Home Ernie Hawkins Tour Music DVD's Contact Secure Order Videos Online

Ask Ernie for Blues Advice     Email: bluesadvice@aol.com

David Serafine Austin TX
Just want to say 'thank you' for doing what you do. I have purchased each of your rev Gary Davis lessons. Your teaching style is fantastic and I have progressed as a guitarist thanks to those lessons. My fave lessons so far are ' penitentiary blues' and your lesson on big bill broonzy's ' shuffle rag' has me mesmerized...I love it!

Hope to see you live sometime and thanks again for helping me learn the blues!

Mike Frederickson Shorewood MN
I am writing to thank you and to let you know how helpful your various teaching materials have been for me. In addition to owning all your CDís, I have also purchased almost all you DVDís. These DVDís have been so inspirational to me and have helped my playing immensely. In addition to learning the material, I feel like I am learning how to learn and feel much more able to identify chord progressions and pick music off of records and also improvise more competently. Your teachings and obvious love for this music has been truly inspirational.
Richard Nelson Butte MT
Have you ever transcribed "You Got to go Down" and if you can you tell me where to find it. I can kind of make it out, but have trouble figuring out where the licks start, etc.. Thanks and keep up the good work. You have certainly changed my life with your DVd lessons. Whenever our 8-month old kid cries, I play
"Children of Zion" and that cheers him right up.
John Schwab, Bethesda, MD
I heard you for the first time at the UNC event to honor Rev. Gary Davis. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciated your music and your stories, and I think you were the only one of the three performers who truly bought into the purpose of the gathering. Your music was sublime. Thanks for keeping the Reverend's lamp trimmed and burning.
Jim Denton, Texas
Loved your lesson on "Lonesome Road Blues" Ernie!!
Just love how you sweeten your lesson with how learning certain
measures or licks will get you into heaven.....very colorful and fun!!

I've reached the point in my acoustic blues guitar playing where there
are just too few surprises any more so this lesson was a true treasure
discovery for me!! Thanks!

Do you have a separate DVD course available that caters
specifically to the advancing blues guitarist and interjects neat and
cool unusual licks, vamps, phrases and passages into our play??

There are plenty of great songs in some of the other DVDs--Lightnin', Mance Lipscomb, Gary Davis etc. I recommend the new Broonzy or the guitar arrangements of Louis Armstrong and Bix Biederbecke. Indispensable is the CAGED series for learning basic music and fretboard for guitar. Available at www.erniehawkins.com

Nick Newcastle Upon Tyne, England
I'd like the guitar tab to one of Rev Gary Davis songs - Come down and
see me sometime.

I don't have the tab fore that. It is played in the key of F, as I recall. We could do a skype lesson and I can show the basics to you.
Leslie Robins U.K.
Would you recommend your CAGED DVD series for learning to play chord progressions and runs to popular, modern songs?

I would recommend the Caged for basic music and for getting around the guitar neck. It will make everything easier. The chord progressions taught are blues and circle of fifths.
R.M. McDonell Vancouver BC
Just got your Lightning Hopkins lesson and am amazed at the incredible beauty of it. I think I had only heard some poor late recordings and wrongly thought he was simply all about a Texas shuffle. Now, instead of trying to get some complicated syncopation of Blind Blake just right, I am really enjoying learning to play those phrases and leaning on the spaces of Come Back Baby and Sugar on My Mind. Absolutely amazing lines. Thanks so much.

Markos Greece
I received your DVD's about Lightnin' Hopkins' guitar. There's a saying: "If you have a good word to say,don't keep it to yourself". Following this I congratulate for your work. The fact that you are sharing your knowledge and the joy of playing the blues with the rest of us, like Fred McDowell,makes you a TRUE bluesman. Keep up the good work!

Joe Morita Brooklyn NY
I have a number of your instructional DVDs and am a big fan of yours - thanks for keeping this music alive, and also for helping guitarists like myself.

I recently got a 12-string guitar, and my favorite Blind Willie McTell song is Travelin Blues. Can you give me any tips on this song? I think it might be in G tuning, mainly because of the slide. Any help would be appreciated, and if you're working on another Blind Willie DVD, this would be my first request!

D tuning

William Pardee Davis CA
I'm enjoying working on the RGD songs.I am having trouble getting my thumb around to the bass notes Ė I'm playing on an old Gibson 12-string that sounds great but has a big neck. It looks like Reverend Davis played one of those as well Ė did he often use a 12-string?

He loved 12-strings, they all had big necks, it didn't seem to slow him down. You might want to check out other guitars for their necks though. That Gibson 12 has a huge neck.

Whinin' Boy received two Indie Award nominations and won the award for a cover of Big Bill Broonzy's Shuffle Rag:
Frank Chirico Bronx NY
You are a great musician and teacher. The one song on Whinin' Boy that haunts me is his adaptation of "Vicksburg Blues"-any chance of finding out the key he uses so I can attempt to learn it?
Vicksburg is played in E, tuned down to, I think, D. Shuffle Rag on the same CD just got an Indie award for best cover song.
Tim Wenger Loomis CA
I have been enjoying Big Bill Broonzy, getting licks from Guitar Shuffle and Oh Yes. The only "problem" I have is when I put Ernie on while I do my Nordic Track workout, I have so much fun watching and listening that I track myself to a frazzle! Thank you for another batch of wonderful performances, instruction and history
Greg Hulsebos Holland MI
I found your instructional recordings of Rev. Davis exceptional. They took me further in that style of playing than I thought possible. Made the music very accessible. Thanks again, I really appreciate your efforts.

Dan Felsen Sandy UT
You can't imagine how pleased I was to see Broonzy and Lightnin' come out. I have been looking for a tab for Lightnin's "Needed Time" for years. I found one, but it is pretty untrustworthy. All tabs and tab writers are not created equal! When I get a tab from Ernie, I can be sure it will give me what I want to learn. Without his DVD's I would be nowhere. As it is, I am pretty fantastic, for me, that is! I have far exceeded what I ever thought I could do.Thanks a million.
Paul Seer Tulsi Nation Music

I'm playing a lot of the Reverend's music on my D15 Martin learned from your videos. I just can't find strings to hold up to the Thumb and Finger style of playing. G strings busting always at saddle constantly. When playing intense stuff like Twelve Sticks, sometimes it's busting after less then 2 hours of play. Then the D string goes. Can you suggest a string brand that might be a little tougher? Right now I'm using John Pearse and Deadario.

I use Martin SP. I don't break as many strings as I used to. It seems like I play old strings as long as possible. I really don't like new strings. I don't ever remember the Rev breaking a string. That said, G strings seem to be the most fragile.
Jonathan Tucker Byron GA
Was wondering if you could offer any advice on which Martin guitar is best for Acoustic blues. Is the OM model ( 000 ) or Dreadnought best?

Depends on individual guitar. The guitar that speaks to you is the best.

Dow Bonney Lake WA
I just wanted to say what an amazing job you did on the Mance dvds. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us less fortunate players, I've been trying for awhile to get that Mance sound and rhythm...thanks for bringing a smile to my face.
I'm BIG into Jerry Reed....I play banjo and I have a few gut string classicals I play like Jerry did. I recently acquired an old Harmony 1203 like Mance had and I don't know what kind of strings to put on it. I use the lightest/thinnest flamenco strings that I can find LaBella 820s for my Reed style. I tried putting the lightest gauge steel strings on this 1203 and I don't think it sounds too great. Do you remember what kind of strings Mance used or do you have any recommendations for what strings would be best for the Texas blues on that old 1203?

I think you should try regular acoustic light gauge strings. Sometimes,with Mance and Lightnin' I hear an unwound G string, I love those old Harmonies. I recently filmed a Big Bill Broonzy DVD. He is a master of the single, steady base like MANCE.

C.J. Wire Boulder CO
I have been learning a lot of great stuff from the Lightnin' dvd. I was wondering if that is a Hummingbird you are playing, and what gauge strings you use, and how high the action is on your guitar.

It's a 1950 J-50, medium action.

Wm Drean Aston PA
I've been working on and off on Delia on your one Rev Gary Davis DVD--sometimes I just load it in to listen to the performance though, it's fantastic. Very weary seeming from the tragedy witnessed and affecting. Have you recorded a version similar to the one I've been watching?

Yes, on "Mean Little Poodle". Most of the guitar part is from Cocaine.

Roger Peak Louisiana
I am curious to know if any of your dvds cover certain Hopkins' songs that I am familiar with which I heard on a recording with " Santa Fe Blues" . They are Lonesome Dog Blues, Tell Me Pretty Mama, Give me back that wig, Sittin Down Thinkin, Dont keep my Baby long, Aint it lonesome, Jake Head Boogie

I'm certain that " Santa Fe.." style covers most of these songs, but others like Lonesome Dog, Tell Me Pretty Mama, Jake Head seem quite different from the slow blues in A style - I think...


I have two Lightnin' DVDs. The first has films of the songs, the second is from his early work. You can find the songs listed on my website and you can order from there. They pretty much cover all of his different styles and keys. Safe to say that these songs will enable you to learn just about anything else in his repertoire. I also give Skype lessons if you prefer

Ken Dagovetz Las Vegas
I'm trying to learn how to play guitar like Lightnin'. Is your dvd (the guitar of lightnin), the same material in your new texas blues dvd of lightnin. Which one would be better to start with? I saw him perform many years ago at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium with the canned heat and albert collins. That was quite a show.

Probably the first one with films is best, though I ask you to tune to the film. Some people don't like that, in which case try the second.

Mark Eldridge Wichita Kansas
I was wondering if you're ever going to teach the song "What You Gonna Do" on dvd ? I love that song and listen to it often on your artistry dvd. I love your music and have quite a few of your dvds. Wish you could make it out to the midwest sometime, as I would love to see you live.

It will be on the next dvd.

Terry Tranter Australia
I saw your rendition of "What you Gonna Do" on youtube. It is really good. I like the driving force behind it. I'm trying to play it but I can't define the chords you are holding. It seems to be in C but then again it looks like G I think it is the circle of fifths but there is something else. Your version is the ultimate expression of the ragtime guitar genre.

It's in G (G E A D G G G7 C Eb7) Changes keys to C. Don't have TAB for it. I play it on The Guitar Artistry DVD.

