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Licks by Lightnin' Hopkins (Guitar Lesson)

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Eric Madis

Licks by Lightnin' Hopkins

Eric teaches a few popular Lightnin' Hopkins licks. These licks can be played over the blues shuffle from the previous lesson.

Taught by Eric Madis in Electric Blues with Eric seriesLength: 11:46Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (01:42) Introduction Welcome back to the Phase 2 Electric Blues series with Eric Madis. In the last lesson, Eric explained how to play a basic blues shuffle in the style of Jimmy Reed. This type of shuffle is used in Reed's song "Baby What You Want Me to Do" as well as countless other blues songs.

Eric kicks off the current lesson with some Lightnin' Hopkins style licks in the key of E. These licks can be played over the blues shuffle that you learned in the previous lesson. Countless blues guitarists have borrowed these licks and used in them in their own music.

Soloing Strategies

There are two different approaches to playing a solo. A brief overview of both approaches is provided below. Eric will cover each approach in greater detail as the series progresses.

Approach A

The first approach involves playing a single scale over an entire progression. For example, the E minor pentatonic scale can be used over an entire 12 bar blues progression in the key of E major.

Approach B

The second approach involves playing off of the individual chord changes. Scale and arpeggios choices change for each chord in the progression. This method allows you to highlight important resolutions that occur between each of the chords. If you are playing by yourself, always use the first method. This method allows you to outline the chord changes with your lead lines. As a result, the listener is able to hear the chord changes even though a second guitarist is not present.

In this lesson, Eric uses the latter approach. The licks that he demonstrates can be used over the tonic E chord.
Chapter 2: (01:00) Lightnin' Hopkins' Bass Lick Lightnin' Hopkins Biography

Hopkins was born in Centerville, Texas in 1912. He discovered his passion for the blues at an early age when he met blues legend Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic. At this point, he began to take lessons from his older cousin, Alger "Texas" Alexander. After working as a farm hand and a few unsuccessful attempts at a music career, Hopkins was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum of Aladdin Records. Soon after signing to Aladdin, Hopkins moved out to L.A. where he began his career accompanying pianist Wilson "Thunder" Smith.

In the late 40s, Lightnin' decided to return home to Texas. During the late 40s and 50s he expanded his career by recording prolifically under the Gold Star Records label. He recorded somewhere around 1000 songs throughout his career. Hit songs such as "Model T Blues" were recorded during this time. By the end of the 50s, Hopkins' performance and massive recorded catalog gained him a wide audience with blues fans. Other than the occasional performance in the Midwest, Hopkins rarely performed outside Texas. However, a broader performance schedule was soon to follow.

Folklorist Mack McCormick worked to bring Hopkins' music to a wider audience. McCormack provided him with opportunities to perform for integrated crowds in California and Texas. Hopkins' success continued to grow after a performance at Carnegie Hall on October 14, 1960. Soon after, Lightnin' signed a deal with Tradition Records. Masterpieces such as "Mojo Hand" were recorded on this label. By the early 1960s Lightnin' Hopkins cemented his reputation as one of the most talented bluesmen in the world.


Hopkins' style is characterized by his signature fingerstyle playing. His style includes lead guitar elements, percussive elements, and bass lines played simultaneously with a vocal line. Most of his music follows the standard 12 bar blues progression. However, his guitar and vocal phrasing was very loose. Hopkins sang in a conversational, half-spoken voice.

Bass Lick

Like many blues licks, this lick combines notes from the minor and major pentatonic scales. The basic lick consists of a three note motif derived from the E minor pentatonic scale. In the next scene, Eric explains some additions that can be made to the lick.
Chapter 3: (01:12) Adding a Hammer-on An optional trill or hammer-on can be tagged onto the lick. Hammer or trill between the notes G and G# on the third string. G# is part of the E major pentatonic scale. Keep the E note ringing on the fourth string while performing the hammer-on / trill. The whole lick can be concluded with a quick upstroke on the open E and B strings. Eric demonstrates the entire lick at the end of the scene.
Chapter 4: (01:36) Lightnin's Sliding Lick This lick uses notes from the E minor blues scale. This scale is formed by adding a b5 "blue" note to the minor pentatonic scale. In relation to the key of E minor, the b5 note is Bb. This note is usually used as a passing tone between the notes B and A in the scale.

Pay careful attention to the left hand fingering that Eric uses to play the lick. This fingering will allow you to play the lick with maximum speed and accuracy.
Chapter 5: (02:35) Lightnin's Seventh Chord Setup This lick begins with a similar motif to the lick taught in the last scene. This time around, instead of playing a descending line on the G string to close the lick, the lick outlines a rootless E7 chord. This chord shape is based on the visual shape of the "open" D7 chord. Make sure that all notes to continue to ring throughout the lick.


An optional vibrato can be applied to the E7 chord at the end of the lick.

Note: Some of the following information about vibrato is taken from lesson 22 of Dave MacKenzie's Phase 1 Basic Electric Guitar Series. Refer to this lesson for additional vibrato information.

