This week's Guitarist in the spotlight: Jimi Hendrix
Updated: Sep 16, 2021
Last week we looked at Swedish Guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. This week we will be looking at legendary pioneer/innovator of the electric guitar, Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix's contribution to the electric guitar is legendary, from popularising the use of distortion, fuzz and wah wah pedals to creating a heavy fusion of rock and blues and bringing it into the mainstream as well as his stage antics and theatrics such as burning and smashing his guitar on stage. Hendrix's impact on the electric guitar was nothing short of legendary and groundbreaking. Even more than 50 years after his death he continues to influence and inspire countless amounts of guitar players all around the globe. And this week we will be looking at a collection of licks and riffs in the style of the man himself for you to learn as well as apply to your solos and improvisation. Have fun!
In this first riff we have a classic Jimi Hendrix chord progression: A funky rhythm fused with a distorted, heavy rock sound to create a funky but heavy rock riff. The riff also features the classic Hendrix chord: The 7#9 chord, or in this case the E7#9 chord, one of Hendrix's favourite chords found in many of his classic hit tracks.
And here we have a riff, strongly inspired by the Jimi Hendrix classic track "Purple Haze". The riff is based around the E Minor Pentatonic Scale and widely features those trademark bends and vibrato that Hendrix used. Just make sure when playing through this riff to make the vibrato nice and wide like Hendrix did.
And here in this third lick we see those classic hammer ons on double stops that Hendrix liked to play so much. As always, make sure that when you learn these licks that you not only integrate them into your playing by connecting them up with your other licks and practice playing them while improvising and soloing in different keys, but that most importantly you integrate the CONCEPT of the licks. With this lick the concept is that we play 2 notes together from the minor pentatonic scale (in bar 1 we're using notes from Position 4 of the Minor Pentatonic Scale) both at the same time, and then hammer on another note from that same Minor Pentatonic scale. The sound that is produced is a classic Hendrix sound and one that is instantly recognisable. You can do hammer ons on double stops with every 2 notes from the Minor Pentatonic Scale in every position so go for it, try it out!
And here we have another trademark Hendrix style lick. With this one it's the bending before ending at the end on a bend and wide vibrato. With this lick it's the amount of repetitions on the note at the 14th fret of the G string which is the tricky part, mainly because the bends are repeated over and over again, so make sure you practice this one very slowly at first, working on accuracy and tone. Also when bending make sure that you bend with ALL your fingers, with your third finger at the 14th fret, your second finger at the 13th fret and your first finger at the 12th fret all pushing up on the same string to bend that note at the 14th fret. Never bend with just your third finger and with no fingers supporting it, you'll strain and hurt yourself. Play through the whole lick over and over again until you get it 100% accurate. Do NOT increase the speed before you can play it accurately and effortlessly at a slow speed. Once it becomes effortless and easy to execute increase the speed slowly. Remember speed is a by product of accuracy and that you can only get fast by getting it accurate first so take your time, you'll get it!
Another lick with yet plenty more bends. Like the previous lick, concentrate on accuracy and in particular getting those bends right. Lots of slow work. With the vibrato on the final note at the 14th fret on the D string make sure that you're using plenty of wrist movement and when doing vibrato never move the string up and down with just your finger. Make sure that all the movement is all wrist action.
And for this final lick we're once again using the E Minor Pentatonic Scale. The E Minor Pentatonic Scale descending followed by a bend and then finishing off on a double stop with a vibrato followed by a final note sliding out. The double stopped notes are probably the trickiest part of this lick as it demands that you play 2 notes together while doing vibrato on both strings. For this I recommend once again going slow and focusing on accuracy, tone and strengthening your fretting hand fingers before increasing speed. Once mastered at a slow speed then increase speed to integrate the end of the lick with the rest of the lick.
So that's the end of this week's blog lesson. Make sure like with last week's lesson that you learn all these licks and apply them to your own playing, joining them up with your other licks. Try playing them in different keys, different positions, play them back to front, change the licks slightly so that you're playing slides or hammer ons instead of bends, practice them as triplets etc etc etc. Basically learn them inside out then apply them to your playing and make them your own. In the meantime here is some recommended listening if you want to check out more of Jimi Hendrix's music:
Are you Experienced (1967)
Axis: Bold As Love (1967)
Electric Ladyland (1968)
Band Of Gypsies (1970)