Understanding Hendrix’s rhythm guitar style will help you create new, exciting guitar parts that add momentum to the song.
● Unlock secret Hendrix chord shapes.
● Discover essential tools Hendrix used to create inventive guitar parts.
● Never get bored playing simple chord progressions by blurring the boundaries of lead and rhythm guitar.
Jimi Hendrix is often remembered as a wild, bluesy, lead guitarist who left audiences awestruck with his mind-blowing solos and use of feedback. Still, he had another overshadowed ability that was just as integral to his sound: rhythm guitar playing. When it comes to playing rhythm and blues, soul, and elements of funk, the influence of Hendrix's rhythm style can be heard in clubs, arenas, and recording studios every day.
This rhythm style was really the backbone of his playing, and it was honed through years of working as a professional guitarist backing up Little Richard, the Isley Brothers, and King Curtis. While in these bands, Hendrix developed an ability to create inventive guitar parts that would not only meld into the rhythm section with a deep groove but also push along the energy of the song.
Hendrix had to play behind singers in these settings, and this is where he really developed his unique rhythm approach of ornamenting chord progressions in between the vocals. While Hendrix didn't create this style, he adapted and evolved it out of the popular contemporary soul music of the day. Hendrix was influenced by players like Cornell Dupree, Curtis Mayfield, and Steve Cropper, to name a few. He borrowed ideas from the way Mayfield would play lyrical melodies off the chord shapes. Hendrix adapted the Mayfield approach but made it more about the inventiveness of the rhythm rather than subtle embellishments to the chords. Along the way, Hendrix took it to a whole other level.
Throughout Hendrix's rhythm you can also hear borrowed ideas from Cropper, specifically his use of double-stops, bass lines, and sliding sixths within a rhythm part. Cropper, of course, demonstrated this type of rhythm style all over the classic Stax band recordings out of Memphis. Check out Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Eddie Floyd and you'll hear this.
Convert to Thumb
To get started playing in this style, the first thing you have to do is free up fretting-hand fingers within your chord shapes if you want to play the embellishments and ornament the chords the way Hendrix did. Unfortunately, this is where traditional electric guitar barre-chord shapes fall short. So, you'll want to start by converting these major and minor bar chord shapes to thumb chords.
Hendrix would wrap his fretting-hand thumb around the top of the guitar neck and, at times, play the 6thand even 5th string with his thumb. This may seem tough at first, but your hands will adapt over time to these chord formations. You never want to force a chord shape. Lightly go for the shape and then relax your hand. I would recommend starting with a smaller-necked guitar. Hendrix was known for his use of the Fender Stratocaster. These guitars typically have pretty slim necks, which definitely helps make these thumb chord shapes easier to reach.
Ex. 1 starts with a typical "E" shape barre chord that has a root on the 6th string. The first chord shape is the traditional fingering, while the second is Hendrix-style with the thumb on the root note.
With the Hendrix thumb-chord shape you have your 4th finger free on your fretting-hand. Now, you are ready to try some embellishments off of the chord shape like Ex. 2. This example uses a classic Hendrix-style hammer-on/pull-off combination with a bass-note pattern that plays independently of the upper melody. This was a key feature in Hendrix's style that, at times, made him sound almost like a piano player. As you play it, try to keep as many notes sustaining and ringing out over each other as possible.
Now, let's see how this can apply to a minor barre chord with a root on the 6th string. We'll start with a minor "E" shape at the 5th fret before converting to a Hendrix style in Ex. 3.
Ex. 4 shows the same concept as Ex. 2 but uses the notes Hendrix would typically gravitate toward over a minor chord shape.
With Ex. 2 and Ex. 4 you have a small melody using hammer-on and pull-off combinations. However, using your own personal taste, you may decide to use just one or two of these string embellishments at a time within a musical phrase. The point here is give you as many options as possible that are easily accessible off the chord shape. Hendrix would often reach up from any note in the chord and use the next scale degree for ornamenting. Sometimes the scales he would derive the melody notes from were typical major and minor scales, but he would often rely heavily on the use of pentatonic scales and, of course, the blues scale.