Vibrato is a technique that adds feeling, expression, and a distinct personal identity to your playing. Vibrato is a pulsating effect resulting from rapid variations in pitch. At this point, you are probably very familiar with string bends. A vibrato can be thought of as a rapid sequence of small bends and releases.

Essentially, when vibrato is applied to a note, a guitarist is mimicking the sound of the human voice. Singers frequently apply this technique to long sustained notes or to the last note in a phrase.

Your Identity as a Guitarist

Vibrato is one of the most important components of a player's individual style. Many guitarists can be identified by their vibrato alone. These players have a very distinct and controlled vibrato technique. There are several ways to perform a vibrato on guitar. Spend significant time practicing and experimenting with each until you find what sounds best to you. Beware! It may take several years before you find the vibrato that is perfect for you.

Vibrato Factors

The two main factors that influence the sound of vibrato are speed and pitch. Speed refers to how quickly the note is pulsating. Pitch refers to how far the player bends the note away from the pitch that the vibrato is being applied to.

Ways to Perform Vibrato

A. Whammy Bar (Tremolo)

A vibrato can be produced with a whammy bar as a substitute for fret hand vibrato. A whammy bar vibrato sounds very different from a vibrato produced by the fret hand.

The whammy vibrato is most easily produced on guitars that feature a floating or locking tremolo system. The Paul Reed Smith tremolo is an example of a floating tremolo. The Floyd Rose tremolo is a double locking system. This means that the strings are locked in place at the bridge and at the nut. Floating and locking systems allow you to raise the pitch up or down. Tremolo systems that do not float above the body of the guitar will only allow the player to lower the pitch with the tremolo bar. Vibrato is possible with this system. However, your options are more limited.

B. Vibrato from the Wrist

Similar to bending strings, performing a vibrato from the wrist requires that you bring the fret hand thumb up over the top of the neck. The strong thumb muscle combined with the wrist provide the leverage necessary to produce a strong vibrato. Shake the wrist back and forth like you are rapidly opening a doorknob to produce a vibrato. Most blues players prefer this method.

C. Horizontal Finger Vibrato

This type of vibrato is used by classical guitarists. Rapidly wiggle the finger back and forth from side to side. Do not move the string up or down! This technique is quite similar to the way that other string players such as violinists and cellists perform vibrato. A much more subtle vibrato is produced with this method.

Types of Vibrato

A. Slow, Relaxed Vibrato

Joe Walsh from The Eagles has a very slow, relaxed vibrato. His solo in "Hotel California" provides some excellent examples of his vibrato style. When Joe Walsh performs a vibrato, it is very subtle. Other players with wider, faster vibratos are far less subtle.

B. Wide, Intense Vibrato

Players such as Angus Young and B.B. King play with a faster, wider vibrato sound. Listen to any B.B. King recording, and you'll instantly hear what Dave is talking about. This style of vibrato is much less subtle. It instantly jumps right out of the speakers. The vast majority of electric blues players prefer this technique. This technique is favored by roughly 3/4 of the rock and roll population as well. B.B.'s hand oscillates back and forth in a motion similar to turning a doorknob back and forth.

If possible, watch a live performance of B.B. King. Notice how wide and exaggerated his wrist movement is when adding vibrato to a note.

C. Zack Wylde Style of Vibrato

Many modern metal players such as Zack Wylde have taken the B.B King style of vibrato to a new extreme. Zack has a very wide and very fast vibrato.

Practicing Vibrato

Make vibrato a daily part of your practice routine. Practice this technique with all four fingers in a variety of fretboard locations. It is much more difficult to manipulate and shake the strings as you move closer to the nut.

Practice vibrato in very small, focused intervals of time. Otherwise, if you practice this technique in large increments of time, you will most likely loose your focus and will not receive the maximum benefit from your practice time.
Chapter 6: (03:37) Lightnin's Seventh Chord Arpeggios The lick demonstrated in this scene is often used as a turnaround or an intro to the 12 bar form. The entire lick is played over a sustaining low E pedal tone. It begins with the rootless E7 arpeggio demonstrated in the previous scene. This shape is slid down one half step to form an Eo7 chord. Since E is still ringing in the bass, these notes form an Eo7 chord instead of an Eb7 chord. This lick is used in countless blues songs such as the Hendrix classic "Red House."

The lick is played in triplets in 4/4 or it can be played in 12/8 time in eighth notes. In 12/8, eighth notes are placed together in four groups of three.

Usually, the lick is followed by another lick to create a logical, complete thought. Watch at 02:32 as Eric tags a cliche blues double stop onto the end of the lick.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Scene 1

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Hi. I'm Eric Madis with

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In the last lesson we worked on the Jimmy Reed shuffle.
We'll call it "Baby what you want me to do" for lack of a better title.

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That's actually one of his better known tunes but he has a lot of other tunes that went the same way.

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In this lesson we're going to focus on licks that you can play on that particular song and we're going to focus on licks in E for right now.

