Are you an esteemed fan of the late and great Jimi Hendrix? Do you want to know once and for all how he managed to get so good at the guitar? How can you get so good as to change the face of the guitar forever?
All these questions and more will be satiated here today, as we explore how did Jimi Hendrix learn guitar.
All guitarists must start somewhere. Though now revered as one of the all time greatest guitarists, at one point Jimi Hendrix would not have known a fretboard from a headstock, and then some.
James Marshall Hendrix began playing guitar at the age of 15 in the year of 1957 after his father bought him his first acoustic guitar as a gift that cost a mere $5. Prior to this, he owned a one string ukulele, but his true journey began with the purchase of that guitar.
Eventually, he would go on to the electric guitar, for which he is most famous, though there are indeed several notorious clips of him playing acoustic guitar that exhibit his dexterity at playing all sorts of styles of guitar techniques and music
Though not so old in the grand scheme of things, he was a over halfway through this life at the time that he picked up guitar, for he ended up dying of an overdose of sorts at the age of 27. Jimi Hendrix learned to play guitar to his level in the space of only 12 years, which is an incredible think to think about in retrospect.
Before he created the Jimi Hendrix Experience and joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after rewriting rock music forever, Hendrix played guitar humbly and truly, often for hours and hours a day.
Many like to hold his story up as an example of how hard work and due diligence can get you to incredible heights, and though I would not normally subscribe to such worn aphorisms and idioms, there is real truth within this one, and to have someone as bombastic and culturally significant as Hendrix at the helm makes it all the more vital.
How Did He Learn the Guitar?
Well, before such immense cultural landmarks as setting fire to his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival in an attempt to outdo the bombastic pyrotechnics of the Who, his first ventures into music would have Hendrix play the aforementioned one string ukulele.
His natural gift for music and his ear for learning shone through eventually, especially prevalent in the way he was able to play along to whole albums worth of music by Elvis Presley without having read a single note of music.
He also quickly found a way to turn the limitations of a one-string instrument to his advantage, exercising his ear for pitch by tuning this one string up and down while performing a song so that he could reach different ranges of the fretboard, all while nailing this pitches perfectly.
All the vital points of musicality were there for him to seize, just as they would be for you. Sure, he was missing several strings, but the inherent qualities of tone and rhythm were there for him to devour on his own terms, so that when he eventually was gifted that fabled $5 acoustic guitar by his father, he was ready to use it with a musical imagination that well exceeded the bounds of the one string.
He would then go on to do a lot with a little while also experimenting endlessly with all the equipment he did have. In his all too brief lifetime, Hendrix pushed the guitar to its absolute limits.
A relatively recent invention at the time, the electric guitar in the hands of Hendrix was pushed into reaches of sonic mischief never before conceived, feeding his already wild and passionate playing through a fuzz, a wah wah, a uni vibe, and a whole bunch of wattage to deliver upon the world and his audience a sound that hardly anyone was ready to hear.
How Often did Hendrix Play?
In his prime, he would have been playing guitar almost all the time, around 8 to 12 hours a day, from sun up to sun down.
Hendrix had a relentless passion for the electric guitar as well as a bright and inflamed musical imagination that meant that even when he was not playing he was still thinking about or talking about music.
A large part of the secret of Hendrix’s mastery was his boundless curiosity and willingness to ask questions to those whose playing he admired, adapting all his favorite sounds and pouring them outwards in his own performances.
A little known secret about his style is that a considerable amount of his melodic sense is inspired by the phrasing of horn sections. He was a relentless music fan in his time and would always show up to local gigs, making himself known and, as ever, asking questions, watching carefully and analytically what the whole band were doing at all times.
No matter what, though, Hendrix was always seen with his instrument. In his younger years, he would even carry the guitar wherever he went, and all without a case, as though it was a literal extension of himself.
It was clear for all to see that he was more comfortable when he was playing the guitar. Even in the acoustic video earlier in this article, you can see his anxieties manifested visibly when he stops playing and addresses the camera operator towards the beginning of the video, a stance in sharp contrast to the obvious passion that he then goes on to exhibit when he is playing the acoustic.
So, there you have it! Hopefully your curiosity about how did Jimi Hendrix learn guitar has been satiated and you are feeling better able to tackle your own doubts and worries about the guitar so that you can get where you have always wanted to be with it!
FAQs How Did Jimi Hendrix Learn Guitar
With a heck of a lot of practise, sure, but more than that with a passion for the instrument and for music and sound in general that was clear for all who knew him to see.
At first, Hendrix taught himself to play on a one-string ukulele, eventually progressing onto a cheap acoustic guitar that his father gifted him.
Hendrix would certainly have had a subconscious and intuitive knowledge of the way that a guitar worked, the way notes sounded together, as well as harmonic progressions and the like, even if he did not have an academic background in the instrument. So much of Hendrix’s knowledge and his subsequent mastery was down to his hunger to know more and to absorb the playing of others who he admired.
So much of Hendrix’s knowledge and his subsequent mastery was down to his hunger to know more and to absorb the playing of others who he admired. Though initially, self taught, he quickly sought advice and knowledge from friends and neighbors, as well as from local musicians, keen to ask questions to absorb their playing in the search for his own.