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Jimmy Hendrix

 

Jimi Hendrix arguably did more to advance the art of playing the electric guitar than any person in history. Despite only living for 28 years, most guitar enthusiasts consider him the quintessential master. His blues-influenced riffs and use of dissonance created a wholly unique sound never heard before. He was also a pioneer of electric equipment like distortion pedals and was the first artist to make full use of the sonic nature of the electric guitar. Previous to Jimi the electric guitar was nothing more than an amplified version of the acoustic. If you want to know how Hendrix revolutionized music and how you should go about trying to replicate his sound, read on.
 
 Born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942 his name was changed to James Marshall Hendrix after his father came home from fighting in the Second World War. Jimi showed an affinity towards music from a very young age. He is reported to have imitated strumming on an old broomstick and practiced on his father�s one-string ukulele as a pre-teen. At age fifteen he bought his first guitar for $5 from one of his father�s friends. He acquired his first electric guitar two years later, a white Supra Ozark his father bought him. He dedicated himself to his craft right from the beginning, he is reputed to have practiced an average of eight hours a day from the time he was a teenager till the day he died. After failing to graduate from high school, ironically he received an F in music class; he joined up with the army.
 
His stint in the army only lasted a year and he then began touring around with a band known as the King Kasuals. After playing gigs in obscure locations all around the south the band finally settled in as a club band in Nashville, Tennessee. He soon grew tired of the little pay and recognition that being the leader of a club band afforded and moved to New York where he played back-up guitar for a number of popular acts notably Little Richard.
 
It wasn�t until Linda Keith, girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, introduced Jimi to Chas Chandler, former Animals bassist and London based producer, that Hendrix got a shot at making it big. Chandler was convinced Jimi could be a star so he flew him to London and made him the front man of a band named the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Besides the leader the band consisted of London bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The band�s first album, Are You Experienced, was released on May 12, 1967. It produced three singles that reached the top-10 in the UK and Jimi began to get recognition for his dynamite stage presence, even though the album initially flopped in the US.
 
The Monterrey International Pop Festival was where Jimi Hendrix exploded onto the US scene. That weekend featured arguably the greatest amount of musical talent ever assembled yet Hendrix still stood out. It was more than Hendrix�s powerful melodies and electrifying solos that resonated with the San Francisco crowd. His lavish costumes embodied the counter culture that was so prevalent in the late 60s. The thing that undoubtedly made this performance so iconic was his unique stage antics.
 
Growing up as a youngster Jimi Hendrix ran into a guitarist named Raleigh �Butch� Snipes. Jimi reputedly imitated and expanded on a number of the famous stage moves from Butch, including playing guitar behind his back and with his teeth. He also perfected Chuck Berry�s �duck walk� and could play his guitar over his head while writhing around on the ground, or just about in any contortion his body would allow him. The most famous of all of all his antics came at the end of his Monterrey show. He lit his guitar on fire then smashed it and threw the pieces into the crowd. This ending captured the feeling and emotion Hendrix put into playing every song. As Pete Townshend, the guitarist for The Who, put it, �I feel sad for people who have to judge Jimi Hendrix on the basis of recordings and film alone, because in the flesh he was so extraordinary. He had a kind of alchemist's ability; when he was on the stage, he changed. He physically changed. He became incredibly graceful and beautiful.�
 
After Monterrey The Jimi Hendrix Experience released another studio album, Bold as Love, before disbanding in February, 1969. Later that year Hendrix headlined Woodstock, the distinction for which he is probably best known. It was after the break-up of The Experience and Jimi was playing with a new band named Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. Gypsy Sun added a rhythm guitar and two percussionists to expand on what had always been a power trio. The concert came at the end of the festival and was pushed back multiple times so that it happened on a Monday. Because of that there were only about 180,000 of the 500,000 people left to see Jimi�s show. It is generally not considered one of his best performances but he did perform some memorable numbers, notably a rendition of �The Star Spangled Banner� that became a symbol of the sixties. In early 1970 Jimi died in London, the circumstances of which have never been fully explained. It was almost certainly a product of his copious use of drugs and alcohol.
 
The legend of Jimi Hendrix has only grown in the three-plus decades since his untimely demise. He did things with a guitar that were never seen before and, despite countless imitators, have never been seen since. Innovative in everything he did, from his flashy dressing, to his use of distortion pedals, to being one of the first artists to purchase their own recording studio, Hendrix will be revered forever as guitar royalty. The question is how did Hendrix produce his unique sound and how can you, as an aspiring guitarist, go about reproducing that sound.
 
It can�t be stressed enough how unique Hendrix was in everything he did. Unlike most musicians he couldn�t read music at all. Instead he just used his ears to distinguish between the various notes. Undoubtedly his ability to literally play it by ear lent itself to playing jam sessions that he became famous for. Another component to his unique sound was forged by complete accident. As a lefthander Jimi had a tough time finding a guitar to accommodate him. The solution he came up with was taking a right-handed guitar and flipping it over and then restringing it so that the low E string was the longest and the high E string was the shortest (if your right-handed you can get the same effect by flipping and restringing a left-handed guitar). He became famous playing a flipped over Fender Stratocaster hooked up to a 100-watt Marshall amp.
 
Restringing his guitar was only the beginning of the changes Jimi made to the traditional guitar set-up. The majority of his music is played with his instrument tuned down a full half step. This creates a dissonance that Jimi used to create powerful music. He relied on a lot of arpeggios and inverse chords, and also could use his thumb to pick out melodies while utilizing his other fingers to bang out a rhythm. Hendrix was also famous for his ability to incorporate volume swells into his performances by fiddling with his volume knob while playing. Obviously if you want to sound like Jimi it�s going to take a lot of practice, and also a lot of supplementary equipment.
 
Reportedly the first time Jimi heard the wah pedal he was listening to Frank Zappa play in New York in 1967. He was fascinated by the newly purchased effect and soon began incorporating it into his music. Almost every song on his Bold as Love album uses the wah pedal. He was also fascinated by stereo effects that played a leading role on his Bold as Love album. The first song on the album featured an effect that makes it seem as if the sound is �revolving� around the listener. It fades into the distance on the right channel before returning louder than ever on the left. He is thought to be the first major artist to use this effect. If you want to sound like Jimi you will also need a good fuzz pedal and some overdrive. Digitech makes a Jimi Hendrix pedal that tries to imitate some of his effects.
 
It is certainly no small task to emulate any great musician and Jimi Hendrix is no exception. It takes many hours a day of intense practice, an unwavering focus and attention to detail, rare natural talent and a sophisticated ear for the intricacies of music.
Even then there is no way to reproduce Hendrix�s stage presence or creativity. So in the end, despite the efforts of many, no one will ever be able to completely match the greatness of Jimi Hendrix. That is why he is the King of all guitar players.

     

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Joe Satriani
Eric Johnson
Steve Vai
Paul Gilbert
Jimmy Page
Randy Rhoads
Kurt Cobain
Kirk Hammett
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Yngwie Malmsteen
Slash
Robert Johnson
Pete Townsend
Jerry Garcia
Bo Diddley
Jeff Beck
Duane Allman
Jimmy Hendrix
BB King
John Frusciante
Joe Perry
George Harrison
Santana
Chuck Berry
Eric Clapton
Dimebag Darrell
 
 
 
 
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