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Now a lot of times people ask me :

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"When you play ideas in blues, play a scale in blues or if you play licks do you play just over one chord

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or do you play over all three chords as if they're separate keys?"

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Actually, there are a number of different strategies in playing the blues

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and it's important for players to learn how to play over the different types of strategies.

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So one strategy would be to play everything as if it were in the key of one or the key of E and the other strategies are to play over the chords.

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If you're playing by yourself which a lot of you will be, you're going to want to play over the chords.

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That way you can actually hear the chord changes happening even if you don't have accompaniment.

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So I'm going to teach you with that type of strategy in mind.

Scene 2

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The first lick that we're going to work on is this Lightnin Hopkins bass lick.
It's very simple.

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What we're going to do is we're going to strike the low E, then fret with our ring finger on the third fret of the sixth string

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and then fret with the second finger on the second fret of the fourth string.

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Now notice that I did lift up the ring finger after I played it.

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So in other words, I didn't hold it down.
I went…

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But I did keep the E, the fourth string second fret in motion.
In other words, I want to keep that sustaining.

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So that's the basic lick there.

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E, G, E.

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I'm going to give you just a minute to work on that.

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Again, I'll show it to you.

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Don't forget to take the ring finger off.

Scene 3

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Ok, now we're going to add something to that Lightnin Hopkins base lick.

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This will be called a hammer-on, it'll be the major third or a G sharp.
In this case, G sharp is the major third of E.

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So what we're going to do is we're going to play the lick as we did before

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and while that E is sustaining we're going to strike A, the third string with an upstroke.

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Ok, if you're playing with your fingers you just pick with your finger.
If you're playing with a flat pick you want to pick upwards

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and hammer-on straight up and down, putting the pressure directly on the string.

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On the major third.

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So again, let's look at this.

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If you want to follow through sometimes you can cut it off like that with a nice little upstroke.

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Now all I did was I struck the two top strings or actually the three top strings with an upstroke and then I stopped the sound with my left hand.

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So let's look at the whole thing again.

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I'm going to give you a minute to work on that.

Scene 4

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Ok. So now we've got Lightnin Hopkins base lick with the hammer-on

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and that little slapback thing and now we're going to do another Lightnin Hopkins lick.

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This one is called Lightnin's sliding lick and you'll see why.

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You'll take the second finger and you'll slide from the second fret of the third string up to the fourth

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and then the index finger will play the third fret of the second string and notice that I picked the second finger up.

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I didn't leave it down there as a chord.

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I picked it up and now I'm going to put it back down where it was and I'm going to take the index finger

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and I'm going to walk down that third string from the third fret, to the second

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and nothing on the open there and then land with the second finger on the second fret of the fourth string.

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Ok. Again, let's look at this very slowly.

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Slide the second finger from the second fret to the fourth of the third string.

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Index finger on the second string, third fret and back down to the third string, walking down the third string with the index finger.

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Open third string and land with the second finger on the fourth string, second fret.

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Let's run through that one more time.

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Now you try it.

Scene 5

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Good, so now you've got Lightnin's sliding lick.

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Ok. So now we're going to take some other licks that branch off or are a different variation of that sliding lick.

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In other words, what I'm trying to do is give you a strategy where when you move your hand in a certain direction

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or when you slide a note you have more than one option and that's what we're going to work on.

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So what we're going to do is take the Lightnin's sliding lick but we're going to stop with the second note

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and we're going to leave both of those notes as a chord this time.

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Strike the third string again and then take the ring finger and put it down on the fourth fret of the first string.

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Now you're probably saying "hey, looks like a D seventh chord."

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Yes, it's a D seventh chord brought up two frets, makes an E seventh.

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Which is the one chord of this key.

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What that is, is a seventh chord setup.
I call that the Lightnin's seventh chord setup.

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Now that particular lick itself will lead into other licks.

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So let's run through it one more time, I'm going to give you more time to work on it

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and you can vibrato a little bit if you want.

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Ok. So, we were working on the seventh chord setup and notice that I vibrato-ed that.

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Let's talk a little bit about that.

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The vibrato is accomplished by the turn of your wrist.

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You know when you open a doorknob you will turn the doorknob often to the left.

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It's that same kind of wrist movement you will use to get that vibrato in this case.

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In this case you'll need to bring your thumb around the side of the neck.

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Not too far, but have the thumb so that you can exert pressure against the side of the neck

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and hold the fingers into place and then what happens is you twist, you turn like this, in this direction.

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Giving yourself that vibrato.

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So if you're wondering how to get that vibrato, it's a wrist vibrato and that's how you accomplish it.

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Why don't you try it a second with the seventh chord setup.

Scene 6

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So the next lick we're going to do is a series of arpeggio's based on that seventh chord setup.

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They'll be the E seventh arpeggio.

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And we're going to bring it down a fret which makes an E diminished, seventh arpeggio.

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So again, what we have is the E seventh arpeggio and I'm picking this one, two, three and you know, consecutively first, second, third strings.

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What I'm using is upstrokes with my right hand if I'm flat picking.