Chords with Roots On The 5th String
Now that we have major and minor Hendrix-style moveable chord shapes with roots on the 6th string, let's take a look at a few other must-know Hendrix chord shapes with roots on the 5thstring.
Ex. 5 shows a standard C major barre chord shape with a root on the 5th string. Hendrix used this shape frequently. Often, in context, he would quickly invert the chord up the neck placing the 3 in the bass.
The 3 in the bass creates an optimal fingering for playing double-stop licks off the shape. Ex. 6 demonstrates this idea.
Slides, Hammer-ons, and Pull-offs
Ex. 7 shows how Hendrix might embellish a standard minor 7 barre chord shape with a root on the 5th string. Notice the same concept of reaching up from a note within the chord shape and using the next scale degree for ornamenting. In this example, the scale of choice is E minor pentatonic (E–G–A–B–D).
Again, based on your taste, you may choose to use just one of these hammer-on/pull-off combinations within your own musical phrase. However, you'll find there are quite a few creative possibilities, especially as you start experimenting with re-ordering them or changing the rhythm.
Now, let's mix a number of these concepts and chord shapes together with Ex. 8 as we play over a simple three chord progression. Notice also one new chord shape, the Bb(add9) that comes in halfway through the first measure.
Now that you have unlocked a few of Hendrix's go-to thumb chord shapes, and have played some examples using his typical embellishments, find songs in your repertoire where you can start using these concepts to play more inventive rhythm guitar. Have fun!
This article was updated on August 30, 2021.
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For these new recreations, Fender focuses on the little things that make original golden-era Fenders objects of obsession.
If there’s one thing players love more than new guitars, it’s old guitars—the unique feel, the design idiosyncrasies, the quirks in finish that all came from the pre-CNC era of instrument manufacturing. These characteristics become the stuff of legend, passed on through the years via rumors and anecdotes in shops, forums, and community networks.
It’s a little difficult to separate fact from fiction given these guitars aren’t easy to get your hands on. Fender Telecasters manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s sell for upwards of $20,000. But old is about to become new again. Fender’s American Vintage II series features 12 year-specific electric guitar and bass models from over two decades, spanning 1951 to 1977, that replicate most specs on their original counterparts, but are produced with modern technologies that ensure uniform build and feel.
Chronologically, the series begins and ends, fittingly, with the Telecaster—starting with the butterscotch blonde, blackguard 1951 Telecaster (built with an ash body, one-piece U-shaped maple neck, and 7.25" radius fretboard) and ending with the 1977 Telecaster Custom, which features a C-shaped neck, a CuNiFe magnet-based Wide Range humbucker in the neck position, and a single-coil at the bridge. The rest of the series spans the highlights of Fender’s repertoire: the 1954 Precision Bass, 1957 Stratocaster in ash or alder, 1960 Precision Bass, 1961 Stratocaster, 1963 Telecaster, 1966 Jazz Bass, 1966 Jazzmaster, 1972 Tele Thinline, 1973 Strat, and 1975 Telecaster Deluxe. The 1951 Telecaster, 1957 Strat, 1961 Strat, and 1966 Jazz Bass will also be offered as left-handed models. Street prices run from $2,099 to $2,399.
Fender '72 American Vintage II Telecaster Thinline Demo | First Look
Spec’d To Please
Every guitar in the series sports the era’s 7.25" radius fretboard, a mostly abandoned spec found on Custom Shop instruments—Mexico-made Vintera models, and Fender’s Artist Series guitars like the Jimmy Page, Jason Isbell, and Albert Hammond Jr. models. Most modern Fenders feature a 9.5" radius, while radii on Gibsons reach upwards of 12". Videos experimenting with the 7.25" radius’ playability pull in tens of thousands of viewers, suggesting both a modern fascination with and a lack of exposure to the radius among some younger and less experienced players.
