Was Jimi Hendrix Left Handed? About His Upside Down Guitar

Published Categorized as Acoustic Guitarist Bios

Have you been ogling pictures of your guitar idol and only just noticed the fact that his guitar is upside down? Are you wondering what it is all about? Is Jimi Hendrix left handed or right handed? And what about the Jimi Hendrix upside down guitar?

All this and more will be the preserve of this here article today, as we explore the motives for Hendrix’s adoption of a right handed guitar as a left handed guitarist, learning along the way a bit about him and his upbringing in the contemporary instrumental climate.

Table of Contents

Was Jimi Hendrix Left Handed or Right Handed?

First things first, before we understand anything to do with Jimi Hendrix upside down guitar, let us clear up his ambidexterity.

Hendrix was naturally a left handed guitar player, but was frequently forced to play right handed guitar by his father. This worked to his favor somewhat, for he was capable more or less of playing guitar right handed and left handed.

At the time, there was a relic of prior thought still haunting the education system. Back then, being left handed was something to avoid at all costs. In more religious communities, there was little to no masking of the religious subtext, which said that to be left handed was to be marked by the devil. In these same communities, this is something that still prevails.

When his father was not home, Hendrix would be play left handed guitarist. But would switch instantly back to playing right handed from playing lefty, lest his father should lose his temper.

So, though proficient in the left hand and right hand, and though he wrote with his right hand, he was naturally a left handed guitarist. This was what felt most comfortable for him.

Right handed guitars were the absolute norm then, with left handed guitars in fact being immeasurably difficult to find. Even for big celebrities of the contemporary moment like Hendrix and Eric Clapton, there was difficulty finding guitars that were up to their exacting standards.

Thus, left handed guitarists like Hendrix were forced to think outside of the box, avoiding the use of a normal left handed guitar (which would have been next to impossible to find anyhow). This contemporaneous climate between the left handed guitarist and the instrumental context within which it was occurring is vital to understanding how Hendrix strung his guitar.

Those similarly afflicted might find it useful to explore the left hand position on guitar: how to use your fretting hand.

Well, How Did Jimi Hendrix String His Guitar Then?

Obviously, Hendrix would string his guitar slightly different than most. This is something which has contributed to the cult of Hendrix, with countless droves of fans attempting to imitate his beastly tone that set him well apart from his contemporaries past and present.

Left handed guitars were already difficult to find in Hendrix’s day. They were also incredibly expensive if they were at all available. Not only this, but allegedly Hendrix deemed the resulting tone that one could get from a left handed Stratocaster to be inferior to what he could otherwise achieve with its right handed counterpart.

In stringing his guitar, he would use a right handed guitar upside down. He would flip it and then restring the guitar so from his left handed perspective the order of the strings would still be the same as they would for a right handed guitarist. That being with the lowest tuned E string at the top, ascending in pitch until the highest E string at the bottom (in terms of altitude).

The guitar having been flipped would have affected the vibrational undertones of the guitar. The strings that would have been strung the longest (the high E string etc) would have been swapped and would now be the shortest strung, and vice versa.

This difference would scarcely have been very noticeable, however. And the main differences would have lied in the overall tone produced through the pickups as well as the visual and aesthetic aspects. The guitar’s headstock (and less noticeably, the guitar’s body) is entirely flipped upside down.

This holistically produced one of Hendrix’s most obvious symbolic representations. Guitarists through the western world will instantly recognize the flipped guitar as a conception and installation. of Hendrix’s own.

Hendrix’s Overall Sound?

Besides the vibrational characteristics and the aesthetics of the guitar, there was also a significant change in the tonal output through the pickups. Coupled with his singular playing style that experimented with turning the blues inside out, has become the trademark of Jimi Hendrix and his sound. This trademark has become oft imitated calling card throughout guitar music.

On a right handed Fender Stratocaster that is played in a right handed way, the bridge pickup is slanted so that the higher strings are picked up closer to the base. Since Hendrix’s guitar was flipped, it gave these strings a slightly thicker tone, reducing the peak of the strings now farther away from the pickup’s magnets. The orientation was entirely reversed, and thus the tone was changed in a rather noticeable way.

And this change was not just the case for that one pickup when chosen on the pickup selector. The individual magnets that are built to target each individual string on the Fender Stratocaster would have been flipped.