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If you're a finger picker you can just use your fingers.

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Which in themselves are upstrokes.

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Down a fret gives you the E diminished seventh.

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So this is really common type of blues lick and we hear it in a lot of different country blues and even in urban blues.

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Now just to clear up one little bit of music theory for you.

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Why when we take the E seventh and we move it down a fret is it not an E flat seventh?

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It is an E flat seventh but the idea here is that you're playing it over an E base.

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So if you can see this chord here, you will see that it's still the E seventh chord.

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With an E here at the base.

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If I bring this chord down but still keep the E in the base.
That's an E diminished chord.

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That's why we refer to this second lick here or this second chord down as a diminished chord.

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An E diminished chord instead of just an E flat seventh and it's in that context in blues, you'll notice this quite a lot in blues.

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So that's why I call it the E diminished seventh.

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Ok, so let's run through the E seventh arpeggio, chord arpeggio's one more time.

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So we have the E seventh.
One measure.

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One measure of the E diminished seventh.
Back up to the E seventh.

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Then typically follow with something like that.

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So this is a very common type of blues technique and we want to try to develop this with some authenticity.

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The first thing we have to know is what is the timing we have.

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It's that one, two, three, one, two, three.
Well it's the 12/8 time that I've been taking about, it's triplets.

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One, two, three and that one, two, three happens over one beat.

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So if you want to think of it as one, two, three, four, two, two, three, four you get the idea that the three beats fall over one beat.

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So that's why we call it 12/8 time as opposed to just 4/4.
It's very common in the blues.

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So those are our seventh chord arpeggio's.

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We're going to come back in the next lesson and do some more Lightnin Hopkins licks.

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So until next time, thanks again.
This is Eric Madis with

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

rogermack50rogermack50 replied on September 12th, 2014

I liked the licks but after showing us the shufffle in the series opening, then getting these licks, I thought it would have been best to show how they work within the shuffle. Now I know 3 new licks but don't know how the work within the shuffle etc. In fact the last lick learned seems to need something to complete it, it just hangs there. So I hope this series is not another piece of work that skips over important steps like how it works together...

skaterstuskaterstu replied on April 16th, 2016

I have to agree... Eric is a good teacher, his fingerstyle series does this well.. but I remember tackling this series way back in 2009 and I got frustrated at learning a bunch of licks that I didn't really understand where their place was. Not easy when you are just graduating from beginner and you are not a natural.

myjamplaysmyjamplays replied on August 14th, 2014

another great lesson Eric, your a great guy and a very good teacher. thanking you Eric.

harry soldgtlharry soldgtl replied on April 8th, 2014

Thanks Matt, Playing for a couple of years and while trying to find a style found music by Lightnin' Hopkins. Just by chance searched the Jam Play site and found your lesson. Really enjoyed it and look forward to your series.

harry soldgtlharry soldgtl replied on April 8th, 2014

Enter your comment here.

grahamggrahamg replied on July 29th, 2013

I don't get those triads on the 1,2 and 3 strings. I understand why the D7 is a D7 because it has the open d as the root but moving that shape down the neck makes no sense to me as there no longer is a root note in the chord. How can E7 be E7 for example without an E anywhere in the chord? Great lesson series by the way.

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on November 3rd, 2013

In music it is possible to have chords that are lacking one (and sometimes even more) notes. However, in this case, although the E7 triad is only a triad and lacks the root note, the root note on the 6th string is not only implied, but in an ensemble situation, it is actually present. But theoretically, you could also consider this triad to be a G#m triad. In this context though, it is E7.

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on November 3rd, 2013

Thank you for your question and your kind words. - Eric

warlagwarlag replied on May 4th, 2013

Great lesson! I intend to complete all your lessons in this section! Keep up the great playing Eric!

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on November 3rd, 2013

That is good to hear. Thank you for your kind words. - Eric

anotherjoshuaanotherjoshua replied on February 28th, 2013

eric is great!!!!!!

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on November 3rd, 2013

You are too kind! Eric

dorjedorje replied on January 7th, 2013

This is a really fun lesson. Thank you for doing this! How cool is it play just a little of Lightning Hopkins stuff :)

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on January 21st, 2013


rkm62rkm62 replied on December 8th, 2012

yes, life after hawkeye. ive tried some other teachers but now the search is over after the hawk. fantastic. you make it so easy to learn. thanks.

