his music a special feeling that is tough to imitate.

Texas Blues Guitar Slinger Lightnin' HopkinsIt isn’t technically difficult, although the timing is interesting in places, but the overall effect of Lightnin’s deep Texas drawl and his finger picking technique is a powerful combination that touches his listeners. BB King once said that Elvis had a special characteristic – when he sang, you just believed him – you couldn’t help, there is a sincerity in the voice that can’t be manufactured or pretended. Lightnin’ is like that – he sings a story and we just believe him.

He used a plastic thumb pick and mostly one finger for his picking, which sometimes strummed several strings up the neck to give a light and warm sound. Many of his songs were thinly disguised copied of standard blues, and although he is credited with more than a hundred original pieces and songs, many of these are very, very similar to each other. Still, his output and style were legendary and he remains an incredibly important blues guitar player to this day.

Played in the key of E, the monotonic thumb bass is adapted to this slightly up tempo song as he stamps his own style on the blues. In one place he stops to take an instrumental break and shows how he has complete control of his thumb, striking on the off-beat while alternating with his index picking finger to produce a syncopated sound that is difficult to produce with the same kind of effect – it’s so sure and the timing is perfect.

Big Bill Broonzy - Blues Finger Pickign GuitarHis thumb would strike the bass string twice and then again after his index finger has counterpointed the sound with a treble note – powerful stuff.

As always (or almost!) Lightnin’ doubles up on his solid thumb bass pattern to make the sound of a heart beating, which is a powerful call to the emotions of the listener, by-passing any intellectual viewpoint and going direct to the nitty-gritty! Broonzy also does this.

Lightnin’ had a low, low voice and I get the impression that he sometimes tuned his guitar down a step or two, depending on the time of his life. Mind you, this rule is not hard and fast, as I know that on at least one video, he is tuned up one step, so I guess he decided when he wanted to do it depending on the song and the guitar.

We often find that he changes chords in some strange places that don’t seem to make any sense,

if we are firmly set on playing a blues with  a fixed number of bars for example. He would bend the musical structure of the song around to suit his singing and the story he’s telling. If he need more time to add a line of verse, he’d just take it! It was probably tough to jam or accompany Hopkins on the guitar, as it was sometimes hard to know when to change chords.


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