Jim Pharis Sunset LA
An interview with Ernie: http://www.learn-fingerstyle-guitar.com/ErnieHawkins.html

Bryon Onisko Sebastopol CA
I can't thank you enough for your excellent series on Mance. Your teaching is fantastic!!! You have brought me so much joy, explaining Mance in a way that has removed the mystery from his playing.
Greg Hulsebos Holland MI
Just wanted to say thank you for the care that you took with preparing the instructional set on the gospel music of Rev. Gary Davis. I've always been awestruck by his playing but didn't have a thread on how to approach playing his music. I've had the good fortune to play an opening song for our Interfaith Congregation each Sunday and now I feel Rev. Davis, music is accessible to me. Your instruction is great! Very understandable and concise.

Eyjolfur Gudmundsson Iceland
Thank you so much for a wonderful time in Bar Harbor! Iīm still absorbing all the new stuff. The CAGED system is a great help and now the guitar neck is much easier to understand than before.

Phil Elliott Tasmania Australia
Just want to say thanks for putting Whininí Boy together as a production. Track six motivated me to drop a line .In particular I love that big fat low frequency horn - it seems to really get my speakers pumping. To coin the Southern vernacular it may be a "Tooba" but I live a sheltered life and have never heard that one before. Also love the clarinet. Not too much I don't like on this one.

Bill Beck Tallahassee FL
I an enjoying the journey of discovery through "The Gospel Guitar of Reverend Gary Davis" and "Rags and Minstrel Tunes". I have become an intense fan of both Gary Davis and you. Your clear explanations of Davis' style make it possible to go beyond merely learning to imitate him in the song taught.
Through your process of teaching some of his favorite licks and how they may be combined, you make it possible for me to go on to other songs of his that are not specifically addressed in the video. To say that your mastery of Davis' (and others') style along with your performing skills and academic achievements is impressive would give new meaning to the word 'understatement'. There is so much more that I want to learn and your instruction is having a large impact on my ability to do that. With the technical skills and insights that you have taught, I am limited now only by my ability and determination.
I have finally come to recognize that the aim is not to play it exactly as he played it. I want to extend my thanks to you for your prodigious effort in making this music accessible to those of us who had other interests during the 60's, when the masters were available to learn from. You have earned your place among them. Please continue to produce instructive materials for those of us who desire to learn from the past.
Jon Kinnaman Tuftonboro NH
Can't say enough good things about the new Lightnin' DVDs. Have learned so much about his music, about the caged positions and have credible open-mike tested versions of Bad Luck, Sugar and Sante Fe to prove it. Come Back Baby is in the wings. And. Finally. Got the turnaround on Candyman. Now consistently landing on the one. That one had me vexed for a long time but came together this weekend.
Your generosity as a teacher is much appreciated. So glad you are carrying on the legacy of Rev. Davis and Mr. Sam.
Charles Young New York City
An interview titled: In the Church of Reverend Gary Davis, Ernie Hawkins is St. Peter
Phil Allen
Review of the Stonington Maine concert posted on Weenie Campbell:
"All in all it was a terrific night of the music we love. Perhaps the highlight for me oddly enough was Ernie playing a song I bet everyone on this site plays without thinkiní twice, the elusively simple Cocaine Blues. In its simplicity, the purity of its architecture, its semi-modal trance inducing mental captivation, it is one of the true masterpieces of the genre, timeless, evocative, and extremely beautiful, least ways as played by Ernie."
Glenn Pradzinski Chicago IL
I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge of the Rev. Gary Davis's music. Your love for the great Reverend shows on each DVD. I have almost all of them now and enjoy your lessons very much. I have only been playing Cinni Slow Rag for about 2 months now, but I am completely in love with this style of playing. Keep the DVDs coming.

William White Waynesboro VA
I ordered that super excellent RGD gospel 4 dvd set that was released several years. I find all of the videos that Ernie has done to be quite good, both as instruction and as entertainment. I must share with you that I think the RGD gospel set is one of those situations where what Ernie Hawkins has done is literally "priceless." One of the best guitar instructional videos that has ever been made, if not the best. What Ernie captured may well have been lost forever, if he had not done it.

Ben Casteel Tallahassee FL
I just want say that your life's work is truly appreciated. After spending countless years diddling with the TAB that Stefan published in the 70's/80's and gaining small bits and pieces over time...well, the DVD lessons you took the time to create made it possible for me to touch the music that I would otherwise probably never got close to. I have never really understood why this music thrills me, I grew up in a classical music family, I just know that it does and I was meant for it. Sharing what you have learned from RGD, L. Hopkins and other great musicians changes peoples lives.

Paul Davies Australia Your new Lightnin Dvd is brilliant. Its great to hear you sing and your teaching style is relaxed and fun. You really show and explain how much skill these players had, and the respect you show is there to be seen.

Gert Spierenburg Kenya
I would like to ask you which thumbpicks Lightnin' Hopkins was using. There are many thumpicks on the market but I'm not sure which ones to take. I was thinking of the White plastic Dunlop medium or large. Which one do you use while teaching the songs? I'm playing a Gibson L-1 custom which I bought this year in the Netherlands, I love the guitar and the style really suits. At this moment I'm living in Kenya and its very hard to get the right stuff for my playing but I hope your advise can help me to order the things from Europe or the US. I also would like to ask if you have tabs for "the Black Cat BLues", I have found this song on Long way from texas and asked Sean from fingerstyle blues if could help me with it but he doesn't have it. A song I'm doing now is "My grandpa is old too" which comes close to it with simular riffs.
My last question, Iv been told that Ernie Ball Earthwood medium/light are good strings to use for fingerpicking. Do you think those strings are worth it to buy?

I generally use the equivalent to a Dunlop large thumbpick. Try them and use what's best for you. The Ernie Ball's should be fine, again what's best for you. Don't have tab for Black Cat. It's in key of E. Think about a skype, or better, iChat for a lesson, I can show you the basics. It's tricky.

Jeff Barton North Carolina
I am looking for and instructional video (guitar) for Rev Gary Davis tune Samson and Deliah. I have downloaded the tabs for the tune that you had out there on the web, but I am looking for some instruction on the tune. Does one of your CD's cover this tune?

I teach it on The Gospel Guitar of RGD. I play it on my first CD "Blues Advice" Both are available from my website.

Bob Frantz Hagerstown MD
I really enjoyed your performance in Hagerstown. My favorite was the last, Root Hog or Die, and in particular Joe Dallas's part (as I am also a trombonist.)
I am generally a big band jazz player, but in a never ending effort to improve my blues, I am studying melodies, counter melodies and comps and was wondering if it was possible to get the Root Hog or Die chart (if I understand correctly from your CD and YouTube video it is your arrangement of a Harlem Hamfats tune.) At the very least I would love to play the bone part (Joe has a wonderful smooth style.)

yeah, Joe's great.

Em / / /
B7 / Gdim,B7 Em (x2)

Am Am Em Em
Am Am Em Em,B7

repeat 1st 8

Troy Miller Prince Edward Island

The great thing about your amazing teaching of the CAGED system is that every lesson I've tried since has been drastically easier to get a grasp of and the understanding comes so much faster. i.e. - I can learn more music. Thanks for enriching my life so

Brad Snyder
I have all of your lesson dvds. I would consider myself an intermediate level fingerpicker. I have a suggestion. As I do not mind tuning the guitar to match Lightningís pitch, most players I have found would rather stay in 440 pitch or use a capo to get close to the sound Lightning had. I was wondering if you were planning on keeping Lightnin disc 2 in pitch for the most part. I think more people follow your Lightnin covers when playing along with your dvd then follow Lightningís footage when practicing.

The new Lightnin DVDs are at pitch. I wish people would tune to him and play along--there's no substitute for the real thing--but I know that isn't realistic. Of course one option is Transcribe.
Caleb Vancouver BC
I just bought your instructional dvd of Rev Gary Davis gospel guitar. I was just wondering in Davisí picking style, will the thumb on the right hand never do up strokes? Whether that be for strumming or picking lines. Also, got any advice on choosing thumb and finger picks?

I think his thumb always moved down, finger up. Experiment and find the picks you like, at least that's my (blues) advice.

Terry New Zealand I bought your instructional DVD and am currently learning Statesboro and Come on Round to my House. I've been playing for about 7 yrs. I can play reasonably OK on 6 string, but find it difficult on my old 1970's Yamaha 12 string. The reason being that the string pairs seem to be very wide apart, and its difficult to get a clean picking. I don't use picks, and prefer bare fingers.

I noticed on your DVD that the pairs on that Black Guitar are very close together which I guess makes it easier for fingerpicking. The consensus opinion on the various forums is that they shouldn't be too close otherwise the pairs will rattle against each other. For my thinking that seems to be a bit odd if you are fingerpicking the pairs any way.

Would it be advisable to move them together, and how close do you recommend.

I think that you want them as close as you can get them without rattling. Go online and look up 12-string guitar repair and see what you can find. If the guitar is hard to play, you might need to lower the action. You can look it up, but it's complicated. Maybe you are handy. If not, find somebody who knows what they're doing. The better set up it is, the better it plays and sounds. Hence, more fun

Wolfgang Kalb Germany
I love your guitarstyle and your music. I'm collecting Blues record, so I bought all your great CDs.
My Question: What's the meaning of "whinin' boy"? I'm not a native English speaker, therefore it's not
easy to understand all lyrics right.

Hard to say. I changed the original spelling by adding the "h". Maybe it was originally "Winding' Check out the wonderful Jelly Roll Morton Library of Congress recordings for a discussion
Gary Sellars Scotland
I play a lot of the Rev's music and notice I play much better using thumb and middle instead of thumb index. I always seem to favor the middle finger, i don't know why. I can play the slower songs with the thumb, index pattern but when it comes to the really fast Rev Davis rolls I play them much better with thumb, middle. Have you ever heard of anyone else who prefers to pick this way?

My feeling is that you should go with whatever is best, most natural and comfortable for you as an individual. there isn't a single right way to do any of this. Over the years I guess I've seen everything.
By the way, it seems to me that the middle finger is stronger
Post Gazette

Tribune Review

Peter Berryman
Whinin' boy is the best album I have EVER heard. Not since a few cuts on Ry Cooder's Jazz album have I been so in love with listening. This is great, great, great music!!! Oh, my, goodness. Words fail me. Astonishing!
Jim Kownacki Pittsburgh PA
"Whinin' Boy" is not a blues release and so really is quite a departure for Ernie. It is great roots based Americana and I think that his blues fans are going to love it. This is Ernie's take on the old time band treatments of what in my opinion is the most creative American music ever. That would be the intersection of blues, roots & jazz that thrived along the Mississippi from Basin Street to Beale Street in the early 1900's. All of the arrangements are by Ernie and they vary quite a bit in instrumentation and style from tune to tune which really keeps the interest up. The feel keeps changing but the era doesn't and it all just flows together like the Mississippi.

