Jimi Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington on the 27th of November 1942.
In 1946, Jimi had his name changed from Johnny Allen Hendrix to James Marshall Hendrix to pay respect to his Father.
Jimi was of African American and Cherokee descent and developed a habit of carrying a broom with him to imitate a guitar during primary school. This habit caught the attention of the school social worker who requested funding for a guitar for Jimi who came from a poor household and was underprivileged, but her request was denied.
In 1957 while helping his Father with a job moving the garbage from an elderly woman’s house, Jimi found a ukulele with one string that he was permitted to keep. Jimi began to learn by ear. playing single note melodies along to Elvis Presley’s cover of “Hound Dog”.
In 1958 at the age of 15, Jimi’s Father Al bought him an acoustic guitar for $5. Jimi began practicing several hours a day, receiving guitar lessons from more experienced players, watching others guitarists play and listing to the guitar playing of B.B King, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf.
Around this time Jimi started his first band called “The Velvet Tones”. After three months of having the sound of his acoustic guitar be buried by the other musicians in the band, Jimi decided he needed an electric guitar. In 1959, Jimi’s Father Al reluctantly bought Jimi a white Supro Ozark.
Around the age of 18 Jimi was caught on two separate occasions riding in a stolen vehicle. After receiving the choice between time in prison or serving in the army Jimi enlisted in to join the army in 1961.
After receiving a letter from Jimi stating that he really needs his guitar, Al sent Jimi his Silvertone Danelectro, soon after this Jimi began to perform in clubs around the army base. Jimi’s guitar playing in base clubs caught the attention of fellow serviceman and soon to become Band of Gypsys member, Billy Cox. After jamming together the two began to perform regular around the base clubs under the name “The Causals”.
Jimi completed his paratrooper training in the army within 8 months, but by 1962 Jimi’s disinterest in the army and undeniable interest in playing his guitar began to attract negative attention from his army superiors. In the same year Jimi was granted an honourable discharge.
In 1963 Jimi and Billy Cox moved to Clarksville, Tennessee where they played in a band called “The King Kasuals”. While playing in this group Jimi mastered the iconic stage move of playing guitar solo’s with his teeth, popularised by T-Bone Walker.
During his time in Tennessee Jimi also played as a backing guitarists for such artists as Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Jacki Wilson and Slim Harpo. In 1964, after becoming disillusioned with the Tennessee scene Jimi began playing with the Isley Brothers. After becoming dissatisfied with the repetitive set list Jimi left to join Little Richards Band
By 1966 Jimi was spotted playing guitar with Curtis Knight and The Squires by Linda Keith who was dating Keith Richards at the time. Linda introduced Jimi to former “Animals” bass guitarists Chass Chandler who was interested in beginning a career as a producer and manager.
After hearing Jimi’s rendition of the Billy Roberts song “Hey Joe” Chass bought Jimi to London where he recruited the help of newly turned bass guitarist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell to form “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”.
During his short lived but hugely influential career Jimi played a variety of different guitars but the instrument he become most famous for was the Fender Stratocaster.
Being left handed, Jimi played a right handed Stratocaster up-side down restrung for left handed playing. This had a profound effect on the sound of the guitar because of the new angle of the bridge pickup.
The lower strings became brighter sounding while the higher strings became much darker sounding. This was the opposite effect of the original Stratocaster design. Jimi also favoured Gibson SG’s and Flying V’s for blues based guitar playing.
Jimi began performing with Fender Twin Reverb amplifiers but became interested in Marshall amplifiers after arriving in England and seeing many groups using them. Jimi was introduced to Marshall creator Jim Marshall through his drummer Mitch Mitchell who used to receive drum lessons from him, Jimi began using 100 Watt Marshall Super Lead amplifiers.
Jimi’s Marshall amplifiers where an integral part of the development of his sound. Jimi would often play with his amplifiers control settings turned all the way up allowing him to achieve sustained feedback that he would manipulate musically.
During his career Jimi also become synonymous with his use of different effects pedals. One of the pedals he became most famous for his the wah wah pedal which Jimi first heard Eric Clapton playing in the Cream song “Tales of Brave Ulysses” in 1967.
After experiencing a performance by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention where Frank used a wah pedal in unique musical ways Jimi decided to experiment with the pedal in his own playing. Jimi favoured a Vox wah pedal.
Jimi was also famous for his use of the Fuzz Face pedal, he enjoyed a collaborative relationship with Roger Mayer a well known electrical engineer and effects pedal designer that resulted in many signature Jimi Hendrix effects pedals.
Roger and Jimi also developed an octave pedal called the Octavia, this pedal was famously used during the solo of “Purple Haze”. Jimi was also well known for using the Uni-Vibe pedal, a pedal that produces a modulating phaser effect that can be manipulated with manual controls. Jimi used this effects pedal in the song “Machine Gun” performed with The Band of Gypsys.
Musical Techniques, Concepts and Approaches
Jimi presented the world with an entirely new way of playing the electric guitar. His signature playing style fused a blend of rhythm guitar and lead guitar together, playing chords and adding notes from relevant scales into the chords through the means of hammer ons and pull offs and double stops.
He also fretted most of his barre chords with his thumb over the top of the neck playing the bass note on the low E, allowing his other fingers to initiate fills within the chords he played.
Jimi would often use octaves in both his lead and rhythm playing inspired by the jazz guitar great Wes Montgomery.
Jimi’s lead guitar playing was largely blues inspired. Phrases inspired by Buddy Guy, Albert King and B.B. King were common in his solos though they all had an undeniable Jimi Hendrix twist and where all re-energised with overdrive and other signature Jimi Hendrix effects.
Jimi’s lead guitar playing was steeped in wild bends, confident vibrato, masterful mixtures of major and minor pentatonic and fast phrases, Jimi achieved most of his fast rock licks through rapid hammer ons and pull offs.
Another guitar playing concept Jimi took to new levels was playing with the wammy bar. His signature “dive bombs” and wild wammy bar playing can be heard on such on many notable tracks and all through his live performances.
Another musical medium that Jimi recreated creatively was recording, Jimi has been cited as possibly the first recording artist to use stereophonic phasing in his recorded tracks.
Influence In Rock Guitar Playing
Jimi Hendrix is largely considered by musicologists and rock guitarist alike to be the mot influential and important figure in the development of rock guitar playing.
Jimi’s contribution to the world of rock guitar playing influenced everything from the way the electric guitar is played, amplification, the signal processing between guitar, effects pedals and amplifier, the effects pedals used while playing, technique, overdrive, feedback, performance, fashion, songwriting, lead and rhythm playing and studio recording.
Jimi Hendrix has been cited as the architect of the rock guitar sound, his influence in rock guitar playing is undeniable and unavoidable. Jimi didn’t just influence how the guitar is played, but also how it is tuned and designed.
Jimi’s unique rhythm style, aggressive overdriven soloing and charismatic live performances have since become a mandatory standard in the rock guitar world, and can be heard to most extents in the playing of every single rock guitarist to come after him.
If you are interested in guitar lessons then fill out the form for your FREE evaluation lesson by clicking the FREE lesson button below.