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on January 21st, 2013

Thank you!

sarge666sarge666 replied on December 6th, 2012

video not working??

mpaynempayne replied on January 9th, 2013

I had that problem and then i just refreshed the page and it worked

daniefvwdaniefvw replied on July 11th, 2012

The program worked well until I tried Lesson 2. It takes a long time to open and most of the lessons woun't play. can someone give me advice?

mayersucksmayersucks replied on October 30th, 2011

hi eric- i have a really hard time with improvisation, and ive been playing for nearly three years! any tips on how i could use these licks for improv? Thanks a lot- Nishant

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on March 19th, 2012

Improvising takes a while! Even just acquiring techniques does not make a person a good improvisor. In order to be a good improvisor, you need to put yourself in a position to practice that constantly. Whether that is jamming with a friend (or friends), or playing along with a looping station, or playing along with your favorite records. Three years is not much time. If you work at the language of music, building up your vocabularly and practicing applying it, depending on how much you do practice, you can begin to see some noticable results in about 5 years.

thehornet74thehornet74 replied on September 25th, 2011

Eric. Finally a teacher that explains things clear and concisely. Very much enjoying going back to the roots of guitar in these wonderful lessons. Thank you sir:)

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on March 19th, 2012

Thank you, Hornet!

greyskiesgreyskies replied on September 11th, 2011

Thanks, Eric! I really enjoy the way you explain the material in your lessons. Ok, enough typing..I gotta practice ;0)

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on March 19th, 2012

Thanks, Coffeenut!

nash24nash24 replied on June 13th, 2011

I love your lessons. Your teaching is awesome. Thanks!

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on June 20th, 2011

Thank you very much kind sir. Eric

hutchhutch replied on February 2nd, 2011

Very well explained and it's fun to piece the licks together and then experiment with other combinations.

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on May 16th, 2011

What you are saying is very true (about piecing the licks together). Thanks for your kind words...

beeho15beeho15 replied on October 11th, 2010

I really enjoy your lessons. Your an excellent teacher. thank you

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on October 18th, 2010

Thank you very much. Take care, Eric

carindamcarindam replied on September 30th, 2010

Eric, very nice!!! enjoyed your lesson...Great!!!

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on October 18th, 2010

Thanks for your kind words, and thanks for saying hello. Eric

marshall laneymarshall laney replied on August 3rd, 2010

That was great Eric really beautiful blues with a lot of feeling nice blues guitar you have too - I was playing along with my Jackson which is not exactly a blues guiatr I guess but... I look forward to your future lessons with great interest.

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on September 7th, 2010

Thanks Marshall. Nothing wrong with a Jackson. That is a great guitar. It is not the guitar that makes the music, it's you bro. And I have heard guys with Jacksons tear your heart out with blues. Not common, I know. But any good guitar can work well. Good luck. - Eric

moppenrowmoppenrow replied on August 22nd, 2010

Hey Eric, Thanks for the lesson. I like the licks on their own, but curious as to fitting them into the shuffle. I am new to this, and am experimenting. My assumption would be be upon the chord changes as you suggest. Any tips would be appreciated. Thx. David

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on September 7th, 2010

David, Right you are. Remember that a shuffle is a very simple, straight ahead rhythm and the chord changes fall right on the 1st beat of each measure, so that helps you to build your licks upon those chord changes. - Eric

skaterstuskaterstu replied on May 17th, 2010

Hi Eric, Just getting started with your tutorials.. really very good stuff. Love the licks big time. A quick question. Should be learn the licks using a metronome and pass the 120 bpm as stated on the tab? Also, will you add to these tutorials with some slide lessons? I have been playing along to the tutorials with my acoustic, but think maybe its time to bring out the electric so I can do the bendy licks. Thanks for the great lessons Stuart

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on May 18th, 2010

Hi Stuart, Thanks for the kind words. I am not a big believer in practicing licks with a metronome, althought certainly that cannot hurt you. I am a big believer in immersing yourself in the music first, so that it is in your memory and you understand how it is supposed to sound. Definitely break out the electric, if you have one. The first few lessons are fine for acoustic. But upcoming lessons are really best for electric. Yes, I would love to teach bottleneck slide. I intend to return to the JamPlay studios in the not-so-distant future to do more lessons and may do slide at that time. Best regards, Eric

skaterstuskaterstu replied on May 22nd, 2010

Thanks Eric... I broke out my electric and really loved doing the Lightning Hopkins slide with bend... it's pretty exciting because I thought bends would be difficult, but I got it down pretty quickly (although I still need practice to pick up speed). Now I have found a phase 2 I am gonna stick with and work through. In the past I have jumped around a bit, not knowing what to do... but I am gonna combine this electric blues with some of the acoustic fingerstyle... as much as I love the electric, I love the acoustic too. Looking forward to ploughing through your 50 or so lessons. Keep 'em coming!!! Thanks Eric, Stu

currannicurranni replied on May 14th, 2009

eric i m loving your guitar haha. may i ask what else do you have and like to play!?!

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on July 24th, 2009

Hi Niall, Well, I have other electric and acoustic guitars...and I play a bunch of slide guitar also. Thanks for checking in with me. Best regards, Eric

nonoborinonobori replied on May 24th, 2009

Hey from Japan Eric. I picked up a guitar after a break of 40 years to keep arthritis at bay :) Great lessons. cheers, Dave

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on July 24th, 2009

Thanks Dave, and welcome back! Eric

floorshakerfloorshaker replied on May 24th, 2009

Hi Eric. Just wondering if you will be having your own thread on the forum soon? Great lessons and keep on injecting little extra licks and tricks as it is fun trying to add them to my playing.

