In the narration for the film Jimi Plays Monterey, John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas said, “the incredible thing was, you could watch him like a hawk, but you could not figure out how he did it.” It’s true that the innovative guitar god may have taken many of his trade secrets with him to his grave. But one thing we are fortunate to have been left with is a fairly accurate picture of the gear setup he used.
Jimi Hendrix is perhaps more closely associated with the Fender Stratocaster than Jimmy Page is with theGibson Les Paul or Angus Young is with the SG. The most renown of left-handed guitarists, Hendrix was well known for favoring right-handed Strats and stringing them upside down so he could access the control knobs while playing. Less well known perhaps, is that Jimi would tune his guitars down a half step to help facilitate his easy, laidback vocal style. While Jimi famously appeared onstage at Monterey Pop with the psychedelically painted Strat he set alight and smashed, most of the Fenders he played during his career were either black or white.
Of course Hendrix owned a number of guitars that weren’t Fender Strats, particularly Gibson SG Customs and Flying Vs. Gibson actually made him a custom left-handed Flying V with a Trini Lopez fret board and diamond inlayed frets. Jimi can be seen playing this guitar at a performance in Hawaii in the concert film, Rainbow Bridge.
In 2006, Gibson released limited edition Hendrix Flying V is the first guitar in the company’s “Inspired By” series, and a recreation of the V that Hendrix used on tour in Europe in 1967 and 1968, featuring exact reproductions of Hendrix’s own hand-painted designs from the original.
When former Animals bass-player turned band manager Chas Chandler discovered Jimi at the Café Wha? in Greenwich Village, the guitarist was probably using one of the Fender Twin Reverbs he favored at the time. However once Jimi landed in London, he discovered the power of British amplification and never really looked back.
Jimi experimented with a number of different kinds of amp, but according to sources close to him at the time, it was “99 percent Marshall.” Jimi’s rig of choice featured two 4×12 Marshall cabinets fitted with J.B. Lansing 120F Signature Speakers and powered by a Marshall 100-watt Super Lead Head. For live performances he adapted a backline that came to consist of three Super Leads powering a half dozen 4x12s. He’d plug into one amp and then daisy chain them all together with cables. During live shows, Jimi generally liked to play with the settings on his amps cranked all the way up.
Effects pedals weren’t widely in use during Jimi’s early days as a sideman for acts like Little Richard and the Isley Brothers. However as the story goes, it took the guitarist one hearing of Cream’s, “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” for him to become a convert and thereafter the Vox Wah Wah pedal became a de rigueur element of his setup.
Standing in front of a half dozen Marshall cabs cranked to eleven, you wouldn’t think there’d be much need for distortion, but Jimi was also a dedicated aficionado of the fuzz box. While he has been most famously associated with the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Jimi was also known to use custom-built Roger Mayer Octavia Fuzz boxes, as can be heard on the guitar solo for “Purple Haze.”
Late in his career Jimi also began using a Univox Uni-Vibe, which was a combination chorus pedal and rotating speaker simulator. Hendrix’s use of the Uni-Vibe is best immortalized on the track “Machine Gun” from his 1970 live album, Band of Gypsys.
While assembling a lineup of this gear is certainly no recipe for being able to play like Jimi Hendrix, if you do put it all together you may be pleasantly surprised by how closely you’ll be able to mimic his tone (even with just one Marshall). More importantly though, by doing a little forensic analysis into the gear Jimi used, perhaps it’s possible to gain a slightly clearer picture of how during his short career ,the man was essentially able to transform the Delta blues into a sonic tapestry of psychedelic rock sound.
For more comprehensive detail on Hendrix Gear, check out a very cool coffee table book called Jimi Hendrix Gear published in 2009 by Voyageur Press. The book is packed with 200-plus photographs of Jimi’s own gear, an is profiled in the promotional video below:
Now for some GREAT news for guitarists worldwide seeking to capture the Hendrix sound: IK Multimedia and Authentic Hendrix have created an exciting software that allows players to do just that!
According to their websites: AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix™ is a cooperative effort
between Authentic Hendrix and IK Multimedia. Authentic Hendrix was founded in late 90s, by Al Hendrix and his daughter Janie to curate and promote Jimi’s extensive recorded legacy. Based on AmpliTube 2 and made in cooperation with Authentic Hendrix, the family-owned company, AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix brings you the stomps, amps, cabinets and mics that contributed to make Hendrix’s legendary sound. It’s a complete collection of rare vintage gear right at your fingertips, carefully modeled with proprietary AmpliTube 2 DSM (Dynamic Saturation Modeling) technology from actual gear of the time period.
AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix is not only perfect for guitarists interested in getting that unmistakable Hendrix sound or those searching for the ultimate collection of vintage gear in one product, it’s also a great add-on for AmpliTube 2 users. Most of the AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix models are brand new and not included in AmpliTube 2, making the Hendrix edition a fantastic way for AmpliTube 2 users to expand the available stomps, amps, cabinets, and mics.
- 5 separate modules: tuner, configurable stomp pedal board, amp head, cabinet + mic and rack effects.
- 4 Amp models.
- 7 Cabinet models.
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- 9 Stomp Effect models.
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- High-precision Tuner.
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For more information visit: http://ikmultimedia.com/hendrix/features/