I've heard very few more modern releases of this style approach it in quality. Two of John Fahey's three orchestral releases work similar ground pretty well. Like Fahey, Ernie's arrangements of the brass and clarinet center around the acoustic guitar and are sophisticated and flowing. But where Fahey sticks to a more brash and tighter New Orleans shuffle (which Ernie does approach on two takes of Jelly Roll's Whinin' Boy and elsewhere), Ernie's reach is wider as he opts to head up river to Memphis for some equally hot but more rootsy and flowing stuff as well. Ry Cooder's excellent "Jazz" LP works it from the smoother Jazz end, but Ernie works it all a little more from the gut at the intersection. Those who like Leon Redbone are going to love this. It's like Leon found the band he was looking for.

This release has got stuff for everybody and Ernie serves up a couple great original instrumentals too. RGD must be smiling down upon the "Belong to the Band" hooks that Ernie tucks into "Southbound Sneak" and the meanest little blues poodle ever resurfaces as inspiration for an infectious little tuba and uke ditty that just rolls along unstoppably. For the blues purists, you get the classic Ernie/Reisman guitar and harp duo on "Vicksburg Blues" as well as on Broonzy's "Shuffle Rag". That's not exactly blues of course, but Broonzy didn't exactly limit himself that way either.

All in all, this is already one of my favorite CD's ever. Every track grabbed me on first listen which almost never happens. In some respects, I think that this is the music that Ernie has been meant to play forever. Reverend Gary Davis' music existed at this same nexus of styles and Ernie has put in more time digging through and digesting it than anyone. That takes a long time to percolate, and I really think that we're going to be looking back on this as the beginning of Ernie's greatest work.

Caleb Stine Baltimore MD
Your CAGED class was a perfectly timed infusion of energy and clarity into my musical life. Going into Augusta, I was hoping for some deeper understanding of the fundamentals of music and some direction in my daily practice. Your elegant explanation of CAGED, the arpeggios, and connecting runs gave me that and more. For the first time, much of my grab-bag knowledge of the guitar neck snapped together and I could start to see how the neck lays out. Your focus on the 1-3-5 in all positions confirms my innate hunch that music is elemental and infinite at the same time.

Finally, thank you for putting yourself so fully into the class. I appreciate your sincerity and commitment. The discussions about meaning and theology were intrinsic to the whole experience for me. Thank you for your willingness to share those probing, philosophical thoughts. I personally can't enter into the world of music without bringing that deeper reality with me, so it's very affirming to find kindred spirits.

I hope you realize how much you gave each one of us in the class last week and how much we all appreciate it.

B. B. Wolfe Michigan
Enjoy your playing and all. I was wondering did Blind Willie McTell use finger and thumb picks? My approach has been to use bare thumbs and fingers and was wondering if that is doable with these styles.

I suspect that McTell did not use picks.
Tom D'Avello
Just wondering if you give one-time lessons? I'm mostly a 5 string picker, but do some guitar work too.


Mike Kuehn Sheboygan WI
Somewhere along the line I got in the habit of wearing my thumbpick pretty close to my knuckle, if not on it, and I find that even Large thumbpicks only last so long before they weaken and break due to stretching. I know you wear your thumbpick in a similar position -- is there a trick you've found to getting thumbpicks to last, such as heating and reforming, or is dem jus the breaks? Or have you found a particular brand that seems to fit better over the knuckle? I suppose it's a trivial matter, but ...
Thanks, love your Facebook page!

They break after a while. I buy big Golden Gate picks by the dozen
Davyd Stevens FL
I recently stumbled upon a box set of your Rev.Davis dvds.You seem like such a cool person. I very much appreciate your humility and intelligence. This has changed my life...it's like I've been handed the key to a
magical kingdom. Thank you! Forever in your debt ....
Doug Eaton Cato NY
You have helped me discover music that makes me feel as if I have finally come home. Every time I play
"There's a Table Sitting in Heaven," I think of my father and that it was the last song I played for him. You taught me that song. Rev. Davis taught it to you. Maybe one day, I will get to pass on that
song. I can't be the only one who was listening for this music but hadn't heard it before.
Ryan Fenno Charleston SC
How did Gary Davis tune his guitar, as in what was his usual reference pitch? Tuning forks, pitch pipes? Perhaps even one of his harmonicas?

I don't recall him tuning to anything. Never had a tuning fork of pitch pipe. Just was in tune, though his high E tended to be tuned a little flat, to modern ears.
Curtiss Coughlin, Longmont CO
I have listened to Makin' Whoopee on You tube and greatly enjoyed it. I went to look to buy the tab from you but did not see it. Are you selling it? One of the many things I like about your style is the joy you have for playing. Thank you so much.

Sorry Curtiss,don't have tab for it. Think about taking a Skype lesson and I'll teach it to you.

Nick Dooley, Australia
Ernie blows me away with his time ~ he's really got that thing that Rev Gary Davis used to say about playing the Guitar like you are playing the Piano ~ every note has weight.
Dave Waxman, Long Island NY
I continue to use what I learned from you when I was in your Oct. 2007 workshop at Fur Peace Ranch. And I've continued to learn from the CAGED and Rev. Davis dvds. I always have and always will love playing guitar, and I know that, with your help, I'm enjoying playing even more.
Pete Bartlett, London
A big thank you for your help with getting my hands around Gary Davis' guitar style. The gospel guitar dvds have been a god send and completely changed the way I approach my playing. Can't thank you enough.
I just wanted to check something with you... I was going to buy your CAGED series of DVDs. Looks like there are 3 volumes. I've also seen a double dvd version of this. Is this the same 3 series squeezed on to 2 discs, or is a slimmed down version of the series?

Tthanks for the good words. For sure getting into Rev Davis' music can be life changing. It's great when someone gets it. I haven't heard anything about a double DVD version of CAGED.
Charles Morgenstern, Seattle WA
Is there a tab of the complete version of "Slow Drag" that you play on You Tube? Thank you for the excellent ragtime guitar playing and for keeping the standards high.

The tab accompanies the DVDs that I did on these, and, other RGD songs. Check out the dvds for sale on my website.
I am now teaching private lessons online. You need a webcam and ichat or skype. There is no fee for skype. The cost is $60/hour or $35/half hour. For a trial lesson, I offer a $15 discount. Payment can be made on the order page of my website via credit card or check. Email me if you have questions: bluesadvice@aol.com
Ernie Hawkins For the latest blues advice and videos, sign up on facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/erniehawkins See you there!
Bill Stritzinger Dallas PA
I have enjoyed and learned a lot from Ernie's Caged DVD's 1 and 2, and I know that the 3rd will be rewarding. Ernie is a great teacher and musician, and when I watch the DVD's again I seem to pick up some new information that I can use for my guitar playing. It seems logical to me that the next DVD to buy would be Ernie's Fingerpicking Arrangements of Four Pop Standards.
Chuck Morrison Louisville KY
I just got your Lightnin Hopkins dvd and really like it. I have been playing for about 4 years . First year or so learned theory from an instructor. Been writing songs for the last year and developing my ear more.
I saw you have a dvd on learning 5 positions to master the fretboard. I am pretty comfortable with the entire neck but thought that dvd may teach some positional stuff I have not used? Do you think that is a good dvd for my level? I usually use the root as a base or anchor on all 6 strings currently and am pretty comfortable with those positions.

The dvd you are talking about is the CAGED dvd. It is a set of three dvds, although you can start with the first one. It is really helpful to all guitarists in my opinion. There are many lessons in each dvd. The first one shows you how to move everything up and down the neck and how to play a blues progression in every key and every position. The others expand upon this and get deeper into it. I think this is something that can help all guitarists. It is money well spent considering how much information is packed into it in and easy to learn way.
Monica Yasher Pittsburgh PA
phone interview with Ernie

Doug Healy Purcellville VA
I am having a hard time finding information on the song Dehlia. Does you have a chord chart for his version? I see that Dehlia is on the Blues Guitar dvd. I'll pick that up . Do you teach it the same way you play it on Rags & Bones?

Yes I teach Delia on the Blues Guitar of Rev. Gary Davis the same as I play it on my Cd Rags & Bones.
C / C / C / C
C F / C am / F / F
C / G / C / C
Ian Zack Brooklyn NY
What key is the Davis tune "Moon Goes Down"?

Key of A. Lots of similar runs to Twelve Gates
Charles Young New York NY
Fingerpicking is my obsessive hobby and I'm a huge fan of your teaching DVDs. You not only play the music about as cleanly as it can be played, you've thought it through for teaching purposes, which makes you part of a very small minority of humans who can play it AND teach it. A lot of great musicians have made really lame teaching DVDs, as you're probably aware. An online music magazine asked me to write a list of stuff I liked in the past ten years. Here it is: http://www.lava-mof.org/

Dave Klyzek
I just wanted to tell you that you are a superstar and your playing has inspired me. There isn't a day goes by that I don't play at least one Rev. Davis song, thanks to you.

Rob Morin W. Townsend MA
Your personal teaching style is simply perfect to my needs. Iím able to get through the videos without spending a lot of time on the tabs as your verbal and visual instructions are extremely clear. As with everything, the great ones make it look easy. Using your effortless style, your renditions and teachings of Gary Davis tunes are apparently true to the art, and have the special feeling that can only be achieved when someone has studied and developed over a long period of time. Itís just not easy to replicate Rev G.D nor your interpretation of his music. While I can get through the mechanics, it is apparent that there is more to learn.
Hereís my problem. Iíve been a light finger picker forever, and thatís 40 years of quiet playing with low action, ex light strings, no finger aids. I did play back-up for fiddlers for a few years in the 60ís, but thatís long ago, and I just am not interested in playing with a flat pick again. The RGD tunes and your interpretations seem to benefit from finger picks, and I donít want to cheat the music by playing too soft. While I can appreciate that all music should be to the taste of the listener, I am interested in your thoughts about 2 things. First, the use of finger picks and their importance to producing a realistic replication or interpretation of the music. Second, the value of relearning the thumb and one finger style of picking (with a little help from another finger on occasion) in order to present RGD tunes properly.