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on July 24th, 2009

Hey Floorshaker! I am not sure yet....I will discuss this further with my friends at Jam Play, but thanks for your support and interest! Eric

petepete replied on May 30th, 2009

Great lesson but I'm a little confused. In the video you say that it's better to play licks over the different chords if your playing by yourself, but in the supplemental content it says its better to play in one key. Can you clarify this?

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on July 24th, 2009

Hey Pete, Yes, I did not write the supplemental. Whether playing solo or with others, it is always best to keep the chord changes in mind and use them to develop ideas. Otherwise, you end up with more of a "rock" way of thinking, which is playing in one key. I will contact Jeff about that discrepancy. Thanks! Eric

galenogarbegalenogarbe replied on May 6th, 2009

I really liked your Lessons. I just got my 7 days free pass from This site is awesome. Very well structured and I cna learn exacly what I want to learn. For sure I will subscribe. Just a question: How often do you add more lessons?

jboothjbooth replied on May 7th, 2009

There's not a regular schedule, but we have roughly 40 lessons from Eric already filmed and waiting in the editing que, so you will see them popping up regularly. If you like the blues be sure to also check out DJ Philips, Hawkeye Herman and our upcoming blues teacher Mary Flower... it's a great time for blues lovers on JamPlay :)

mattbrownmattbrown replied on April 23rd, 2009

Supplemental Content for this lesson will be posted by early tomorrow afternoon (4/24/09). Thanks for your patience!

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on April 29th, 2009

Thanks, Matt!

currannicurranni replied on April 23rd, 2009

aw man i cant wait to try this gotta love lightnin hopkins!!

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on April 29th, 2009

He was really great.....I had some friends who used to play with him (and called him "that nasty old man").

currannicurranni replied on April 23rd, 2009

eric have you ever listened to townes van zandt? i d love to learn brand new companion which was his very country blues style song, but i can never work out his picking. if you do some phase 3s would you consider it??

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on April 29th, 2009

Why yes, I have heard (the late) Townes Van Zant! I don't know that song that you mentioned, but I will check it out.

J.artmanJ.artman replied on April 23rd, 2009

Fantastic lesson, Eric. You must be a humble, tiny fella, that guitar looks very big on you. Fantastic playing. I'm in no way a blues fan. Thats not to say I don't appreciate it, but I generally don't listen to it very often because of the similarities between so many tunes. But, you have turned me on to this so called 'City Blues'. I really enjoy your playing. Keep the lessons coming!

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on April 29th, 2009

Thank you for the kind words, my friend. Humble and tiny? Well......I don't know about the first. I am actually 5'10" and average build.....the reason why that guitar looks big is because it is big (by some standards). It has a 16" lower bout. I think a lot of the electrics many people see these days are solid body and/or are relatively small in size. But, the bigger the guitar, the bigger the heart!

jboothjbooth replied on April 23rd, 2009

It's actually a pretty massive guitar :) I would hate to engage in combat with Eric!

evilhedgehogevilhedgehog replied on April 25th, 2009

another awesome lesson! thank you, and keep it goin! :)

Eric.MadisEric.Madis replied on April 29th, 2009

Thank you! I hope you enjoy the upcoming ones. We really progress quickly from here......

Electric Blues with Eric

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

The blues is a distinctly American style of music. Many popular genres such as jazz, rock, and country music draw upon basic blues concepts. Consequently, it is advantageous for any guitarist to study the blues.

Lesson 1

Basic Blues Shuffle

In this lesson, Eric introduces himself and his Phase 2 lesson series. He also teaches a basic blues shuffle in the style of Jimmy Reed.

Length: 17:35 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Licks by Lightnin' Hopkins

Eric teaches a few popular Lightnin' Hopkins licks. These licks can be played over the blues shuffle from the previous lesson.

Length: 11:46 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

More Lightnin' Licks

Eric covers a few more essential licks in the style of Lightnin' Hopkins.

Length: 7:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

John Lee Hooker Licks

Eric teaches a few licks inspired by the great John Lee Hooker.

Length: 7:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Country Blues Lick

Eric Madis explains a country blues lick he calls the "Country Blues Double Wham."

Length: 6:35 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Memphis Blues Lead

In this lesson Eric talks about playing basic lead in the Memphis Blues style.

Length: 10:37 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 7

Using the Memphis Blues

Eric demonstrates how the Memphis blues licks taught in the previous lesson can be used over various chords.

Length: 5:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

12 Bar Memphis Blues

Eric demonstrates how to construct a full 12 bar blues solo by using the Memphis blues licks he taught in previous lessons.

Length: 7:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Applying the Memphis Blues

In this lesson, Eric applies the Memphis Blues Lead to a practical blues context.

Length: 4:06 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Learning A Licks

In this lesson, Eric Madis teaches two licks that can be used over an A chord.

Length: 12:16 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

IC Blues

In this lesson, Eric Madis teaches a type of blues shuffle that he calls the "IC Blues."

Length: 12:45 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Simple Blues Lead

In this lesson, Eric talks about playing blues lead using licks you already know.