On a right handed Fender Stratocaster played right handed, the individual magnets for the highest two strings (the B string and the high E string) are beveled inwards slightly to accommodate for the timbral harshness of these higher pitched strings.

Played inversely by a left handed guitarist who had restrung the guitar in opposite fashion, the beveling would instead have affected the lower most strings (the A string and the low E string), mellowing their overall output. As a result those lower strings had a thicker and meatier output more akin to that of a humbucker.

Left Handed or Right Handed?

The idea that Hendrix played guitar upside down is oft touted but is actually ill informed. If Hendrix were to have played a right handed guitar upside down, then in turning the right handed guitar upside down the strings would have been kept in the same order. In this way, the lowest tuned string (the low E) would have been the lowest string in terms of altitude also, ascending in ascending pitch order until it reached the high E string.

Instead, Hendrix flipped the guitar, turning it upside down and restringing the guitar so that the strings were in their natural order (with the lowest tuned string being the highest in altitude and vice versa), effectively making his own left handed guitar out of a right handed guitar.

And this is very noticeable because of the inherent shape of his guitar of choice, the Fender Stratocaster. Watching videos of him playing a Gibson SG or Flying V, it simply looks as though he is playing a guitar that was made left handed, and yet in these videos he is playing guitars that he likewise restrung and flipped upside down like his Fender Stratocaster.

A guitarist like Albert King, for example, was one of the first guitarists to truly play upside down, in the way previously described where the usual order of strings is reversed, with the pitches ascending and descending in line with their altitude.

Hendrix was certainly inspired by blues players like King. But as with all other aspects of his artistry, he chose to do things his own way. He honored his own path and the way he specifically felt, crafting a sound world and tonal catalogue that will forevermore have caucasian beards scratching.

Those similarly afflicted might find it useful to explore some of the easier left handed guitar chords.

Final Tones

So, there you have it! Hopefully you are now feeling better informed about the Jimi Hendrix upside down guitar. Why he would have chosen to convert a normal right handed Fender Stratocaster into a left handed Fender Stratocaster. The contemporary electric guitar climate. And much more.

There are plenty of imitators of Hendrix around these days. There seems to have been a cult around him for decades. After all, he’s widely considered as one of the best guitarists of all time. Yet almost all those who imitate him never seem to get it right, never seem to even attempt to embody that raw sex and bold experimentation that set apart from so many of his contemporaries past and present.

FAQs Jimi Hendrix Upside Down Guitar

Did Hendrix play upside down guitar?

Yes and no. While the Fender Stratocaster that he is famously seen to play is clearly upside down, he is not technically playing it upside down. Playing guitar upside down would technically involve playing the guitar with the strings remaining as they were – i.e. flipped upside to how they would usually be setup, with the strings ascending and descending in pitch and altitude in parallel. Hendrix, instead, restrung the guitar so that the strings would have ascended and descended in pitch in the inverse way, just as they do on a right handed guitar strung to standard tuning.

Who played a right-handed guitar upside down?

That will be Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix could play guitar both left handed and right handed, though was most comfortable playing left handed. In the contemporary climate, there were very few left handed guitars, even less that were actually affordable to someone as broke as Hendrix surprisingly was for a large part of his career. He thus decided to take the issue into his own hands by flipping a Fender Stratocaster initially intended to be played right hand, restringing the guitar so as to accommodate being played left handed in standard tuning without flipping the natural order of the strings.

Did Jimi Hendrix play a left-handed guitar?

Yes and no. In the contemporary climate, there were very few left handed guitars, even less that were actually affordable to someone as broke as Hendrix surprisingly was for a large part of his career. He thus decided to take the issue into his own hands by flipping a Fender Stratocaster initially intended to be played right hand, restringing the guitar so as to accommodate being played left handed in standard tuning without flipping the natural order of the strings. So, he did play a left handed guitar, but it was at his own behest that it was turned from a right handed guitar to a left handed guitar.

Did Jimi Hendrix play an upside down Fender Stratocaster?

Yes and no. While the Fender Stratocaster that he is famously seen to play is clearly upside down, he is not technically playing it upside down. Playing guitar upside down would technically involve playing the guitar with the strings remaining as they were – i.e. flipped upside to how they would usually be setup, with the strings ascending and descending in pitch and altitude in parallel. Hendrix, instead, restrung the guitar so that the strings would have ascended and descended in pitch in the inverse way, just as they do on a right handed guitar strung to standard tuning.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1