I think that if you have been playing one right hand style for many years, you should probably stick with it. A friend once remarked to me: "Your left hand is what you know; your right is who you are." I think that in general, you should not start trying to change "who you are". That said, for RGD, the big thing is his right thumb. That's what he uses most of the time. It defines his power and rhythm. You don't necessarily have to use fingerpicks or have a heavy right hand to do this. Just be aware of it and work on it. Stay who you are and learn the song for yourself and your style, and put your mind into your right thumb. That's my two cents. Good luck, have fun.

Stuart M. Scotland
Can you offer any insight into Lightning Hopkins' muting on the base strings, if he does in fact do this at all, particularly on songs such as "baby please don't go". When he performs this song it looks to me like he's not muting and since he plays quite far up the neck it would be more of forearm mute! When I play this song I am inclined not to mute since I think it sounds better. However if he does in fact mute I would try to improve on the sound I get when muting.

Lightnin' did no mute.

Mike Flagg, Washington DC
Can you help me track down a copy of the Rev singing Delia? Also, do you know why he never recorded it in a studio, as near as I can tell, and it's only on one obscure live album that I can't seem to find anywhere? Did he consider it too country? I enjoy the hell out of your records and DVDs.
Look for a RGD CD called "Delia" from American Archives, Leeds, England. The only info I have on this label is: phone: 0532 742106 fax: 0532 786291
Maybe he didn't record it because it was singing the blues and not gospel. I don't know.

Donald, Scotland
Would the DVD lesson for Blind Willie McTell for 12 string guitar also cover the same tunes and technique for 6 string guitar?
Yes, this would work for a six string also.

Bob Sieckman, Fresno CA
I just love the Lightnin' Hopkins video. Thanks for the terrific lessons and for keeping this beautiful music alive.

Rege Behe Pittsburgh Tribune Review
If you pass Ernie Hawkins on the street, you'd never know he's one of the best guitarists in the world. The mild-mannered, unassuming Point Breeze resident has been cited by David Bromberg and Jorma Kaukonen has one of the avatars of modern acoustic blues.

Sam Arthur New Mexico
I have spent much quality time with your Willie McTell and Gospel Rev. Gary instructional dvds. Thanks for the great job on presenting this material. I am beginning/intermediate level and started guitar late in life. I realize much of what you covered of McTell's can be applied to dozens of other songs of his, but with some I don't know where to begin, like "Your Time to Worry" and "Cold Winter Day". You have really enriched my life with the lessons.

I have a version of Cold Winter Day on my first CD Blues Advice. I think it is in C which I think is where McTell played it, tuned low of course.

Ernie Hawkins & Band sparkle at Calliope

Ernie Hawkins & Band sparkle at Calliope


La Chapelle Aubareil France


Erik Fisk Des Moines IA
Your lesson of Lightnin Hopkins' "Shining Moon" turned what seemed beyond my abilities into something that I now play regularly. I'm sure I'll end up buying all your other blues DVDs. I think your are a great teacher on camera. I've played guitar for 20 years and have been frustrated by lack of progress. You have the whole concept of breaking these songs down figured out.
Larry McCullough Woodbridge NJ
Here is a song I wrote for Hazel LINK
Scott Nantes France
I have gone through your CAGED dvds. I learned a lot and liked them very much. I used to play mainly acoustic, but now am faced with different opportunities of playing with other bands electric guitar. I have a gretsch hollow body, so the change is not physically too big, but my question is: I'm trying to get out of the more classic alternating thumb fingerpicking blues style, while still using thumb and finger picks, I don't see myself as a flatpick shredder. What would you suggest to someone who loves the rootsiness of the blues yet would like to take it a bit outside?

You can try doing what I did playing electric guitar in blues bands for many years. Use your fingers, either with picks and a thumbpick or with whatever you find comfortable. Just get to the point where you can develop some speed, tone and soulfulness. I too am not very good with a flat pick so I went that way. Listen to Freddie King. He finger picked electric with fingerpicks and thumbpick or Gatemouth Brown who just used his fingers.
Hazel, my beloved pit bull, moved on to the other side today. She died at home with friends and family around, some dignity intact and a farewell dinner. My heart breaks a little. Link to a picture of Hazel

I recently bought 4 of your dvds (bl---dy marvelous). I saw the Reverend in 1963 when he toured here (repeat bl---dy marvelous). All I need to know now is, where do I get the surgery done on my left hand so that I play his fantastic music. Thanks for the music!

Happily, the surgery is psychic. I think you can get that done somewhere in the Philippines. That's where I got it done. However, it's wearing off.
I am very sorry to hear about Marie Knight. She was the ultimate trooper. I knew it was difficult for her at her age to give it her all but she did. I feel really lucky I got to play for her a little bit.
Chris Kidd
I am trying to find a version of Police Dog Blues in standard tuning. Do you have a DVD or tab of Police Dog Blues in standard tuning?

The tab is in my tab book which is available for sale on my web site. It is in standard tuning but it is substantially different from Blake's. You can hear my version on my cd Blues Advice and it is also up on my website as an MP3 file under the description for Blues Advice.
Jas Caffrey Spring Valley MN
Just wanted to say thanks for all that you shared with me over the past week (Guitar Intensives Bar Harbor Maine). You were remarkably kind and generous with both time and talent. I will be sure to suggest your DVD's to friends, students and others

Podcastpod cast -
Pittsburgh Post Gazette


Michael Hu rst Joshua Tree CA
Thank you so much for making the Lightnin' Hopkins DVD. Your calm
voice and clear instructions have made it simple for me to understand,
that's no mean feat. It is so easy to follow and you break it up into
small segments that I can do over and over till they sink in. Found
after a few days that the lesson's were sticking and my guitar playing
was actually sounding like guitar playing. In doing things this way I
am hearing the roots of songs that I had heard for years and
understanding how to play them. Just had to tell you thanks for the great joy you have
brought me thru your DVD.

Ryan Fenno Charleston SC
I love the material you share in "The Guitar of Lightnin' Hopkins". I've learned a great deal and look forward to diving into your other DVDs. I'm curious about the guitar you're playing in that session. It looks like a J-45 but I'm not familiar with headstock design.

It is a J45.

Greg Mace Australia
I just wanted to say that both of your CAGED Guitar System DVDís have been a real godsend for me.
You are a very good teacher and explain things well, clearly and precisely.
My guitar playing is improving and I wish to thank you.

Joe Wilkie Oklahoma
I have my 12 string set up with mediums and I am tuned down to C. I want to play some Spanish and Vestapol open tuned songs, but I am not sure about the best approach.What pitch are you in when you tune to Spanish, Eb? Do you tune to Spanish from C?


If by Spanish you mean G tuning you would be in G flat. I tune to the pitch that seems comfortable on the guitar, depending on the gage of the strings. If it feels too taught, it might not be good for the guitar and I bring it down a little bit. If it is too slack I bring it up.

Ron Joos
I recently bought the your Lightnin Hopkins DVD. It's really a revelation. I can't tell you what a joy it is to learn how to play like Lightnin'. I am having a bit of a problem with the tuning. What tuning did Lightnin most often play in? I also love the Mance Lipscomb dvds. You are a real treasure to the blues community.

Lightnin played in standard for the most part, but was rarely tuned to pitch. I decided to try to tune to his pitch so that you could play along with him, which is important, because his rhythm is so great. I'm not sure it was the right decision for everybody. When I was learning, I always had to tune to the record (or to the guitar player that was in front of me from whom I was trying to learn). Nowadays people have tuners. I suggest you try to tune to Lightnin, it will train your ear, though it takes some patience. It is worth it. Let me know how it turns out .

Richard Nelson Butte, MT
I am just starting to launch into your Gary Davis dvd. Do you know why Rev. Davis turned his truss rod cover upside down on his J200? Thanks for making such a great instructional set.

That's funny! Not a clue! When I was a kid I thought that was the way it was supposed to be.

Doug Eaton Cato NY
Maybe you remember me from SAMW and the workshop you did a year ago in
Rome NY, when you showed a group how to play "Table Sittin' in Heaven."

It meant a lot to me that you asked if I'd played that for my parents yet.
I hadn't. It took me until two months ago when my father was in the
hospital. It turned out that one of the last things he said to me was,
"It's pretty" after I played and sang that song for him. He died that night.

Thank you for the lesson, Ernie. I remember a lot of the lessons you've
taught us at SAMW. I practice the major triad arpeggios once in awhile
and run through the CAGED series, but the most important thing I heard
you say was to not to let too much time pass before you do something
that you really need to do.

I am confident that, if the faith the Rev. Davis and my father shared proves true,
my father is sitting at that table in heaven, and maybe he has met Rev. Davis.

Mike Mojo Ithaca NY
You are a very thoughtful, concise and patient teacher. I describe you as the best guitar teacher I have ever had to other players. The way you have constructed the CAGED material is pure genius. I cannot think of when I have had more fun on the guitar while learning some really cool stuff.

Jorma Kaukonen: "Ernie is a brilliant guitarist. On the last couple of CDs I did, I have some Rev. Gary Davis songs that Ernie turned me on to. Not only did he turn me on to them, but he showed me how to play them."


Mark Dingus Atlanta GA
I got your caged system dvd and love the material and the way you present it. I am a flat picker, but after watching you , I am going to try to learn to use a thumbpick and fingerpicks. Any recommendations for resources to learn technique?

Find a guitar player you like and try to learn his style of fingerpicking or look at some of the intro to fingerpicking dvds that Homespun and Stefan Grossman have

John Russo Rochester NY
I'm a big fan and have purchased many of your Gary Davis dvds. I have a question about the Rev. You speak a lot about counting, something starting on 4, even bars etc. Did Gary Davis talk in terms of counting beats, know names of all the chords - or was he just a natural talent who just knew when things were right? I'm trying to understand his technical genius.

Good question. I am trying to understand RGD's genius too. Good luck to us. I didn't know enough about theory or anything when I was studying with him so I did not ask him these questions but I know that he knew a helluva lot of it.

Meredith Watson New York NY
Where can I find some original recordings or video clips of Reverend Davis performing Delia, Florida Blues, or penitentiary blues? While they are taught on your Blues Guitar of Rev. Gary Davis DVD, I cannot seem to find the originals anywhere. Even the Gary Davis website fails to include them in his master song list.

There are a lot of recordings of Dehlia around. I have personal recordings of Pen. blues and FL blues that I am trying to get straight to get out.

