How to play blues guitar like Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix grew up listening to blues music
Hendrix grew up listening to blues music
(Image: © Reuters/CORBIS)

For all his blazing live pyrotechnics and psychedelic studio voyages, Jimi Hendrix is still regarded as one of the very best blues players that ever lived.

To get close to Jimi's sound you'll need a gritty Fender Stratocaster neck pickup tone like the one on Red House for some of these examples. Others require a more distorted Fuzz Face-type bridge pickup sound.

Click to enlarge each of the following examples. If you are new to guitar tab, check out our comprehensive guide first.

Example one:

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As if introducing a 12-bar solo, this example borrows a few trademarks. The pentatonic phrasing is done by ear, rather than following a scale, because Jimi didn't read or write music. Pay close attention to details like the wide vibrato, frequent quarter-tone bends and staccato hits. This is where the magic lies!

Example two:

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Altogether more aggressive, this example is more representative of Jimi in mid-flight. The classic repeated figure gives way to some soul-influenced doublestops, which were such favourite moves of his. There's more staccato stuff going on and notice how much more attitude those last doublestops have when you bend them up a quarter-tone.

Next page: Examples three and four

Example three:

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Now we're really flying! Though this is superficially more technical, the feel always comes first. It takes a fair bit of hand strength to execute stuff like this, so don't be impatient. And even if that's not a problem, you can never spend too much time refining the details…

Example four:

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To bring our imaginary solo to a triumphant conclusion, here's a great Hendrix-style finish. The bend/doublestops turn to a more relaxed pentatonic descending then classic ascending pattern. And those last two chords were a lot of fun to play.

Click here for more blues guitar video lessons.

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