T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne picks an American Vintage II 1966 Jazzmaster in Dakota red.
Bringing back the polarizing 7.25" radius across the entire series is a gamble, and it’s been nearly five years since Fender released year-specific models. But Fender executive vice president Justin Norvell says that two years ago when the Fender brain trust was conceptualizing the American Vintage II line, they decided the time was right to “go back to the well.”
“We’ve been doing the same [models], the same years, over and over again for 30 years,” says Norvell. “We really wanted to change the line and expand it into some new things that we hadn’t done before and pick some different years that we thought were cool.”
“It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”—Steve Thomas, Fender
To decide on which years to produce, Fender drew from what Norvell calls a “huge cauldron of information” from Custom Shop master builders to collectors with vintage models to former employees from the 1950s and 1960s. The hands-on manufacturing of Fender’s golden years meant guitars produced within the same year would have marked differences in design and finish. So, the team had to procure multiple versions of the same year’s guitar to decide which models to replicate. Norvell says some purists would advocate for the “cleanest, most down-the-middle kind of variant,” while others would push for more esoteric and rare versions. Norvell says that ultimately, the team picked the models that they felt best represented “the throughline of history on our platforms.”
Simple and agile, the Fender Precision Bass—here in its new American Vintage II ’54 incarnation—earned its reputation in the hands of Bill Black, James Jamerson, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and other foundational players.
Norvell says the American Vintage II series was developed, in part, in response to calls to reproduce vintage guitars. Just like with classic cars, he says, people are passionate about year-specific guitars. Plus, American Vintage II fits perfectly with the pandemic-stoked yearning for bygone times. “For some people, these specific years are representative of experiences they had when they were first playing guitar, or a favorite artist that played guitars from these eras,” says Norvell. “These are touchstones for those stories, and that makes them very desirable.”
Fender’s electric guitar research and design team, led by director Steve Thomas, dug through the company’s archive of original drawings and designs—dating all the way back to Leo Fender’s original shop in Fullerton, California. They found detailed notes, including some documenting body woods that changed mid-year on certain models. Halfway through 1956, for example, Stratocaster bodies switched from ash to alder. That meant the American Vintage II 1957 Stratocaster needed to be alder, too. That, in turn, meant ensuring enough alder was on hand to fulfill production needs.
Among the series’ Stratocaster recreations is this 1973-style instrument, with an ash body, maple C-profile neck, rosewood fretboard, and the company’s Pure Vintage single-coils.
Thomas and his team discovered another piece of the production puzzle when researching how pickups for that same 1957 Strat were made. “We realized that if we incorporated a little bit more pinch control on the winders, we could more effectively mimic the way pickups would have been hand-wound in the ’50s,” says Thomas. “It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”
Thomas proudly calls the guitars “some of the best instruments we’ve ever made here in the Fender plant,” pointing to the level of detail put into design features, including more delicate lacquer finishes which take longer to cure and dry, and vintage-correct tweed cases for some guitars. New pickups were incorporated in the series, like a reworking of Seth Lover’s famed CuNiFe Wide Range humbuckers, which were discontinued around 1981. Even more minute details, like the width of 12th fret dots and the material used for them, were labored over. Three different models in the line feature clay dot inlays at unique, year-specific spacings.
Ironically, modern CNC manufacturing now makes these design quirks consistent features in mass-produced instruments. While the hand-crafted guitars from the ’50s and ’60s varied a lot from instrument to instrument. “Everything needs to be located perfectly, and it wasn’t necessarily back in the day,” says Norvell. “Now, it can be.”
Don’t Look Back
With this new series so firmly planted in the rose-tinted past, Fender does run the risk of netting only vintage-obsessed players. But Norvell says the team, despite being sticklers for period-correct detail, sought to strike a balance between vintage specs, practicality, and playability. The 1957 Stratocaster, for example, has a 5-way switch rather than the original’s 3-way switch. Norvell also asserts that the “ergonomic” old-school radius feels great when chording. “It might not be [right for] a shred machine, but it feels great and effortless.”
