How Did Jimi Hendrix String His Guitar?

After watching hours of live footage, I noticed Jimi’s guitar having dissimilar string set up. So I did a little research to discover how did Jimi Hendrix string his guitar?

Jimi Hendrix stringed his guitar by way of a reverted Fender Stratocaster. Hendrix took a normal right-handed Stratocaster, flipped it and then re-strung it backwards to play like a normal left-handed guitar. Hendrix stringed his guitar this way because left handed guitars were difficult to find and expensive when you did.

Continue reading to find out why he stringed his guitar this way.

how did Jimi Hendrix string his guitar

Did Jimi Hendrix Play Right Handed or Left Handed?

Jimi Hendrix was naturally a left handed guitarist but would often play right handed as a child due to pressure from his father. Because of this, he could play guitar left handed and right handed.

When his father got him his first guitar, he would get mad at Jimi for playing lefty. Jimi’s father saw this as the non-conventional way of playing guitar. Jimi’s father ‘taught’ him to play right handed. When his father was not home, Jimi would play his natural lefty way. When his father came home, he would play right handed to avoid getting yelled at.

Jimi was a proficient guitar player both left handed and right handed but he was naturally a left handed guitarist. Knowing he was a left handed guitarist plays a part in learning how Jimi Hendrix strung his guitar.

During the early days of rock, left handed guitars were tough to come across as most guitar brands did not have them as a production series. They were so rare that even mega stars like Hendrix and Clapton had a hard time finding them. Clapton was a right handed guitarist but would always search for lefty Strats. Unfortunately in 1970, Clapton found a left handed Fender Stratocaster and brought it to one of Jimi’s shows to give him. Clapton could not find Jimi after the show so he went home. This was the night that Hendrix died and Clapton partly blames himself for not looking for him harder; citing if he gave Jimi the guitar then they likely would have jammed all night.

How Did Jimi Hendrix String His Guitar and Why

Jimi Hendrix stringed his guitar different then most. That being said, Jimi was different then most. As mentioned above, left handed guitars were extremely difficult to find in the 1960’s. If you did find one, then they were very expensive. During the majority of Jimi’s career before stardom, Jimi was broke and could not afford a left handed guitar. To compensate, he used a right handed guitar and strung it the following way:

To string his guitar, Jimi Hendrix took his standard right handed Fender Stratocaster and flipped it. Once flipped he would re-string the guitar to move the strings to conventional placement that would be found on a left handed guitar. This means the low E string would still be closest to the chest or ceiling and the high E string would be closest to the floor. The strings would be attached to opposite knobs on the head, thus changing which strings needed to be longer than the traditional guitar stringing method. This did not effect the tone very much. It may have changed some vibration undertones but nothing substantial to alter the sound in a significant way.

This flipped arrangement arrangement gave the perception that his guitar was completely upside down when he was playing his Fender Stratocaster. However, this was not the case as I will discuss further below.

Check out this article on What Strings Jimi Hendrix Used to get his unique sound. His gauge set up will surprise you.

Did Jimi’s Guitar Stringing Method Effect His Sound?

The way Jimi stringed his guitar did affect the output of the guitar. That being said, it is important to recognize that the majority of Jimi’s tone came from his actual playing and melodic imagination. Gear and guitar set up are not the cure all for getting Jimi’s tone.

The main way his stringing method effected his tone is because of the back pick up. Traditional non-tampered Fender Stratocasters have the rear pick up slightly slanted to pick up the higher strings closer to the base. This can give those strings a more piercing tone. Since Jimi’s guitar was flipped, the rear pick up would catch those same strings higher up because the pickup was slanted in the opposite direction. This effectively reduced the peak of the strings that are now farther away from the pickups magnets.

The way Jimi Hendrix stringed his guitar reversed the orientation on the body of a Fender Stratocaster, thus slightly changing the sound.

Why Did Jimi Hendrix Play Guitar Upside Down?

Jimi Hendrix played guitar upside down because he believed left handed guitars were of lesser quality then right handed guitars because of how few there were.

Jimi also did not technically play guitar upside down in the literal sense. If so, then the high E string would have been where the low E string typically is. Instead, he flipped right handed guitars and re-strung them accordingly.

If you watch videos of Jimi playing his SG or Flying V, you will notice that it simply looks like a left handed guitar. However, he did the same flipping and re-stringing method with these guitars as well. These guitars are just more symmetrical then the Fender Stratocaster so it looks more conventional.

Albert King was one of the first guitarists to truly play their guitar upside down. Albert had the high E string where the low E string typically was. That was truly playing the guitar upside down.

Jimi Hendrix is not traditional. He loved to do things out of the ordinary and that did not exclude his string set up. The more I research and learn about Jimi, the more I realize how much of a pioneer he truly was.

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