Kurt Bond Hoboken NJ
I caught you live in NYC a few years ago and it changed my life. While perpetually short of coin, I forked up for your Rev. GD Gospel DVDs. It was some of the best money I ever spent. Your teaching is superb, and I often revisit your lessons to improve my game. It feels a bit odd that I don't know you as I've spent countless hours learning from you. When my 11 year old son was looking over my shoulder and I pulled up your website he asked "Who's that?" and without thinking I responded, "He's my guitar teacher!" I am grateful to benefit from your passion and talent. My life would be less rich if you hadn't passed the torch.
Ethan Hirsch Boston MA
I want to thank you for the incredible (I think very generous) teaching DVDs that youíve produced. . I have a good sense of the fret board Ė back in college, I took a couple courses in music harmony/theory, I can think through transposing, finding and building chords across the neck but have not mastered these skills, chords, scales or arpeggios. I am also looking to build a library of clichťís, riffs, turnarounds, and strategies for playing across the neck. Ė Is your C-A-G-E-D series a good choice for me? Ė Iíve checked out the clips, it looks very cool. Do you think this is a good fit? Do you have any other suggestions for helping me achieve these goals?
I need a strategy to improve both right hand picking skills, rhythm and coordination as well as left hand Ė do you have a DVD that would help me to improve my overall hand strength, skills, and coordination?

The Caged system would be the best thing all around. It shows you scales and arpeggios and teaches you the neck. I think this would really help you.
Stefan Grossman - The Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum:
On a cold Friday night in Brooklyn...link
Nick McNeely
I am a novice guitar player who loves the blues, especially acoustic finger picking and the slide, neither of which I can do. I would like to get some of your Reverend Gary Davis stuff and am wondering what DVDís you would suggest to a novice player. I can play basic 12-bar blues in different keys.

I suggest you start with the CAGED DVDs then move on to DVDs of specific players.
Geoff Caldwell Stockton NJ

Just checked out a couple of your videos. Your guitar playing is so strong and evocative, that your singing doesn't matter at all, and really, your singing is not bad at all. (actually, your beautiful soul is beginning to peak through) I thank you again( and again) for all the great guitar lessons. Just for freeing my right hand alone. Best wishes and great god almighty man, thank god you're in the world.

Adalberto Italy
I have all your DVDs dedicated to Rev. Gary Davis and I do love them. They are simply great!
Now I would like to study The Gospel Guitar of RGD, but unfortunately I cannot sing at all, so I have to play those tunes just as instrumentals. Do you have any advice? In which order should I study the tunes? Could you suggest any Medley? ... and I do hope that more DVDs will be available in the very next future!

Try singing the easier songs. It is fun to sing and you get better as you do it. Don't start with Samson & Deliah. Try I Heard the Angels Singing or keep your Lamp Trimmed or I am the Light of this World. Thanks for the kind words. Have fun.

Les Robins U.K.
I've ordered your Rev Gary Davis series of DVDs. I can't wait to get started! I've got used to alternating thumb after playing a couple of years. I use bare thumb and two bare fingers. Although I can struggle by using a plastic thumbpick....is it feasible to play the Gary Davis music without picks? (and using thumb +
2 fingers)

You can play it any way you want. If you want RGD sound exactly you would go with picks. I don't think that is necessary, just play it your own way.

Mike King, Greenville SC

I've been looking for a Gibson in order to get some more "thump" in my bass lines. Was lookin' for a J45 or Nick Lucas when I came across an amazing J200. It's the liveliest, loudest, boomin box I ever laid
my hands on. Do you have any recommendations for running it direct? I'm playing fairly noisy places and frequently need to get a sound without micing. You mentioned you were going to try a K&K system. Any Luck?

Congratulations on the J200. I do have a K&K in mine and it is a big improvement.

Richard, Ireland
Massive fan of yours. Got your dvd of Rev Gary Davis, and have just bought a Gibson J200. I'm having real trouble finding a large thumb and finger pick like the ones that you use on the DVD. Have you any idea where I can pick these large ones up from?

I use the Golden Gate large thumbpick and the large Dunlop plastic fingerpicks. You can order them from Acoustic Music Works in Pittsburgh.

Joe Wilkie, Oklahoma

Picked up "Mean Little Poodle"Öwhat an amazing version of Dehlia...best I have ever heard. The whole album is excellent.
Rich Selznick Philadelphia
I have your CAGED dvd. I've noodled around with guitar for some time but have never felt at all confident or free to get up and down the fretboard. From what you say, it seems like the secret is somewhat tied into figuring out this system.

I'm trying to do the first part where you suggest counting the 1-3-5 patterns. I find myself having a little trouble following which notes you are playing. I know it's shown in the fretboard diagram, but I still am not sure which 1-3-5 patterns or sequences to play.

Try just saying the notes as you play them in the first position. In C, 1-3-5 is C-D-E. Start with C, 3 fret 5 string then D, 2 fret 4 string then open G string then C 1 fret 2 string, then open E, then G 3 fret 1 string and so on, in the other direction. If it is still confusing, try to find a teacher near you to explain it face to face or try to catch one of my workshops.

Wayne Edkin, Blossvale NY
As a recent retiree from public education, I am very impressed with your work in the schools and the way you have found to integrate Blues education into curriculum. I'm brand new to playing music so most of what you teach on the CAGED DVDs is way over my head. . .but I'm working at it. . .way cheaper than therapy I figure and a significant hedge against age related decline. On the first DVD, you make two or three references to material that is in the "book." What book? Are you talking about the print material that came inside the DVD case or is there another book that I missed?

I meant the booklet that comes with the DVD when I say the book. Just keep at it and it will make sense to you. If you have specific questions, ask me.
Jean-Louis Carbonnier, New York NY
I'm looking for a travel guitar, any suggestions please?


I think you can take any not too expensive guitar but the main thing is the case. Even if I am going to Europe I take a light weight TKL case. They are very light and very strong, really amazing, actually.

Richard, Denmark
I am trying to play candy man its not easy for me. I know you have candy man on a dvd about Gary Davis and I don't know if it is to difficult for me now? I have just started country blues.

I don't know the answer. I can tell you that although Candy Man sounds simple, it is hard. This is because to play it like the Rev Davis, you have to switch the bases.. The first beat, the 'one', is on the high base, which is backwards from usual (with Freight Train, and almost all fingerpicking songs, the 'one' is on the low base, the 'two' is on the high and so on)
This is explained on my DVD the blues guitar of RGD.
Mark Mershon, Eevanston IL
I am working through the caged two video including the lester/flatt licks and minor arpeggios. In addition to this I feel compelled to work out the major/minor and pentatonic scales in the caged postions. Should I be thinking about this? If so, what should I tackle first?

I would work out the major first. 1 then 1-3-5 arpeggios then the 1-3-5-6 (same notes as the minor 7th arpeggios) then the 1-2-3-5-6 --the major pentatonic--same notes as the minor pentatonics. I feel that when you get the majors down, then the minors will fall into place. Hope this helps, you are on the right track.
My very good friend, Harry Lewman, passed away on July 8, 2008 after battling serious illnesses for a long time. If he hadn't told you, you would never have known he was sick. He was incredibly happy, positive, generous and kind. A rare friend to many people. Harry was the world's foremost authority on Leadbelly. He literally wrote the book and filmed the dvd teaching the playing of this blues giant. I will miss the sound of his deep and phenomenal playing on his legendary Stella 12-string. We will all miss him.
Erik Rosum, Derwood MD
I am currently working on a Stefan Grossman DVD "Fingerpicking Guitar Techniques". I am about half way through. I just recently became aware of Ernie. I think he is great. I was wondering where he thought I should go with my learning? Does he generally play with thumb and forefinger or does he also use his middle finger? What kind of picks does he use? Does he ever play a resonator? I know this is a lot to ask but again, I am excited about coming across him.

I sometimes use my middle finger. I use flat plastic fingerpicks and a thumbpick. I use a Beard and an old National style 0. As far as what you should do is just try to learn the songs you love and find dvds that teach it. Try to make it to one of my workshops sometime.

Dave Stott Middletown CT
Please pass along my appreciation to Ernie for his efforts this past week (Guitar Intensives Bar Harbor ME). I did not get a chance to thank him personally after the instructors concert.
I called my wife and was practically in tears while describing the excitement that I had from the CAGED course. Everything I had been playing in the past suddenly became understood.
Ever since then, I have been working on a variations of several tunes using the CAGED theory & working through minors, 7th and 9th chords.
Rick Goldsberry Chillicothe OH
I recently bought your new Rev Gary Davis instructional DVD's. I got all 3 titles, Blues, Rags and
Minstrels, and Ragtime Guitar.

I can't even begin to convey to you my enjoyment of this material. I have
been working on the Blues and Rags and Minstrel DVDs, and can actually play
several of the songs and quite a few of the licks. Certainly not as well as
you and the Reverend play them but I get a lot of enjoyment and am certainly
progressing. I owe you a debt of gratitude for taking the time to pass this music along
in its original "flavor". There are a lot of people that play Reverend Gary
Davis's songs but you play his music. These DVDs are enjoyable just to watch
you play his music. You certainly are a great teacher too. Anyone that would
put the time in could learn these songs from your explanations. I can't thank you enough.
Bill Ellis Memphis TN
Thanks for being an ongoing inspiration. It's always a pleasure whenever I get to meet up with
you but this past weekend at Jorma's was especially moving and memorable for me. You really need to record some music on Davis' banjo -- it sounded absolutely at home in your hands!
Ian New York
When it comes to Ernie's teaching of Rev. Gary Davis, what he has done is nothing short of miraculous. Someone should be pitching a story on it because it is breathtaking.

Mike Chambers Alpharetta GA
I just had to thank you for the wonderful work you are doing teaching the guitar of Reverend Davis. I am bass-string deep in learning the songs on your Blues Guitar DVD set. I would not have believed it possible to outdo the achievement of The Gospel Guitar lessons, but you may have done so.

Just the stories alone of your time with the Reverend are worth the price. I have longed loved the classics here--Cocaine Blues, Dehlia, Candyman. I had worked out versions of those songs; but of course, they weren't quite accurate. Your tablature and patient teaching have shown me the way. The addition of songs I had never heard, like Penitentiary Blues and Florida Blues, makes this DVD set a treasure for all of us that love and respect the artistry of Reverend Davis. Thank you so much for doing this important work.
Spencer Lambert Ridgewood NJ
I just wanted to tell you how pleased I am with the Rev. Gary Davis DVDs. Ernie is not only a master guitarist, he is wonderful teacher, and he is one of the very few (maybe the only one) to have mastered the art of conveying his knowledge via the DVD medium
Tim Neale U.K.
I purchased your wonderful The Gospel guitar of Reverend Gary Davis. It has to be the best set of guitar
dvd's I have seen by a mile. Your teaching style is superb and without your explanations and break downs I could never have hoped to start learning this haunting music, so thank you so much!!!