Length: 8:58 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Play Like T-Bone Walker

Eric Madis begins to explain T-Bone Walker's style of playing the blues.

Length: 7:48 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

T-Bone Walker Lick

Eric Madis teaches a classic T-Bone Walker lick and talks about several different variations you can play.

Length: 10:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

Exploring T-Bone Walker Licks

Eric Madis introduces several new T-Bone Walker licks and explains the ways they can be used.

Length: 10:21 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

T-Bone Walker Licks Continued

Eric continues his exploration of T-Bone Walker licks and techniques.

Length: 9:22 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

T-Bone Walker Licks Wrap-Up

Eric wraps up his overview of T-Bone Walker licks and techniques in this lesson. You will be applying what you've learned in the next lesson, so be sure to practice.

Length: 10:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Swing Blues in A

Eric teaches a swing blues progression. He teaches the progression in the key of A and explains how licks from previous lessons can be played over it.

Length: 14:17 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Stormy Monday Blues

In this lesson, Eric Madis teaches the blues progression to "Stormy Monday Blues." This progression is played in the style of T-Bone Walker and Earl "Fatha" Hines.

Length: 9:49 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Stormy Monday Blues Introduction

In this lesson, Eric returns to the world of "Stormy Monday Blues" to teach an amazing introduction segment.

Length: 7:21 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Transition Licks

Eric Madis teaches a series of licks that can be used to transition from one pentatonic pattern to another.

Length: 9:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Second Position Licks

In this lesson, Eric Madis demonstrates popular blues licks within the second pattern of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 16:50 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

The Thrill is Gone

In this lesson Eric talks about one of the classic blues tunes, "The Thrill is Gone," by B.B. King.

Length: 10:43 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 24

Third Position Playing

In this lesson, Eric Madis introduces the third pattern of the minor pentatonic scale. This pattern is used frequently by the likes of B.B. King.

Length: 11:27 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

Using Third Position

Eric Madis once again talks about third position and how it can be used. He also introduces a slew of new licks.

Length: 12:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

The Fourth Position

In this lesson Eric Madis talks about the fourth position of blues playing.

Length: 10:04 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

Playing Strategy

In this lesson Eric talks about "strategies" to use while playing and improvising.

Length: 7:11 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 28

Alternative Blues Shuffle

Eric Madis introduces the alternative blues shuffle, which is particularly useful on guitars featuring humbucker pickups.

Length: 14:31 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

Freddie King Style Licks

In this lesson Eric Madis teaches licks in the style of Freddie King.

Length: 9:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 30

Aeolian Mode

In this lesson Eric talks about the differences between the minor blues and the "dominant" blues. He also introduces the modes, beginning with the Aeolian mode.

Length: 10:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Locrian Mode

In this lesson Eric Madis introduces the Locrian mode and talks about how it can be used in blues.

Length: 6:58 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Dorian Mode

Eric continues his series on modes. This time he covers the Dorian mode and its relation to the blues.

Length: 7:16 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 33

Modes & Minor Key Blues

Eric continues his discussion on modes in relation to the minor key blues.

Length: 9:31 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 34

Minor 7th Arpeggios

Eric Madis teaches a handful of minor 7th arpeggios in this lesson.

Length: 10:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 35

Dominant 7th Arpeggios

Eric demonstrates dominant 7th arpeggios in this lesson.

Length: 7:27 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Applying Dominant 7th Arpeggios

Eric discusses dominant seventh arpeggios and how they can be used in blues licks.

Length: 6:58 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 37

Diminished 7th Arpeggios

Eric talks all about diminished 7th arpeggios and gives five exercises to practice.

Length: 10:20 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 38

Applying Diminished 7th Arpeggios

Learn how the diminished 7th arpeggios from the previous lesson can be applied to the blues.

Length: 12:13 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 39

You Don't Love Me

Eric teaches the catchy blues song "You Don't Love Me."

Length: 14:27 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 40

Freddie King Variation

Eric teaches Freddie King variations on T-Bone Walker licks.

Length: 7:53 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 41

Lick Exercise

Eric provides an exercise that uses previously learned licks from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th patterns of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 12:45 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 42

Introduction to Modes

Eric starts you off on the right foot with an introduction to modes.

Length: 28:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 43

Mode Application

In this lesson, Eric explains some common blues applications for the modes of the major scale.

Length: 12:43 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 44

Mode Application Continued

Eric Madis continues his discussion on mode application concepts.

Length: 18:30 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 45

Major Pentatonic Scale Ideas

Eric Madis discusses major pentatonic scale ideas.

Length: 6:09 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 46

More Lick Ideas

Eric shares some more great lick ideas that you can incorporate into your playing.

Length: 10:25 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 47

Ending Licks

Eric shares ideas on ending licks, turnarounds, and tags in this lesson.

Length: 12:41 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 48

Fill-in Licks

Eric Madis teaches some great filler licks for your bag of tricks.

Length: 14:13 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 49

Bass Lines

Eric Madis talks about some common blues bass lines that will spice up your playing.

