“Jimi Hendrix was left-handed.” Oh, you don’t say? There are so many things that people mention (ad nauseum) about Hendrix and his guitar playing, that it’s probably time somebody took the time to jot down some of the more obscure facets and facts about his technique. And, just incase you’ve never been experienced, we have. These are just as important as the more familiar factoids about Hendrix, but more fun to mention to completists.
5 Hendrix Taught Andy Summers How to Play
When Hendrix was brand new to the London scene, one of the first musicians he met was a young and talented psychedelic rocker by the name of Andy Summers. Summers had already played with a few trendy psychedelic bands on his way to a brief stint with Eric Burdon and the Animals. But, y’know, maybe you’re most familiar with his work in a little band called The Police? Yes, Hendrix had an indirect influence on one of the biggest acts of the 70’s and 80’s by briefly tutoring the already prodigious Summers. While Hendrix and Summers may not seem to have much in common on the surface, listen to the complex rhythms and syncopations both comfortably incorporate into their classic hits.
4 Jimi Is Just as Good (If Not Better) at Playing Rhythm Guitar
To be fair, this is no secret to anyone who plays guitar. (Well, most of these wouldn’t be, but I digress.) Hendrix played almost all of the guitar on the Jimi Hendrix Experience albums (save a few rhythm parts by Noel Redding), meaning that the entire tapestry of every song is woven by Hendrix’s seamless guitar playing. He doesn’t just play fast — he plays with extreme discretion and flow, never over-crowding a song. Everything from exploding bar chords, to flowing double-stops, and subtle trills support each majestic, melodic solo he ever put to tape. The two correspond so perfectly, that you can’t think of one guitar part without also thinking of the other.
3 It Wasn’t Just Amplifiers
I guess when you’re as good as Hendrix, people just want to give you stuff to make you better. (Some people have it all.) Though Jimi was already a master at creating “natural” feedback and distortion by turning his knobs all the way up through giant amplifiers, he also helped popularize and innovate many guitar effects. (Again, no secret to guitarists.) Technical guru Roger Mayers — whose job was basically to invent effects for Hendrix to test and then tweak them to Hendrix’s specifications — helped create an octave doubler which shows up on the solo for “Purple Haze” as well as introducing Jimi to the fuzz tones he was already building for the Yardbirds.
2 Some of Hendrix’s Material Is Still Unreleased
Hendrix spent a hell of a lot of time jamming in the studio, leaving behind some 300 uncompleted songs. Several bootlegs have surfaced of live recordings, sure; but Hendrix was equally adept at using the studio as a secondary instrument. Some of these unfinished tracks have been released — sometimes with unfortunate, half-baked, or just silly overdubs in misguided attempts to complete them. But there is some hope for the purists: Valleys of Neptune was released to much fanfare a couple years ago in an attempt to get Hendrix out to the public. Likewise, Stephen Stills claims to have rediscovered a jam album he made with Hendrix and forgot about (likely in one blurry night).
1 Why You’ll Never Quite Recreate Jimi’s Trademark Sound
Yes, Jimi Hendrix played left-handed, everyone knows that. But what’s truly important is that he played a right-handed guitar strung upside down. Not many people consider the full purport of this, but here goes a feeble attempt at explanation: All guitar pick-ups have a magnet under each string, specific to each string, and attuned to it. Now, if Hendrix’s guitar was strung backwards, it means that the opposite string would be over each attuned magnet. For this very reason, pretentious (albeit talented musicians) spend thousand of dollars trying to recreate Hendrix’s signature sound and fall slightly flat. Too bad they don’t realize that thousands of dollars can’t recreate an error.
Again, these are things that only diehard Jimi Hendrix fans will be familiar with… and now, you can be a part of that elite circle! Just be sure your long-suffering friends have a serious nerd bone combined with a rock ‘n roll soul. For those of us who “get it,” this stuff is super fascinating. But, for people who are more likely to watch Two and a Half Men than Frasier, this might not be very interesting. Instead, try jingling your keys at them. Enjoy and rock on!