How Did Jimi Hendrix Learn Guitar? [In-Depth Guide]

In the span of 11-12 years, Jimi took over the music world and became one of the worlds greatest and most influential guitarists. Jimi Hendrix learned fast which got me thinking, how did Jimi Hendrix learn guitar?

Jimi Hendrix learned to play guitar at the age of 15 by learning licks and chords from guitarists in the Seattle area. He would listen to the radio at home and play along to the songs, learning the guitar sections to each of his favorite songs. Hendrix learned these songs by ear.

Continue reading to learn more about how the original guitar hero came to hone his craft.

how did Jimi Hendrix learn guitar
Photo by: Steve Banks

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“If you stick with it you’re going to be rewarded. If you’re very stubborn, you can make it”. – Jimi Hendrix

When Did Jimi Hendrix Start Playing Guitar

Jimi Hendrix started playing guitar at the age of 15 in 1957 when his father got him an acoustic guitar that cost $5. It was then that his guitar journey would start, with his guitar career strictly starting in 1966.

You could say that is the greatest investment ever made by his father. Prior to the acoustic, he had a one stringed ukulele but the acoustic was his first true guitar. He then got a Supro which unfortunately got stolen. After that was his prized possession. The Danelectro.

So just to remind everyone. He started at the age of 15 and died at the age of 27. In the span of 12 years he became one of the greatest guitarists of all time. After 9 years of playing guitar, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released Are You Experienced. 9 years…… For me, this goes to show that you are never too old to start learning guitar. Granted, Jimi played 24/7 to get to this level as fast as he did, but we will discuss this further in the following sections.

How Did Jimi Hendrix Learn Guitar

Jimi got his start when he got his hands on a one stringed ukulele. He had an intense fascination with the instrument. His natural talent started to present itself through this one stringed uke. With it, he was playing by ear along to Elvis albums. He learned quickly how tuning the one string while playing can help him achieve different pitches, allowing him to expand the capabilities of a one stringed instrument.

He listened to different songs and developed a rhythmic tone behind them to play alongside with. Through this process he learned timing and rhythm despite not even having 6 strings.

After the Ukulele, he got an acoustic, then the Supro, and finally the Danelectro. He named this guitar Betty Jean, named after his girlfriend at the time. The Danelectro was what really allowed him to progress. When he got his acoustic at the age of 15, he started playing with friends and learning various licks. This is truly when he learned basic guitar techniques.

Find Out Who Were Jimi Hendrix’s Biggest Musical Influences Today!

Playing with his first group at age 17 and getting discouraged because of how shaky he felt. Other guitarists around him seemed so much better and more confident. He mentioned how most would give up at this point but its best not to. Just keep on. This was an important lesson for Jimi and he persisted to become better.

When he started playing behind Little Richard is when he learned how to perform and how to dress. Through watching Little Richard perform for the crowd, he began seeing what it took to truly entertain the crowd outside of the music. These lessons from Little Richard enabled Jimi to become the best performer of the 1960’s.

The rest is history. After he got this base level of knowledge he started incorporating and mixing the styles of his favorite musicians into his playing. Musicians like Buddy Guy, Albert King, BB King, etc. He developed his own style and transformed the sound and possibilities of the electric guitar.

If you would like to learn more about Jimi, I encourage you to read Room Full of Mirrors.

A fun fact is that Jimi was naturally a left handed guitarist. Although, his father wanted him to play the “correct way”. This way meant right handed. Jimi would practice lefty and when his father would come home, he’d start practicing right handed.

How Often Did Hendrix Play

Jimi Hendrix played guitar 8-12 hours a day when he was learning, spending his entire free time playing guitar.

When researching as to how did Jimi Hendrix learn guitar, it is important to realize how much he played. The greats like Jimi and SRV simply did not put the guitar down.

There was barely a time that Jimi did not play. Growing up, he would bring his guitar everywhere he went, without a case. It was simply an extension of himself. He felt most comfortable with a guitar then without. Linda Keith, Keith Richards ex-girlfriend and the women who introduced Jimi to Chas Chandler, remarked how Jimi was exceptionally insecure….. until he had his guitar with him.

Find Out What Strings Jimi Hendrix Used Today!

When Jimi joined the 101st Airborne, he brought his guitar with him. Every ounce of free time he had he would be practicing his craft. This is where he befriended long time friend and bassist Billy Cox. He and Billy formed a rag tag band and played constantly, honing their style.

In an article I read a few weeks ago, the writer told the story of when he and his family were staying at a hotel near the Monterey Pop Festival. He was young at the time and were there for vacation. Anyways, he told the story of him and his sister walking down the hallway of the hotel and then appears Jimi. Jimi had his strat in hand, caseless. He was just walking around, maybe to get a drink, maybe to get ice, towels, who knows. The point is that he was almost never without his guitar even when walking down a hotel hallway. The next day he would become cemented in history with his Monterey performance.

It is truly unfortunate that Jimi passed away at such a young age. Shortly before his death, he mentioned how he wanted to take 6 months off and go to music school to learn how to read and write music. He wanted to start a big band and create something truly divine through his new learnings.

Thank you for reading and learning how Jimi Hendrix learned guitar.