The 1966 Jazz Bass is also represented, shown here in a left-handed version.
Norvell also pushes back on the notion that Fender is playing it safe by indulging nostalgia and leaning on their past successes. He says that while the vintage models are some of the most desirable on the market, the team “purposely did not stick to the safe bets,” citing unusual year models like the 1954 P Bass and the 1973 Stratocaster.There’s a good reason why anything that hails back to “the good ol’ days” hits home with every generation. We’re constantly plagued by a belief that what came before is better than what we’ve got now. But with the American Vintage II series, Fender makes the case that guitars from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s can very easily be a relevant part of the 2020s.
Evolved from the SL-20 Slicer, the SL-2 provides expanded capabilities while shrinking the size to the pedalboard-friendly Boss compact format.
Boss announces the SL-2 Slicer, the latest addition to the company’s legendary compact pedal lineup. This original Boss effect chops sound into unique percussive patterns—including many processed with internal filters and effects—and provides multiple output options that bring grooves to life across the stereo field. Offering 88 onboard patterns, MIDI control support, and additional patterns via the Boss Tone Studio app, the SL-2 is an inspiring tool for all types of creators, from guitarists and keyboardists to loop performers, DJs, beatmakers, and beyond.
The SL-2 has 88 onboard memories preloaded with eight pattern types and 11 variations. Users can connect to Boss Tone Studio over USB to audition and load alternate patterns and organize memory setups for different songs.
With the SL-2’s efficient interface, users can dial in sophisticated textures in seconds. Attack and Duty knobs provide waveform control for a wide range of audio effects, from hard, percussive chops to soft, fluttering tones. The tempo can be adjusted with a dedicated knob or hands-free by holding the pedal switch to enable tap tempo mode. A Balance knob and +/-12 dB of output level adjustment provide complete command of the direct/effect mix.
The SL-2 dishes up loads of impressive sounds with a standard mono setup. But things get even better when using the two outputs and seven output modes. Players can surround listeners in animated movement using a variety of stereo and 3D processing options, and it’s also possible to send direct and effect sounds to different destinations. And with its stereo input, the SL-2 can be used with other stereo pedals to bring further magic to grooves.
With its generous external control options, the SL-2 flows with any creative setup. Connecting an external footswitch provides instant tap tempo access or the ability to engage the effect with momentary presses. Alternatively, an expression pedal can be used to control knob parameters or the overall level. With the TRS MIDI input, users can sync SL-2 grooves to a drum machine, DAW, or any other device that sends MIDI clock. It’s also possible to control expression, tempo, and bypass functions via MIDI CC messages.
- Single and Dual: These modes are relatively self explanatory. Single has one slicer; Dual has two slicers operating at the same time.
- Tremolo: The SL-2’s tamest setting, this mode is about as close to traditional tremolo as the SL-2 can get!
- Harmonic: This mode brings in wild modulation, adding even more complexity to your rhythmic experimentation.
- SFX: Perhaps the most peculiar mode, SFX introduces additional effects to your signal depending on which sub-mode you choose.
For more information, boss.info.
This 35th Anniversary edition honors the Ernie Ball Music Man design used by some of the world's most iconic bassists, including Flea, Tony Levin, John Myung, and Phoenix of Linkin Park.
Unveiled in 1987, the Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay 5 set the standard for the modern 5-string bass with its robust low-end, tight, punchy sound and ideal 34” scale length. This 35th Anniversary edition honors the timeless Ernie Ball Music Man design used by some of the world's most iconic bassists, including Flea, Tony Levin, John Myung, and Phoenix of Linkin Park.
Over its 35-year history, the Music Man SR5 has undergone several significant design changes. Under the leadership of Sterling Ball, the Ernie Ball Music Man R&D team have implemented industry-leading innovations that are now commonplace on most modern 4 and 5-string basses.
