Author bio follows the commentary
Ticketing info: "Experience Hendrix: 2008 Tribute Tour", October 27, The Kentucky Center
Jimi Hendrix is a Guitar God due to his innovative style, great songwriting skills, and his enduring and almost universal influence on other guitarists.
So many of today's great players site Jimi Hendrix as an influence. Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the list goes on forever. You can certainly hear Hendrix's influence in the great playing of Frank Marino and Robin Trower.
His playing ability was quite high. You have to watch him play to fully appreciate the incredible vibrato from his fingers. Only Robin Trower comes close to shaking a string like Hendrix.
His playing may have inspired some actual changes in the design of guitars. His extreme whammy bar usage may be responsible for today's locking nut vibrato system, and a larger available inventory of left-handed guitars. Certainly the reverse style head stock on some guitar models is a tribute to Hendrix.
On top of all that, he looked so cool. Who else could be seen burning his guitar or simulating a love act with a speaker cabinet?
He may not have invented all of the elements of his style, but he certainly took them to a new level.
I realize the following analysis of his style will mean much more to guitarists than other readers. Jimi's style was based on: interesting chord progressions, the blues, octaves and double-stops, riff-based songs, dominant tonalities, vocalized melodic figures (scat singing), innovative rhythms, thumb chords with pinky movement, 9th chords, R&B, feedback, backwards music, (sometimes extreme)whammy bar usage, textures and sound effects.
Chord Progressions: Many of the chord progressions used in Jimi's music are variations on the standard form for a 12 bar blues.
Scales: The most commonly used scale in Jimi's music is the Pentatonic Minor Scale. Other commonly used scales include: Blues scale, Dorian (Purple Haze), Pentatonic Major, Mixolydian, Aeolian.
Two shapes that Jimi commonly used for composing were: Octaves and Double Stops. Double-stops are two-note chords played within a scale. Over a C chord, he would most likely use C Pentatonic Major or C Mixolydian mode, and use A Pentatonic minor over an Am chord, etc. In these double -stops, a higher note typically rang throughout, while a hammered-on embellishment occurred on the lower string. The extra notes often fell in the vicinity of the basic chord shapes, with the thumb fretting any 6th string roots. His most common double-stop is a perfect 4th to a minor 3rd, then back to the 4th.
The Riffs: Melodic single-note figures, or primary riffs, have been the backbone of hard rock and heavy metal since its earliest days. The concept of basing songs on what are often melodically and rhythmically simple themes can be traced back to the earliest forms of music. Some of Jimi's riff-based songs include: Purple Haze, Spanish Castle Magic, Manic Depression, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Machine Gun, I Don't Live Today, and Foxy Lady.
Categories of Hendrix riffs include: Pentatonic, Blues scale, Mixolydian mode, Major Pentatonic, Dorian mode, Major scale, Aeolian mode, Vocalized melodic figures (scat singing), and harmonized melodic figures.
Minor pentatonic riffs: Purple Haze intro, Voodoo Child, Beginning (from War Heroes), Midnight (from War Heroes), Stepping Stone, Power to Love, Fire, Manic Depression, Crash Landing.
Blues riffs:Who Knows, Little Miss Lover, Power to Love, Freedom, Ezy Rider, Stepping Stone, Gypsy Eyes, Still Raining Still Dreaming.
Mixolydian riffs: Though Mixolydian most closely represents the prevailing dominant 7th tonality in Hendrix's music, there aren't nearly as many primary riffs based on this mode as minor pentatonic or blues. Examples include: Red House (intro), Rock Me Baby, Freedom, She's So Fine.
Jimi used this scale more for soloing than for riffs, relying on it heavily for the Purple Haze and Pali Gap solos.
Dorian riffs: 1983 (intro and chorus)
Major scale riffs: Equally as rare as Dorian riffs, the major scale is implied in the bridge of "1983."
Vocalized Melodic Figures: A staple of the blues, playing and singing melodic phrases simultaneously (often referred to as scat singing) was something Jimi used often. Check out Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Machine Gun, Stepping Stone, Who Knows, Rock Me Baby, Crosstown Traffic.
Harmonized Melodic Riffs: The technique of weaving intricate guitar harmonies is something not often associated with Jimi, but he did use the technique frequently. Jimi often mixed harmonies of 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, and even major 2nds. Examples include Little Miss Strange, Gypsy Eyes, Stepping Stone and Beginning.
The Rhythms: Jimi is best known for his innovative rhythms. His rhythm playing can be divided into these categories: 1. Chords/Riffs, 2: Chord/Improv riffs 3. Thumb chords with pinky movement 4. Ninth chords 5. R&B 6. Power chords 7. Octaves 8. Unison bends 9. Double-stops 10. Textures 11. Overdubs
Chords/Riffs: This refers to mixing chords, and chord partials (two notes of a chord) with single-notes. A few of his songs that fall into this category are: Spanish Castle Magic, Freedom, Voodoo Child, Wind Cries Mary.
Chord/Improv riffs: Along the same lines as Chord/Riffs, this refers to ryhthm parts of a more improvised nature, but built on the same principle. Examples include: Are You Experienced, The Wind Cries Mary.
Thumb Chords with Pinky Movement: Jimi's large hands afforded him the ability to fret notes on the sixth string with his thumb while using his other fingers to fret mobile chord voicings. Many others have used this technique, but Jimi mastered it. Examples include: Purple Haze, Fire, The Wind Cries Mary, Little Wing.
9th Chords: Ninth chords, especially the 7#9 and add9, are used in many Hendrix songs, including Purple Haze, Foxy Lady, Little Miss Lover.
R&B: In the early days of Motown soul/R&B recordings, it was common to have three guitarists. One would play the chords, one would support the bass line, and the other would just play dead string percussive strokes that primarily accented the 2 and 4 down beats using a sharp staccato attach. This can be heard on Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, Little Miss Strange.
Octaves: Octaves play a big part in Hendrix's guitar style. He used them for written parts as well as in soloing. Octaves can be heard in Purple Haze, Fire, Third Stone from the Sun.
Extreme whammy bar usage and feedback: Just listen to The Star Spangled Banner or Voodoo Child. 'Nuff said!
About the author: Tim Pitts is a WaveGuide recording artist and long-time guitar instructor at both Mom's Music locations. Tim also plays guitar for the bands: IceCave Bonfire, The Gary Sanders Band, and acoustic duo SandPit.