How To Sound Like…Are You Experienced era Jimi Hendrix

Here’s another cool article from the Gibson Lifestyle website…get that Jimi Hendrix Tone!

The gear used by Jimi Hendrix, and the glorious sound he produced with it, is shrouded in more myth and mystery, and remains more evocative of tonal magic, than that of any other player in the history of the electric guitar.

[originally Dave Hunter | 05.01.2008,] Hendrix proffered a Midas touch upon his instruments of choice that has reaped rewards for the manufacturers behind his equipment for more than 40 years, yet the set ups used in the earlier part of his career are really pretty straightforward, if nonetheless impenetrable for certain unquantifiable variables.

Said variables—and a lot of the aforementioned magic and mystery—come from three different directions:

1) Hendrix played a right-handed Fender Stratocaster upside down, but restrung it low-string-highest for standard but “mirror image” fingering (lefty Strats existed but were hard to come by, and he purportedly liked the controls at the top anyway);

2) the majority of Hendrix’s effects were heavily modified or “improved” from their factory stock condition, or were prototypes made for him by effects pioneer Roger Mayer;

3) Hendrix was an extremely agile, musical, soulful guitarist with a seemingly otherworldly control over his instrument and all of his gear.

Throw all of these into the pot, stir, and simmer gently, and it’s not a stew you are easily going to replicate just by assembling the various bits of hardware and plugging them in. That said, hey, this is all great sounding gear, and if you acquire something anywhere close to it, and get your chops down, you can manage a pretty good approximation of “the tone” … and while you’re at it, maybe even work toward crafting your own soon-to-be legendary voice.

The Fender American Strat (above) is a good start…view page

Some elements of Hendrix’s Strat set up that would make a little difference, of course, would be the variables thrown up by that right-hander-upside-down factor: winding the low E around the furthest tuning post from the nut and the high E around the nearest will introduce some changes in the sounds of these strings, and using a right-handed vibrato upside down alters the way this piece of hardware performs. Pundits also point the fact that the flip-flop would place the compensated pole pieces under the D and G strings (the latter originally a little higher than the former) in their reverse configuration, but that would have a minimal affect at best.

And, again we have Roger Mayer to thank for the tidbit information confirming that Hendrix very consciously used a .015 gauge G string in his Fender 150 Series Rock’n’Roll Lights rather than a .017, in order to keep the G from leaping out volume-wise.

And before you go buying that left-handed neck and vibrato bridge to add on to your right-handed Strat to “get the Hendrix sound,” consider this: Hendrix borrowed bassist Noel Redding’s Telecaster to record both “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze”—a sobering revelation for anyone who ever quoted those tracks as classic examples of Jimi’s great Stratocaster tone.

The Hendrix amp of this era was the Marshall JMP100, the 100-watt version of the model colloquially known as the “plexi.” We examined Marshall’s JTM45 and “Bluesbreaker” combo in some detail in Get That Tone: Eric Clapton, and while the plexi models of the late 1960s used almost identical circuits, some of the components in the mix had changed.

Most notably, perhaps, the amps now used British EL34 tubes instead of US 5881s or European KT66s. The EL34 has a distinctive, crunchy rock tone of its own when cranked up, with a slightly smoother, juicier overdrive than these other types; it’s also a more robust tube, and can be run at slightly higher voltages to produce a little more volume.

To that end, Marshall dropped its GZ34 tube rectifier around the time of the transition to plexi specs, changing to firmer solid-state rectification.

When Hendrix wanted to push his sound over the top, he rather famously stomped on a Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face, an early germanium-transistor fuzz pedal known for its sweet, thick, creamy distortion tones. In fact, he often used this very dynamic-sounding pedal with his guitar volume wound down to clean up the tones while retaining some of the fuzz’s added texture.

The only other two effects used regularly in the early Hendrix rig were a Vox Wah-Wah pedal, placed in front of the fuzz, and occasionally a Roger Mayer Octavia pedal, an octave-up effect of which Mayer built only half a dozen or so examples in its original form (from 1969, on a Univox Uni-Vibe became the other essential in the Hendrix effects line up).

Taken as a whole, these are pretty simple ingredients compared to the complex and convoluted pedalboards and rack systems that many professional players employ today, but Hendrix sure could whip up a maelstrom of sound with them. That said, it’s important to once again acknowledge that an unparalleled touch and a rare musical vision also had a lot to do with it.

This is abridged version of the original. If you wish to read the full, original article please visit this page.

For those looking for that magical Hendrix tone, it’s also worth mentioning the recent Dunlop Jimi Hendrix signature pedals, which feature the same original specs as the ones used by Hendrix and are amazing!


The Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face is a meticulously faithful reproduction of the 1969-70 Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face that Jimi used on classic albums like Band of Gypsys. Dunlop’s engineering department examined hoards of vintage Fuzz Faces, honing in on a few units which possessed that unmistakable Jimi voodoo. (more info)


This is the unmistakable wah tone heard on Hendrix classics like “Up From the Sky,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” “Little Miss Lover” and “Still Raining, Still Dreaming.” The Jimi Hendrix Signature Wah reproduces these timbres, and more, with startling accuracy. Throaty and expressive, it will fire your imagination. The vintage classic look is 100% authentic too, with a flashy chrome top and sleek black Italian crinkle finish aluminum body. From its eye-catching look to its mind-bending sound, everything about this wah just screams Hendrix. (more info)


Recently a team of Dunlop engineers made a pilgrimage to Seattle to examine and document an original Octavio—the holy grail of octave tone. They measured and scoped with loving care. The result? The Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octavio is an exact clone of the amazing “octave up” pedal that Jimi used to make rock history. (more info)


~ by dolphinblog on May 6, 2008.

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