The quest for Jimi’s tone often involves a Fender Stratocaster, fuzz face, wah pedal and a few other pieces of gear. One often overlooked and vital component of Jimi Hendrix’s set up was his strings. So what strings did Jimi Hendrix use?
Jimi Hendrix used Fender Rock ‘N’ Roll Standard 150 light gauge strings. Jimi used these strings because of the light-low, heavy-high gauge setup. The string gauges on Jimi’s setup was .010 for the high E, .013, .015, .026, .032 and .038 for the low E.
Continue reading to learn more about the strings Jimi used and how his carefully selected string gauges effected his sound.
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What Gauge Strings Did Jimi Hendrix Use?
Jimi Hendrix had custom and carefully selected string gauges that were an important piece of Hendrix’s sound. Jimi Hendrix used the following string gauges on his guitar:
- Low E: .038
- A: .032
- D: .026
- G: .015
- B: .013
- High E: .010
In the image below, you will see that the fourth, second, and first strings are typical gauges that are often found in a standard pack of strings. It gets interesting when we look into the other ones. With the other strings, particularly the 3rd string, the light gauge adds a “slinkiness” to the sound. This seemingly small aspect was a vital piece of Jimi’s sound.
Why Did Jimi Hendrix Use This String Gauge?
The lighter strings offer a twangy and more piercing sound, especially when bending up. This bend catches the ear with a spookier and cranked sound. As you know, Jimi’s bends were piercing and very loud as he was able to sustain the sound longer then most. Furthermore, for the third string, typical string gauge is .017. This heavier gauge makes the guitar sound G heavy. Jimi’s rhythmic ear did not like the third string overpowering the sound. His guitar tech Roger Mayer describes this below in an interview with Guitar World.
“The big difference there is that you’re using the .015 for the third, because if you use the .017 for the third, the actual sound of the guitar is very G-heavy. The electrical output of the strings is dependent on the square of the diameter; if you square all the diameters and look at them, you can get much more of an idea about the balance of the guitar.”Roger Mayer, Jimi Hendrix Guitar Tech
As mentioned above, Jimi used a lighter third string to ensure it does not overpower the sound. Stevie Ray Vaughan, another rhythmic lead guitar player, also used .015’s for his third string to counteract the G overpowering the sound. This allows the sound to blend nicely together, similar to an acoustic.
Of course, Jimi likely did not get into the science behind the gauge. Jimi had a keen ear and he likely just liked the tone. He got the tightness where he needed it and the brightness where he wanted it. He was able to find this after constant string manipulations and practice.
To summarize Jimi Hendrix’s string gauge set up: Jimi used a .010 on the high E which is relatively standard, a .013 for the B which is common in light sets, a .015 for the G which is lighter then most, a .026 for the D which is normal, a .032 for the A which is pretty light, and finally a .038 for the low E string which is very light compared to other standard strings. The G, A, and low E are lighter then most standard sets.
Be sure to check out How Jimi Hendrix Strung His Guitar to discover his unique method
What Strings Did Hendrix Use?
Jimi Hendrix used Fender Rock ‘N’ Roll light gauge strings. These strings were part of the Fender Standard 150 set that were sold from the late sixties to the early seventies. In catalogs, Fender branded this set as “Spanish Guitar light gauge Rock ‘N’ Roll”. Jimi used these strings because of the light-low, heavy-high gauge setup.
These strings were round core pure nickel strings. If you are asking why he did not use hex core strings, the reason is because they were not really around at the time. Back in the late 60’s they used very heavy cores with a thin wrap because steel was much cheaper then nickel. And that was the case with the Fender Rock ‘N’ Roll strings.
Strings are often the forgotten piece to Jimi’s tone. Once a player gets all the fuzz and wah pedals their heart desires, they often fail to realize strings play a massive role in achieving Jimi’s tone. And I was one of those players! It wasn’t until I got the pedals that I truly realized this after digging into some research.
It is also important to note that Jimi did not string his guitar conventionally. The article linked above goes into this in depth. Jimi played a right handed guitar, flipped and then restrung. This means the bridge was flipped and slightly slanted in the opposite direction. In turn, this give the low E more treble and the high E more bass. In terms of the focused sound. He did this because he was primarily a lefty guitarist and lefty guitars were extremely limited at the time. To learn more about this stringing method check out the article linked above.
Where Can You Get These Strings?
The Fender Rock ‘N’ Roll Standard 150 strings are difficult to come across because they were discontinued in the seventies. That being said, there are collectors on Reverb that are selling these exact strings. Although they come at a high price. For one set of these strings it will cost you a whopping $49 excluding shipping on Reverb.
Fender currently offers the Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child Electric Guitar Strings. They sell these for $7 which is obviously significantly cheaper then the originals from Reverb above. In this pack you will receive the same exact string gauges as the set up that Jimi used.
Since they are lighter then most strings you have played before, you will notice how easy they are to bend so that will take some getting used to. These are the strings that I use and I am a big fan of them. They feel slinky and loose which is the style I prefer. Of course, do not be discouraged if you do not like them. Light strings are not for everyone and many people prefer standard or heavy gauges.
The Fender VooDoo Child strings are the closest thing guitar players have to Jimi’s strings outside of paying $50 for the originals. The lighter gauge allows for a flexible feel making for easier runs. Furthermore, the strings hold up. I have not had one string break on me despite my attempts on some Hendrix bends.
Strings alone will not get you completely to his sound, but they can certainly get you closer.
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