I'm 29 years old, a beginner and have only been playing guitar for just over a year. I started with 'I belong to the band-Hallelujah' because its one of my favorite Davis songs and the chords looked easier than some of the others and I can now play it pretty much fluently (although the second verse occasionally gets me in a muddle). Alongside learning I belong to the band I started learning 'keep your lamp trimmed and burning', 'Children of zion' and more recently' death don't have no mercy'. Right I'll cut to the chase. I'm about the same distance now through learning these 3 great songs (not that far into them) and my question is should I concentrate on just one of these 3 and learn it thoroughly or as I tempted to do learn all 3 simultaneously and accept that progress will be slower?

It is hard to give advice on these questions because everyone is different. Do what you are comfortable with. If you keep working on these songs, they will eventually all come together. It has taken me a really long time to learn these songs and I am still learning them. There is always a surprise in the rev's playing no matter how well you know it. Every time you go back to hear him, you hear something new. The blues and rags are hard, just like everything else. You are young, this is a project which will keep you happy for a long long time. Most important thing is to listen to the Rev himself because he is the fountain that produces all this music.

Steve Briere Shaftsbury VT
My favorite video is your Guitar Artistry. Would you please tell me what gauge strings you are using? You get the best sound with finger picks.

I use medium Martins. Part of the sound is heavy plastic finger picks. The J200 I play is a very very bright guitar so I use the 80-20's . Normally phosphor bronze are good otherwise.

Tim Wood Tully NY

I'm thinking of getting another guitar to add to my meager collection. I have thought for a while now that I would like to try out a 12 fret to the body short scale 00 type. I was wondering do you ever use a smaller guitar for any blues ? I'm looking at a Huss & Dalton. From what I have read they make the best 00's. I can't believe the sound that comes out of that small guitar. My only decision is what body wood to get Rosewood or Mahogany.


I don't have a smaller guitar. I wish I did. I like those little Gibsons from the 30's or the reissues. There are a lot of great ones out there. Collings, etc.
Get in a situation where you have these guitars next to each other - different woods, different sizes - so you can sit with them for a while. I like mahogany and am partial to maple but your style should tell you instinctively what you need when you hear it. This is a hard one.

Dave Pickel Carson City NV
A tempest in a teapot is brewing over the question of the Reverend's possible use of the capo. I maintain that he never did and that there is not a shred of evidence to suggest he did. Can you shed any light on this?

I personally believe that the capo is a crutch and ultimately limits the guitar player. My use of the capo is to keep my strings in place when I decide to pull the saddle to replace it or to lower the action between string changes as the case may be. A rubber band and pencil works just as well for this purpose.


I vaguely remember the rev using a capo to show us something once. He was curious about it. He could play anything in any key so he really didn't need to use a capo as far as his voice was concerned which could sing anything. He never had one as far as I know or used it regularly.

Personally I like the sound sometimes of a capoed guitar - particularly for African music.

Burruss Williams Palmyra WI
I find your instructional videos entertaining as well as instructional. Your comments on the depth of the song When the Red, Red Robin somes Bob, Bob Bobbin' Along from the pop standards dvd was very interesting. The videos are well paced and thorough in the presentation of the material. I particularly like how you will teach a passage from a song, then explain how that passage is used in various other songs. By using the particular musical phrase in other songs it enhances their understanding of song structure. Thanks for the great recordings and instructional videos.
Frank Dessau San Francisco CA
I've been wanting to learn Cincinnati Flow Rag for a long time. I love your Gospel Guitar of RGD. I never thought I'd see the day I could play any of that music, but it's slowly coming together. Many thanks for the careful systematic approach and the easy going, but confident air you convey that it is all completely doable.

Randy Felton Ravenna OH
I saw on the website someone felt you play Police Dog Blues in standard tuning. Is that so? Most written versions of it I see are open D.

It was originally played in open D by Blind Blake. My version is in standard tuning.

Tom Groh Lombard IL
Do you have any photo's of the reverend together with you? You said that the reverend had a hard time playing blues music because he was a preacher. In my thinking I believe the blues is a beautiful music and art form and I don't see any conflict between playing blues music and religion. I know that the blues was called the devils music but so was jazz and rock and roll. Stories on the internet about RGD playing the blues seem to point the finger at his wife that she would say don't play that trash and would discourage him.

The only photo of me with the Rev is on Blues Advice. A lot of black people thought that blues was a kind of low down music. Particularly religious people who had a palpable sense of who the devil was. The Rev. was not supposed to play blues but there were loop holes. For instance when he was teaching it was OK
Craig Detroit MI
I really love the latest CD and have a question about the 12-string sound you get. Can you talk about the guitar, how you tune it (low or standard?) and about 12 string playing in general a bit?

That 12 string is just a regular 10 year old maple Guild, light strings, tuned to pitch. I often use a Guild 12 string with real big strings tuned two whole steps down when I am playing Blind Willie McTell stuff.

Rich Lipscher Baltimore MD

The RGD DVD collection is wonderful. I feel like I am fourteen again and Ernie has given my guitar playing new meaning and direction. What Rev. Gary was to Ernie, Ernie has become to me. It great to have someone pass on such a grand tradition of music that might otherwise be lost.

Jim Walsh Austin, TX
I bought the Rev. Davis Gospel Guitar DVD about a year ago, and have found it challenging and rewarding. After a year I'm just now starting to get a feel for the driving, percussive nature of the style.
Did the Rev. Davis ever use palm-muting on the lower strings (a la Travis)? Is it a technique you would recommend for the Gary Davis repertoire?

He used all kinds of tricky right and left hand techniques to entertain or get any kind of sound he wanted. Although I don't recall him doing it, it was a common country blues thing. And as he could imitate anybody's playing, I'm surer he did it sometime. In general though, he has an open kind of style. He let the strings ring, like Lightnin'.

David Washington Pittsburg, CA
I have out the Chord inversions and arpeggios according to CAGED. I have yet to work on the passing chord connections. My problem has always been that I get in a rush. In an effort to break this habit I looking for structured method of practice and progressing. Currently, my practice begins with a pentatonic scale in the key of E. I then proceed with the CAGED arpeggios in the first position followed by the chord inversions up and down the neck. The final movement involves reciting the 1-3-5 pattern as I go through the chord inversions. How do you suggest that I work in the passing chords?

Sounds like you are doing the right things. Work through the inversions in every key using the passing chords to connect them. Move on to the 2nd dvd. and start playing songs particularly Blue Monk. Self discipline is a problem for everyone.
Glenn Shockley Snow Hill MD
I just received my Christmas present to myself: Guitar Artistry of Ernie Hawkins. Well folks, I am stunned. I
have just experienced one of the most pleasant Friday afternoons I could have. This dvd is a solid killer. I knew from Ernie's instructionals that he was very good, but this one left me spellbound for an hour and a half. Flawless music. I'll be ordering more of these for friends. Beautiful music.

Cliff Brown Durham NH
Iíve been working on your version of Police Dog Blues, figuring it out from the Guitar Artistry DVD. Itís really a masterpiece, and I love the idea of arranging a song originally written for an open tuning in standard tuning. I feel grateful for the opportunities Iíve had to learn from you, both in person and via your instructional materials. You've really helped my playing tremendously on both a technical and conceptual level
Samer Montreal
Just received the Lipscomb DVD this week, it's wonderful and you did a great job. I'm ordering the Rev Davis dvd's next. I was wondering though what gauge Mance and other blues guitarists used. I bought a 000 Blueridge, strung with lights. Would mediums be more appropriate to get that sound?
Mediums are more appropriate for Gary Davis but probably lights for Mance. I generally use mediums for everything but lights are fun because they are easier to play

Randy Harrison Fortville IN
When I play ball with my brown lab, my toy fox terrier hangs on his ear when he's running after the ball. What should I do about this?
Call the Mean Little Poodle

Dave Stott Middletown CT

I love your latest guitar artisty DVD and your Blues Advice CD listen to both quite often.

#1 Do you if any tab exists for Cold Winter Day?

#2 Can you tell me the basic chord progression on Call up China?

I just can't seem to figure out your fingering from the DVD

#3 Any update on your work on the REV Gary Davis DVD lesson??

I WILL be at this years Summer Intensives in Maine, hope to see there.


I do not have tab for Cold Winter Day. I promise I will show you both songs at Guitar Intensives.
Call up China moves between a D ninth and A with an E on the turn around. The timing is strange.
The RGD Blues Guitar instructional dvds will be here after Thanksgiving.
DJ Parker Jacksonville FL

I purchased "Rags & Bones" and have almost worn it out. Iím getting ready to purchase your 3 DVD series on the CAGED system and I just know itíll be the best money spent. Thank you for providing such excellent instruction as well as such wonderful music.
Iím curious as to what guitars that were used on the R & B cd. I see you holding a Gibson J200 but what were some of the other instruments used?

I think I use a 1989 J200 and a 1947 Southern Jumbo.
Willie Leebel Chesapeake Beach MD

I wanted to thank you for all of the wonderful music this past weekend at Fur Peace Ranch. I especially enjoyed your impromptu concert Sunday afternoon before dinner. I also enjoyed our discussions about Pittsburgh and soon to be superbowl champion Steelers. I have already signed up for a full plate next year at the Ranch but was wondering if you have any workshops in the works for 2008 other than those at FPR.


As of now, I have two weekends at the Ranch and am teaching at SAMW in NH July 13-19 and Guitar Intensives in Bar Harbor Maine August 10-15. This is a great location on the coast on the campus of the College of the Atlantic and very close to Acadia National Park. The food is very good and everyone has a grand time. Due to the RGD weekend at FPR being moved to August, I will not be able to make the full week at GI this year. Probably start teaching on the 13th.

Gary Hill Spring Hill KS

Saw you here in the Kansas City area a few years back; a great inspirational show. Would be great if you came backÖ

I picked up the RGD set about a year ago. It has provided many hours of playing enjoyment and challenges. You do a GREAT job with your laid back but serious teaching style. I have played these styles for thirty years and find it amazing that one never runs out of new ideas to learn.