“An Anniversary bass celebrates things you do at the beginning, things you do in the middle and things you do at the end. Hopefully you can create an anniversary bass that incorporates all of these eras together… I think we got it right. I’m so proud of how this came together”.
Ernie Ball Music Man: The 35th Anniversary StingRay 5 Bass
The 35th Anniversary StingRay 5 is limited to 225 instruments in a single humbucker configuration, and 25 instruments in a double humbucker configuration. For more information, please visit music-man.com.
Building on the success of the 2021 BMG 'Two Tone' Arielle model, Brian May Guitars announces Antique Cherry finish for their guitar styled after American singer-songwriter Arielle.
THE BMG ARIELLE FEATURES
Striking Body Design
The flamboyant, asymmetric angles of the Arielle's Indonesian Mahogany body, at once timeless and forward-thinking, clearly pay homage to radical American automotive and electric guitar designs of the 1950s and '60s, with a distinctive raised center strip increasing the body mass for enhanced sustain and resonance, a split, 3-ply parchment pickguard and a classic gloss finish completing the cool, vintage look.
24" Scale Mahogany Neck
Employing the short 24" scale favored by Brian May on the original Red Special, the one-piece mahogany neck, in perfect balance with the lightweight body, has been engineered with a decidedly contemporary feel, featuring a generous 45mm nut width, comfortably spacious profile, and wonderfully smooth 24 fret ebony fingerboard with Arielle's choice of abalone diamond snowflake inlays in the traditional BM pattern.
BMG Tri-Sonic Style Pickups
Like the best-selling BMG Special, the Arielle features three BM branded 'Tri-Sonic' style single coil pickups, modern replicas of the vintage '60s units so fundamental to the Red Special's powerful and distinctive sonic character with the same series wiring, retro-styling, and magnet alignment as the originals.
BM Switching System
The unique Brian May designed electronics system is provided by six black DPDT switches featuring high-quality contacts mounted on a contrasting 3-ply black control plate. Engaging each pickup individually as well as providing dedicated phase reversal, this familiar configuration gives the BMG Arielle the same astonishing tonal agility as the original Red Special itself.
Wilkinson WVP Tremolo Bridge
Continuing BMG's long association with veteran British engineer Trevor Wilkinson, the Arielle is fitted with his acclaimed WVP 2-point tremolo, a vintage-styled variant of the unit used on the BMG Special. With a modern, friction-free design offering one of the smoothest actions of any fulcrum vibrato currently available coupled with a sleek, low-profile surround to eliminate lateral saddle movement, the WVP offers superior comfort, stability, and performance.
Thumbwheel Locking Tuners
The distinctive BM style headstock sports 3-a-side locking tuners with an 18:1 gear ratio for precise tuning and a thumbwheel locking mechanism that clamps the string securely. These superb quality machine heads allow for quick and easy string changes, requiring fewer string wraps and maintaining rock-solid tuning stability and more accurate return-to-pitch, even with lots of vibrato and string bends.
BMG Gig Bag Included
A premium quality, padded gig-bag, made from durable showerproof material, with twin rucksack-style shoulder straps, side and front grab handles, dual front pockets, and stitched BMG logo, is supplied as standard.
Versatile and bold, the heart of the Arielle's sound is round, wide, warm, and rich, with clean, clear highs and crisp note articulation, even when overdriven. Eminently capable of authentically delivering the hardest of rock or the most intimate dream-pop shimmer, the Arielle has clearly been engineered to be a brilliant, one-stop stage and studio workhorse. For blues and roots styles, there is a pleasing presence and a tight, focused bass response whilst jazz players and country pickers will love the chiming clarity, especially on out-of-phase settings, and the smooth, hollow twang of the neck pickup. Cranking up the gain, combining two or more pickups in phase, the broad Tri-Sonic response and resonant body give crunch chords ample room to breathe and allow lead licks and solos to project clearly and powerfully.
UK RRP £945.00 (Inc. VAT) — Available now for £845.00 from the official Brian May Guitars online store for a limited time. For more information, please visit BrianMayGuitars.co.uk.