Jimi Hendrix (#1) - Chordal Style
by David M. McLean

Jimi Hendrix needs no introduction. In all likelihood, there are many comprehensive studies of Jimi's style available in books and on the web, but I write this mini-series at the request of several students. Most of those students were born long after Jimi was dead, thus are unsure of why his playing was considered so revolutionary by so many from such a diverse array of musical genres.

This discussion will cover some of Jimi's chordal stylings as used on songs like "Angel", "Castles Made of Sand", and "Little Wing". I once was told that "Little Wing" was one of the most recorded songs in history (Sting, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Rolling Stones, Otmar Leibert, Tuck Andress, Lawrence Juber, and many others have performed this piece). While I find this claim somewhat doubtful (especially considering all those recordings of "Yesterday" and "White Christmas"), there is no doubt that Jimi's chordal work has been a major influence on guitarists far and wide. Soooooo.....let's take a look at some examples in this style.

Example one is a simple progression (Am-G-C-Em-D7-G-C) that utilizes full barre chords, arpeggiations, and embellishments (including those cool quasi-modulations).


Example two is another look at this style. I used a standard 1950s pop & gospel sort of progression (which sounds more than a tad like Prince's "Purple Rain", as well as some famous 50s & 60s pop tunes) and kept the rhythmic ideas as close to example one as possible for comparative purposes. Note the A-F#m-E-D(sus2) progression and try out some of your own quasi-modulations (turn that ambiguous "E" into an E7 on one pass and an E pentatonic minor on the next, for example, or change my "D sus2" into a Dm7).


In addition to listening to Hendrix for tips on this style, check out some Steve Cropper and Curtis Mayfield. This is a gorgeous style of playing that Hendrix took and made his own - now it's your turn.

David M. McLean is the proprietor of Skinny Devil Music Labs, former guitarist of the avant-garde fusion-metal band Aurora-Sen, guitar instructor, and columnist for TinFoil Music Magazine (where he conducts interviews in the on-going series “Guitar Gods”). His new solo album, “HUNGER”, will be released later this year.

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