Length: 13:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 50

More Ending Licks

Eric Madis teaches some classic ending licks.

Length: 16:01 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 51

Swing Blues

Eric Madis introduces the swing style of the 12 bar blues.

Length: 8:03 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 52

Classic Minor Blues

Eric Madis introduces the basics of the classic minor blues and talks about how this progression can be spiced up using simple blues techniques.

Length: 18:35 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 53

A Minor Blues in 8/8 Time

In this lesson, Eric Madis teaches a popular blues progression in 8/8 time. This rhythmic feel gives the progression a funkier or more rock-like feel than the traditional blues.

Length: 7:04 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 54

Descending Minor Blues

Eric teaches a classic blues progression he calls the "Descending Minor Blues."

Length: 11:15 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 55

Modern Block Chord Minor Key Blues

Eric Madis teaches an interesting minor blues progression he calls the "Modern Block Chord Minor Key Blues."

Length: 7:40 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 56

Detroit Chicago Funky Blues

Eric Madis teaches an amazing blues progression he calls "The Detroit Chicago Funky Blues."

Length: 9:49 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 57

Jimmy Nolen's Funky Groove

Eric Madis moves on and teaches an astonishing blues progression he dubs "Jimmy Nolen's Funky Groove."

Length: 8:41 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 58

The Bump Shuffle

Eric Madis introduces a blues style called "The Bump Shuffle."

Length: 7:27 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 59

The Bump Shuffle #2

In this lesson Eric Madis teaches a second way to play the classic blues progression "The Bump Shuffle."

Length: 4:41 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 60

Chicago Bass Groove

Eric Madis teaches a bass oriented blues progression entitled the "Chicago Bass Groove."

Length: 6:50 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 61

Blues Bass Groove

Eric Madis teaches another powerful bass groove he has extracted from the world of blues.

Length: 3:55 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 62

Blues Bass Groove #3

Eric Madis teaches another useful bass groove for blues guitar.

Length: 5:47 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 63

Blues Bass Groove #4

Eric Madis teaches another valuable blues bass groove.

Length: 4:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 64

Wolf's Groove

In this lesson, Eric Madis teaches a blues bass groove inspired by Howlin' Wolf.

Length: 4:31 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 65

Minor Progression Major Chords

In this lesson, Eric Madis teaches a valuable blues chord progression that he calls "Minor Progression Major Chords."

Length: 11:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 66

Sliding Ninth Groove

Eric enthusiastically presents a new chord progression he calls the "Sliding Ninth Groove."

Length: 5:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 67

Tribute Blues Shuffle

Eric pays tribute to Memphis Slim and Jimmy Reed in something he likes to call the "Tribute Blues Shuffle."

Length: 8:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 68

Chicago Style Funky Blues

Eric Madis teaches a blues chord progression inspired by the Chicago style of blues playing. This progression has a funky rhythmic feel.

Length: 9:51 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Eric Madis View Full Biography Eric Madis is a guitarist, singer and composer, a versatile artist whose playing and compositions reflect his diverse and thorough background in American music. Whether performing in an ensemble or as a soloist, he exudes a love and a mastery of the blues that have been refined by years of experience in jazz, country, rock, and even Hawaiian music. What results are performances that include authentic renderings of old rural blues, personal interpretations of modern urban blues and jazz standards, and original music that defies strict categorization, but that draws heavily from these traditions.

Eric lives in Seattle where he leads his own ensemble, performs as a solo act and performs in the Seattle Swing Trio. He has released four CDs on Luna Records, and is currently working on a fifth. He is on the faculty of the National Guitar Workshop and Dusty Strings Music and teaches guitar privately.

Eric lived his formative years in Colorado with a family that was musical (his mother was an accomplished opera singer), and began his music study on the piano at the age of nine. He began performing shortly after picking up a guitar at ten years of age. By the age of sixteen, he was performing in Chicago-area coffeehouses. He has accompanied artists as diverse as bluesmen Big Walter Horton, Sunnyland Slim, Deacon Jones, Hawaiian luminaries Irmgaard Aluli, Kekua Fernandez, Emma Sharpe and author/poet Nikki Grimes.

He has led bands in Illinois, Texas, Colorado and Washington. He has opened shows for Robben Ford, James Cotton, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Mem Shannon, Hawkeye Herman and author Sherman Alexie. Eric's four albums have received critical acclaim, including regional airplay and nominations from NAMA and Washington Blues Society (WBS). He has received 16 Best Blues nominations from WBS, was a finalist in the New Folk Awards at the 1981 Kerrville National Folk Festival, a finalist in the 1991 Seattle Guitar Starz competition, and has music featured on five film soundtracks. Eric has taught guitar classes at Denver Free University, University of Washington's Experimental College, Northwest Folklife Festival, National Guitar Workshop, and Canada's Guitar Workshop Plus.

Whether performing in a group or as a soloist, at a concert or a small club, teaching privately or a large workshop, Eric is a dedicated professional, with commitment to the quality of his art and to his audience.

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