Jimi Hendrix was arguably the greatest guitarist of all time. Certainly one of the most famous to play the six-string axe, he was known for his unique performance style, the ease with which he moved around the instrument, and some truly great songs.
Despite a tragically early death in 1970 at the age of 27, which earned him his spot in the infamous “27 Club” alongside the likes of Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse, Hendrix managed to transform the perception of the guitar. He enjoyed a brief period of huge commercial success, particularly in the UK, culminating in now-classic hits and his legendary performance at Woodstock.
After arriving in England towards the end of 1966, the nation still giddy from the joy of the World Cup a few months before, Jimi and his band performed at the Bag O’Nails nightclub in Soho. The audience comprised esteemed company: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, and Mick Jagger to name a few.
These legendary eyes gazing on them did little to put the Jimi Hendrix Experience off, though. They performed a whirlwind set that left audience members amazed that only three musicians could create such an explosive, big sound.
Jimi Hendrix is the cover star of our Debut Electric Guitar grade book.
So began the band’s success in the UK. Their first hit came in the form of ‘Hey Joe’, which reached Number 6 in the charts, with ‘Purple Haze’ peaking at Number 3 a few weeks later.
‘Hey Joe’ is a classic tune and a must learn for any aspiring guitarist, even with some eyebrow-raising lyrics. It takes pride of place on our debut grade Electric Guitar syllabus as well as our grade 5 Drums syllabus.
If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that live performance is the beating heart of music that helps to mould the next generation of musicians and immortalise those performers currently at the top of their game. This certainly happened when Jimi Hendrix took to the Woodstock stage in 1969.
The world’s highest paid rock musician at this point, the band’s performance bordered on under-rehearsed, and the new additions never completely clicked. Jimi even moved the performance from Sunday night to Monday morning at 8am in front of a swelling crowd of around 40,000.
Despite the apparent shambolic organisation, the band played an unforgettable set, culminating in Jimi’s now iconic rendition of ‘Star Spangled Banner’, the American national anthem. He played it with heavy distortion, soaring between high and low notes to reflect the pain and suffering caused by the American military, making a remarkable political statement without using a single word.
Some of Hendrix’s music might not sound particularly revolutionary now given the amount of blues-influenced bands around who use distortion and effects in their songs, yet they only exist because of his music. Just as The Beatles’ music looms over the rock and pop landscape of today, Hendrix’s influence can be heard in everything from David Bowie and Prince right up to Red Hot Chili Peppers and A Tribe Called Quest.
Though of course he utilised heavy drive sounds, he also has a remarkable clean tone that he would get just right by adjusting the volume knob on his guitar during performances. You can read more about that here!
The tone and sound you create on your instrument or through your voice is just as important as having solid technique and a good ear. Learn more about how you can make your guitar sound more like Jimi Hendrix in the video below!