I recently picked up your Guitar Artistry DVD. It is terrific. I had always wanted to fully learn Florida blues and Penitentiary blues. I had them figured out probably 90% and seeing you play them completed the deal. I also really like Hawkins rag and the Rev. Davis medley. Iíve pretty well figured out the RGD medley but would really like to see you teach Hawkins rag on a future DVD.
One more question: where did you get that blue guitar shirt you wear on the Guitar Artistry DVD? It is major mojo apparel!

I am getting asked by quite a few people where I got that shirt. My sister-in-law-bought it on sale and doesn't remember where. Can't help you with this one

Klaus B. Jensen Denmark

I just love the way you play, I do the fingerstyle guitar to, but not so good as you, I have to study Gary Davis
more he is great, I mail you because it could be so nice if you one day came and playd in my home town, its mabe just a dream but anyway, there is a lot of people that like acustic blues ragtime and rootsmusic here, I dont no if you are interestet to meet somewhere one day, I would love to learn some songs from you. pardon my englis

Erik Gran Norway
Thanks for a great time in Stockholm!
I enjoyed both the concert and the workshop, and also had a really good time listening to your cd's. "Massanga", the last track on Rags'n Bones, is becoming one of my favorite songs. Very beautiful, and also interesting to compare with Gary Davis' playing.You've given me lots of inspiration, and the workshop also put together a lot of information about the neck that I sort of have already known, but not have connected well enough to use in my playing. I think I learned more from the 4 hours with you than I would have done for months by myself, if I ever could have got that kind of insight from reading.
I got completely lost at one point when we moved the blues progression in A up the neck. I usually do that when I try to play along with other people or recorded music, guess it's because I have been playing almost exclusively alone for many years, and have very little practice in playing together with other players. Do you have any advice on how to train the ability to carry on and fall back in after a mistake? This may be a very silly question, and my first thought is that I should play
more often along with recordings, and also find someone to play with. I just wonder if there might be some kind of exercises that efficiently focuses just on this. To me it seems that I'm so used stop and go back when I practice that I'm not focused enough on what comes after the mistake. I've actually seen someone who believe it's better to learn the
tunes from the end than from the beginning, that is starting with the last bars, and working bar by bar towards the beginning. Do you think that will be of any help?

Try playing with people and records regularly and work on the CAGED material. Once you get the chords down, go to the 1--3-5-- arpeggios up the neck through each chord form. Pick a run or phrase you like and play it everywhere in every position you can find. Nothing has made me more confident on the neck than these things, I think.

Mats Sweden
Thank you for a great concert and workshop in Stockholm.
You have open a new world for me(it's a new way of playing the guitar). Hope to see you soon. Maybe Iīm going to visit US next year. If itīs possible I would like to visit you for private lesson. I`m going to work hard....
Jean-Claude Couret Fontenilles France
Vous etes SUPER.

Merci beaucoup!
Casey Yoder Monroe Twp. NJ
I have the Lightnin' video - a great video. I've exhausted all the turnarounds and I'm stuck in a terrible rut of not being able to learn any more. Songs like "sittin here thinkin" and "sometimes she will" I listen over and over and just can NEVER get the tunarounds. I want to move down the fretboard but have no idea where to go, tryin to play along with the music and figure it out is impossible for me. All I know is I'd give up
everything and anything to be able to play like that...

The only thing I can suggest at this moment is to buy the caged dvds. They talk a lot about turnarounds and show you how to navigate the neck while playing blues in an easy way. There may be another TX blues country dvd out in the future. If you have any particular great Lightnin' tunes that I haven't covered, send me a copy
Stokes Hagg Denver CO
I just wanted to let you know I have really enjoyed your instructional DVD's. I own the Lightnin Hopkins and the Mance Lipscomb DVDs. I have been playing in the Texas Pinch style ever since and it has been a revelation. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of this beautiful music. I am blown away with your playing. Have you considered doing an instructional disc in the style of John Lee Hooker?

I don't have any plans for a JLH DVD but you can check with Stefan Grossma
Kate Sullivan NYC
Just wanted to extend a big thank you for a great week of instruction at Guitar Intensives. I'm looking forward to taking a giant step to that world of possibilities utilizing the CAGED language. Who knows maybe I'll internalize it so well that I will one day find myself dreaming in the rhythmic flow of its many conjugations, intonations and accents. Glory, glory, AMEN.......

A little bit everyday - you will find out how easy it is. You already are a really good player and this will sink in and become part of you. Best thing to do is teach it to somebody. Then you'll really know it and come up with your own angles. It was a special week and a pleasure getting to know you

Phil Dollard Briarcliff Manor NY
Just a short note to say thanks for a terrific week at Guitar intensives. "Shuffle Rag" is a little beyond me right now but "There's a Table Set in Heaven" is coming along and I'm trying to work 15-30 min. a day on the CAGED DVD's. Mainly it was just a kick to hear you play for a week in class & the concert . Also, your kind words on my humble reading of "Hard Times." Hadn't known Stephan Foster was buried in Pittsburgh; but more poignantly, the fact that he only had 34 cents in his pocket and a note with the words "Kind hearts and gentle people" on it. I believe I'll not be able to do that song henceforth without conjuring up those words.

I appreciate you and your playing a lot. Find somebody to teach stuff to and you'll really get to know everything you've learned in a deeper way.

Mike Mojo Ithaca NY
I would like to thank you both for making last week a truly magical experience. Thanks for all you have shared with me. I feel I am a not only a better player but a better person too. (Guitar Intensives Bar Harbor ME)

Charlie Means Providence RI
I was one of your students at SAMW a month or so ago. I want to order CAGED 1 from your site, but before I do, am wondering if you have recorded Table Settiní in Heaven on one of your albums, as if you have, I would want to order that too. I think you may have taught this song in one of your classes, but not in mine. I just heard it the one time you played it at the evening concertÖ canít get it out of my head..
Also, do you have or know where I could find tab and/or lyrics for it. Have looked at Rev. GD site but canít find it there..I think I have the melody more or less correct, but the bass part is a mystery to me, as are most bass parts. Loved you class and your playiní !!

I haven't recorded it yet but I will in the fall. I showed it to Jorma and it is on his new CD "Stars in my Crown". RGD recorded it in the '50's on " A Little more Faith". The tab will be in the winter issue of SingOUT! magazine.

I have several of your instructional blues DVDs. The one song I really want an exact, precise tab for is Blind Blake's West Coast Blues. I have the Stefan Grossman's Blind Blake book/cd but it doesn't have all the exact nuances that you do in your instructional DVDs. Please let me know if you can do the tab for this song and what your rate would be.

I don't have the tab and just don't have the time to write it right now. Where do you live? Maybe I could give you a lesson if I am coming through.

The Gibson you are playing (and your way of bringing out the best in it by your playing ability!) on your Lightniní Hopkins ďShining MoonĒ video sounds fantastic. Is it an L-00 or L-1, a J45? I should be able to tell but I am not that familiar with the older Gibson models and that looks like a classic!

It is a 1950 J50.

Bernie Pawlak Port Leyden NY

I'm working through the tapes (CAGED and Rev Davis ) and learning a lot.So far I'm making pretty good progress but ole Gary makes it look a lot easier than it really is. Anyway,I like that strap you have on your Gibson.Can you tell me the make/model or where I might get one.


It is from Beard Guitars. I don't know the model

Bob Mayberger Bellport NY

I am wondering if the Red Red Robin/Charleston DVD is too advanced for me. I can do Mance's Captain Captain in a really stripped down version w/o grace notes. His other stuff seems too hard to work on. The Gary Davis 4DVD set is something I have not really worked on, though I could probably do a few of his tunes in my own stripped down version. In any case, your DVD's are fantastic, and tremendous fun to just watch and understand from. I am working with Mary Flower's Drop D and Ragtime DVD's and find them very do-able.

If you are doing fine on Mary's, you will do fine on the Red Red Robin DVD.
Rob Clements Carlsbad NM
I am interested in a lesson via CD or DVD. I play acoustic blues and gospel, mostly for my own
pleasure and "therapy." I am at an intermediate level. I am blind therefore, tab does me no good. What would recommend for a 58 year old man that is motivated to learn?

Your best bet is to get together with someone and have them guide you through. Learning by ear is possible but is hard, particularly with Gary Davis because you have to understand where he is on the neck. Find someone who can show this to you and help you through the dvds. You could probably follow the RGD dvd because I speak about where things are. It's not expressly designed for someone who is blind but I think you could pick things up particularly if you have someone you can watch it with. Good luck. Let me know if I can help in any way.

Nathan Greeley, Worcester MA

When comparing Blind Lemon's playing to Lightnin's, even though there are some similarities, the boogie woogie bass lines and the long free melodic phrases for example...there really isn't a whole lot of common ground between them. Lightnin' works with a much more limited palette. I guess you could say he's much more redundant. If you wanted to put it in a positive light you could say "master of a particular sound and style." Lemon is a player that I can't do much more than try to cop licks from, because he doesn't really have a personal style per se, due to his playing being so idiosyncratic on virtually all of his tunes, the early ones at least. Whereas Lightnin's style, thanks in large part to your DVD, I feel I have a pretty good grasp on. Composing tunes on the spot in Lightnin's style and trying to implement as many of his ideas as I can in a given tune has really helped me to gain a lot of confidence with his bag of tricks in E and A. What I really want to know is who was Lightnin' imitating during his formative years back in the 20s and 30s besides Blind Lemon? Who did his playing style, primarily in the keys of E and A come from? Was the steady shuffle bass in almost all of his tunes a Lightnin' innovation based upon the boogie woogie rhythm or was someone doing it before him?


