Jimi Hendrix is known for changing up his gear in technical ways. Whether it be restringing to play a right-handed guitar lefty or sanding down specific frets to get a rattling sound, he did whatever he could to achieve the sound he wanted.
What pickups did Jimi Hendrix use? Jimi Hendrix used Fender standard pickups in his Fender Stratocasters with slight alterations constantly made by Roger Mayer. This was until March of 1968 when Seymour Duncan gave Hendrix custom-wound pickups that Jimi would use for the rest of his career on his 1968 white Fender Stratocaster.
Continue reading to find out more about Jimi Hendrix’s pickups, the pickups in his Fender Signature Stratocaster, what pickups you can get to achieve the Hendrix tone, and what pickup position he most often used.
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What Pickups Are in The Fender Jimi Hendrix Signature Stratocaster?
In the Fender Signature Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster, the pickups are American Vintage ’65 pickups with a reverse-slant single-coil bridge pickup. Unique to this signature stratocaster is the reverse slant bridge pickup. This is intended to replicate Jimi’s flipped guitar setup and the effect it had on the pickup angles.
These pickups and the angle at which they are placed on this guitar generate a warm sound and definition on the bass strings while adding thickness to the sound of the treble strings.
What Pickups Did Jimi Hendrix Use?
Jimi Hendrix used miscellaneous groupings of Fender standard pickups until 1968. In 1968, Seymour Duncan gave Jimi Hendrix custom-wound early 60’s Fender pickups. These pickups were installed on Hendrix’s white 1968 Fender Stratocaster and would remain there for the rest of his career.
From 1968 on, Jimi often used custom pickups from Seymour Duncan himself. At a show in Cincinnati is when Seymour first presented Hendrix with the pickups and they were put in that day by Jimi’s guitar tech, Roger Mayer.
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For these custom pickups, Seymour used old 60’s Strat pickups, unassembled them, and then rewound them with a record player where he would dip the wire in candle wax. The purpose of the wax was to protect the wire and keep it from snagging the bobbin and coil.
Seymour then went to his uncle, who worked for Texaco, and told him what kind of wire to use. On Hendrix’s custom pickups, Seymour used 42-gauge formvar wiring, which is quite heavy in those times. Seymour then used a record player to wound the wiring to the pickup.
Seymour brought the newly created pickups with him to the Cincinnati Jimi Hendrix Experience show and went backstage to present them. Roger Mayer proceeded to put Seymour’s pickups in Jimi Hendrix’s white Stratocaster where they would remain for years to come.
Jimi Hendrix Pickup Height and Setup
An important note is that Jimi Hendrix had his guitar setup quite differently than most. He had a right-hand guitar that was strung backwards, allowing him to play lefty. So why does this matter for pickups? The low E string was on the treble side and the high E string was on the bass side of the pickups.
When he flipped the guitar over to play, the pickups became flipped as well. Because of this changed string and pickup arrangement, it gave the high E string a little more output with a fatter and less bright sound. For the bottom E string, the setup gave a little more twang because the angle of the pickup is closer to the bridge on the bass string. This was especially noticeable in songs like Foxey Lady.
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In terms of Jimi Hendrix’s pickup height, he constantly changed each magnets height. Most often it was the upper magnets where the high E string now was. Hendrix would press the last string down and raise the height about an eight inch on the first two pickups closest to the neck and a 16th inch on the pickup closest to the bridge.
This helped Hendrix to get that real fat bell tone when he would play the low E string.
3 Best Pickups for Jimi Hendrix Tone
The three best pickups to get closer to Jimi’s tone are:
- Seymour Duncan1208-08-W Jimi Hendrix Signature Stratocaster Pickups
- Seymour Duncan SSL-1 California 50’s Strat Single Coil Pickups
- Fender Custom ’69 Stratocaster Pickups
Let’s look into each of them to find out what makes them so special and where you can get them.
1. Seymour Duncan Signature Jimi Hendrix Pickups
If you want to sound as close to Hendrix as you can, why not get pickups from the man and manufacturer that specially made then for him. Their price is a bit higher than others because each pickup is hand wound, just like they were in 1968 for Jimi.
They are hand wound to produce a more melodic and richer tone, perfect for Jimi’s bluesy double stops and aggressive right-hand raking.
You can get these on Amazon here for $327.
“To help you to get even closer to Jimi’s earth-shattering tone, each pickup is made with a reverse magnet stagger to capture the effect of playing a right-handed guitar upside-down and restrung for a lefty.”Seymour Duncan Site
2. Seymour Duncan SSL-1 California 50’s Strat Single Coil Pickups
The second great pickup option for Hendrix tone are they Seymour Duncan SSL-1 pickups. Toted as some of the best single-coil pickups on the market, the SSL-1’s gives off a big, full tone with bell-like highs and a clear bottom end.
SD produced an excellent vintage style pickup with the SSL-1’s. The sound is extremely balanced out among each pickup position, giving a clear and glassy quality to the tone.
You can get these on Amazon here for $237.
3. Fender Custom ’69 Stratocaster Pickups
If you are stern on sticking with Fender pickups on your Stratocaster, then the Fender Custom ’69 pickups are the best to get you closer to Jimi Hendrix’s tone. These pickups are designed and produced by the Fender Custom Shop which guarantees their quality.
These pickups give off one the most iconic blues tones desired. A punchy late 60’s blues rock tone that:
“ruled the era from Monterey on the West Coast to Woodstock on the East Coast. Because of the clarity and transparency created by the unique coil wind and magnet structure, the ’69 pickup design works especially well with pedals allowing the low end to thump and the high end to soar.”Fender
You can get these on Amazon here for $269.
What Pickup Position Did Jimi Hendrix Use?
After reviewing and analyzing many live videos of Jimi Hendrix, it can be inferred that Hendrix used the neck pickup most often. He used this setting often because of the warmness and thick sound it brought, compared to the twang of the bridge pickup.
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