Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix – Guitar Signature Licks (Song Book)

James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music”

Guitars and amplifiers

A color photograph of a white Fender Stratocaster guitar
The Fender Stratocaster Hendrix played at Woodstock
A color photograph of a black Gibson Flying V guitar
Hendrix’s Gibson Flying V guitar

Hendrix played a variety of guitars throughout his career, but the instrument that became most associated with him was the Fender Stratocaster. He acquired his first Stratocaster in 1966, when a girlfriend loaned him enough money to purchase a used one that had been built around 1964.

With few exceptions, Hendrix played right-handed guitars that were turned upside down and restrung for left-hand playing.  This had an important effect on the sound of his guitar; because of the slant of the bridge pickup, his lowest string had a brighter sound while his highest string had a darker sound, which was the opposite of the Stratocaster’s intended design

 Marshall amps were well-suited for Hendrix’s needs, and they were paramount in the evolution of his heavily overdriven sound, enabling him to master the use of feedback as a musical effect, creating what author Paul Trynka described as a “definitive vocabulary for rock guitar”.  Hendrix usually turned all of the amplifier’s control knobs to the maximum level, which became known as the Hendrix setting. During the four years prior to his death, he purchased between 50 and 100 Marshall amplifiers.  Jim Marshall said that he was “the greatest ambassador” his company ever had.

Effects

A color image of a 1968 King Vox Wah pedal. The foot pedal is black with chrome accents and has a "King Vox Wah" label on the top.

A 1968 King Vox-Wah pedal similar to one that was owned by Hendrix

One of Hendrix’s signature effects was the wah-wah pedal, which he first heard used with an electric guitar in Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses“, released in May 1967. In July of that year, while playing gigs at the Scene club in New York City, Hendrix met Frank Zappa, whose band, the Mothers of Invention were performing at the adjacent Garrick Theater. Hendrix was fascinated by Zappa’s application of the pedal, and he experimented with one later that evening.  He used a wah pedal during the opening to “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)“, creating one of the best-known wah-wah riffs of the classic rock era.  He can also be heard using the effect on “Up from the Skies“, “Little Miss Lover”, and “Still Raining, Still Dreaming”.

Hendrix consistently used a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face and a Vox wah pedal during recording sessions and live performances, but he also experimented with other guitar effects.   He enjoyed a fruitful long-term collaboration with electronics enthusiast Roger Mayer, whom he once called “the secret” of his sound.   Mayer introduced him to the Octavia, an octave doubling effect pedal, in December 1966, and he first recorded with the effect during the guitar solo to “Purple Haze”.

Hendrix also utilized the Uni-Vibe, which was designed to simulate the modulation effects of a rotating Leslie speaker by providing a rich phasing sound that could be manipulated with a speed control pedal.  He can be heard using the effect during his performance at Woodstock and on the Band of Gypsys track “Machine Gun”, which prominently features the Uni-vibe along with an Octavia and a Fuzz Face.   His signal flow for live performance involved first plugging his guitar into a wah-wah pedal, then connecting the wah-wah pedal to a Fuzz Face, which was then linked to a Uni-Vibe, before connecting to a Marshall amplifier.