This is a really good question. I don't know the answer. Obviously there were many great players that we will never hear of. Also piano players and records. Lightnin', particularly as a young guy, was very inventive. So ... who knows. I agree with you pretty much on the way you characterize the difference between the two players.
Dave Pickel, Carson City NV

The Reverend is my favorite among all the 'traditional' acoustic players. I am reluctant to classify him further, but Gospel, of course, is a strong contender. I have been playing guitar since 1969 and I didn't know until I heard some of the Reverend's music to whom I aspired too in my acoustic playing (I'll take Jimi for my electric inspiration though). I love the Reverend, his music is of great comfort these days. I just have a heck of a time trying to sing the lyrics to Samson and Delilah while playing the bass figure behind it...
Thanks for keeping his music alive as I endeavor to do in my small way.
David Goddy, Brooklyn NY

Ernie, you are a wonderful guitar player. I bought four of your cd's a few months ago and have listened to them over and over.
I have a question about the caged dvd's. I'm wondering what's in them in terms of exercises and whether they're right for where I am. I would describe myself as kind of an intermediate guitar player, but have been doing fingerstyle only for a couple of years. I can sit there for weeks struggling over a few tabbed songs -- for example, "all my friends are gone" version by Stefan Grossman. I don't yet have much independent control over my fingers for doing melody or a lead break (as opposed to playing a pattern to the chords of a song). And I'm not a kid, so it comes slowly. What I've been thinking is that I need some good exercises to develop better control and more quickness in my fingers (I use thumb and two, not three). I like the idea of the caged system from what I understand of it, and the reviews are wonderful. But I can't tell what's really in the lessons!


One of the best ways to get facility from the word "go" on the guitar is to work with the basic 1-3-5 arpeggios through the different chord inversions up and down the neck. It is something that is very simple sounding, but, because it is fundamental, it is actually not so easy. Fundamental things, particularly for us older guys, are harder to go back to. But nothing is more important. My advice is to start there
Rob Wagner, PA
Want to thank you again for a great show last night at Longwood Gardens. I had seen you on PBS. Great music, great weather and a great place to be.

I got about half thru the CAGED dvd last night and it's something that I had learned years ago but was good to review it. I consider myself an beginner to intermediate player. My biggest problem currently is finding the time to practice - I can usually get 40 - 60 minutes in so end up just reviewing things I alrady know how to play. I did purchase your Blind Willie McTell DVD - it's a good one.

I do have one question - what is the basic difference between a Rag and Blues? Is it the chord progression? The Blue notes?


I'd say the basic difference between rags and blues is the chord progression and the feel. Blues is usually 1-4-5. Rags are usually a circle of fifths, more complex with more parts. A lot of what was 20's jazz is called ragtime now. Then of course you have the category of ragtime blues.

Zach Rosen

I just got The CAGED Guitar System which is terrific .There is something that I don't understand, when I start with say a "C" chord pattern I can easily visualize moving the fretted portions of the chord up
a half, a whole, or more steps. However, I can't figure out what happens with the open
strings, for example, the 6th string (3-E), the 3rd string (5-G) or the lst string (3-E).


I am not sure I understand your question. The open strings are just what they appear when you are playing the first position chord.
Thom Odell

Thank you for your dedication to the music! I have been working on material from the Gospel Guitar video for several years (slow learner). Do you know what will be on the next Gary Davis instructional video?
I vote for "Lord, I Feel Just Like Going On."

No, blues, rags and novelty songs. One gospel tune: "Stars in my Crown".
Kate Sullivan NYC

I received the DVD's today in the mail. Love the film footage of the Rev. By the way, where did Ernie get his guitar strap? I noticed it doesn't interfere with his left hand. I have an old Gibson and don't want to have a strap pin installed. Do you know where I can get a strap like his?


I got the strap from Beard Guitar but just about any kind of strap can be attached to the peghead. Your local music store can help you out. I personally don't like putting strap buttons into the sides of guitars. Look at a picture of Rev. Davis.

Joe Lambert Dublin Ohio

I recently ordered "Rags & Bones" and am really enjoying it.
You inspired me to work up an arrangement of "Cincinnati Flow Rag."
I really like your version of Rev. Davis' "The Boy Was Kissing The Girl..."
and wondered if there was a tab arrangement of that available for purchase
somewhere. I've also been studying your DVD on Rev. Davis-style guitar and it is a very
good tool.You have a lot of patience in the DVD when you break the music down slowly!


The tab for "The Boy was Kissing the Girl" will be included in a RGD dvd that I am filming this month.

Nathan Greeley Worcester MA

First of all thank you so much for making the Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb DVDs. If you're putting out another Texas Blues DVD in the near future I'll definitely be buying it. I was wondering about the guitar you're using in those DVDs. I know it's a Gibson slope shouldered dreadnaught but what is the exact year and make? Is it ladder braced? I ask because I need to get one someday. Or something very similar at least. That guitar has such great tone.


It is a 1950 J50 - not ladder braced.
Robin Davies West Wales UK
From the CAGED series I have two questions:

1. When you define the arpeggio 1,3,5 I understand how they relate to the chord/form as stated and their use at whatever position/chord form on the neck.
However should we then find/familiarize ourselves with the whole scale related to that chord/form (ie we'll then move on to become familiar with the 2,4,6,7 on each chord/form).

2. Why is it so important to have passing notes between the same chord albeit in a different position ie first C position to C chord G Form. I assume it is just to make the tune interesting and bluesy.

Great DVD and am also working on Rev Gary Davis Gospel DVD

Yes, you should familiarize yourself with the whole scale. Starting with the 1 3 5 is just a way to approach it for me. The connecting chords are important in countless ways, turnarounds, etc. Always good to learn how these things come together.
Larry Epstein Bloomfield MI
The workshop was GREAT. [Fur Peace Ranch] This morning I played Blue Monk in the key of C and had all the positions and passing notes down (unlike in our student performance). I'm sure that as I work on it, all kinds of new understandings will come along...a little finger memory wouldn't hurt either!

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your patience and diligence in getting ALL that information across. I'm just sorry I couldn't have had access to this knowledge years ago.

It was a pleasure spending time with you again. I'd be happy to recommend your course to anyone. I hope to see you soon. Maybe I can get on the waitlist for the Rev. Gary Davis weekend in October.

Steve Nelson Louisville KY
That was my 3rd Fur Peace class, and by far the most beneficial. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed all my experiences there, and learned some cool songs every time. But this time I realize I have learned real practical music theory… (actually I think music fact is a better description). I know I have only scratched the surface with the method you have given us, but we have the method now to understand the fret board. And I am actually excited to practice the arpeggios and progressions…. Never thought I’d say that… Thanks for your patience. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. You are one ‘Bad Ass’ player!! 
Jim Talbert Fitzwilliam NH

QUESTION 1: Does Ernie wear a special thumb pick? It looks like he wears
his thumb pick way up on the thumb joint and I have had some trouble with
my thumb pick coming off in hard strumming.

Is that why he wears it that way?

Question 2: Has Ernie ever done a DVD on open G slide guitar technique? I
am using the Eric Clapton Unplugged DVD for some ideas but would enjoy a
truly instructional video on how to slide better.

Question 3: I play slide on a 1966 Gibson B-25, what model is Ernie using in the
DVD? Does he ever use a soundhole pickup?

1. thumb pick - I use a golden gate large on my knuckle a la Gary Davis for more control.

2. I never have done a dvd on an open G slide. I hope to some day. Maybe Steve James has one.

3. Which dvd? I use a variety of sloped shouldered Gibsons: J45, J50, SJ, or J200. I love those B25s.

Dan White - Australia

Interesting stuff! Looked at the caged system a few years ago and this is a different way looking at it, wonderful! The RGD series is spectacular. Working on 2 songs and going well. Tell Ernie that he's done a fine job on them. Though I will have to alter some fingerings as I have white man hands and unable to pull my thumb over the bottom 2 strings. Have played years with the thumb on the E string but that A is much too difficult with the other fingerings. Oh well I'll get something close. Now I have a busy couple of months.........years.

Tom Groh - Lombard, IL

The diagram below shows you all of the primary notes on the fretboard of the guitar. You'll use it in order to identify the name of the key signature. In order to get a sharp (#) simply go up one fret. To get a flat (b) just go down one fret. For example F# (2nd fret, low E string) would be one fret higher than F (1st fret, low E string). Hi Ernie I have been playing my arpeggios I print out the fretboard and circle all the 1 3 5 notes and practice. Seems to be working


Click Here for a printable version

Brian Reitz - Apple Valley, MN

I very much enjoyed the lesson I had with Ernie the last time I was in Pittsburgh. I've been playing one of the songs that Ernie taught me, "God will take care of you" and I'm really enjoying it. I'd sure appreciate the opportunity to learn more from Ernie.

Gary Alt - Galion, OH
Do you plan on making any more Lightnin' Hopkins instructional dvds in the future?
I got so much out of your first one. It was great. Also wondering if you know of any
other dvds that may be of some help on the style and playing of Lightnin' Hopkins.
I am really into LIGHTNIN STUFF!

I don't know of any other dvds to help you with Lightnin'. I will be making a Texas blues dvd for
Stefan Grossman that will have some Lightnin' on it.

Steve Nelson - Louisville, KY
I am signed up for his April class on the C-A-G-E-D system @ FPR. I have a very basic exposure to the system given by Marjorie Thompson at a FPR class last year. I do not own Ernie’s DVD, but I have his RGD DVD’s and have worked on ‘Keep your Lamps…’ and ‘Samson and Delilah’.

Would you suggest I get the C-A-G-E-D Video and work with it before the class?

It wouldn't hurt. It's not absolutely necessary but the more you can prepare the better. I look forward to seeing you next month.

Andy Pitt - Montpelier, VT
I've been finger picking for about 45 years. I do Gary Davis, Blake, Fuller, etc.- Until about 4 years ago I've only used the flesh of my finger tips. Then I got into finger picks -I like the percussive quality. I started out with plastic Dunlops. The problem was, (even after I got used to their cumbersome thickness), - they would loosen or tighten depending on the temperature of the environment or time of year. It would often happen in the middle of a gig. I switched to metal which are easier to reshape on the spot. However I much prefer the sound of plastic. I spoke to Fred Kelly (I like his thumb picks) about making finger picks- possibly a combo of plastic with metal wrap arounds. I've tried Alaska's & pro pick--nothing has done the trick--
Do you have any suggestions for:
1- Keeping the plastic ones on my fingers (I'd prefer not to use tape)

2- A thinner plastic finger pick- the Dunlops (I use the clear large one) are pretty meaty
I would appreciate and look forward to any advice you may be able to offer.

The larger the picks, the meatier the tone. I boil them in water and then shape them by squeezing them. The fat ones stay on very tight.

 Geoff Caldwell - Stockton, NJ
Do you use bone bridge pins as well as saddle and nut? What opinion do you have about the sound change. Also what strings do you use?

I think my luthier uses bone on everything. I cannot tell the difference.

I use Martin SP medium gage strings. For my '89 J-200 I use the 8/20 bronze because the guitar is very bright. Normally I use phosphor.

Copyright © 2007 ErnieHawkins.com
All rights reserved