4 Ways: Why Was Jimi Hendrix So Influential?

Jimi Hendrix was an electric guitar pioneer. Prior to his debut into the music world, no one had heard the kind of guitar playing that awaited them with Jimi Hendrix. The majority of audiences were used to a sort of twangy sound when it came to Rock. Audiences were also not used to the extremely loud sounds Jimi would become known for either. All of these aspects and more got me thinking, why was Jimi Hendrix so influential?

Why was Jimi Hendrix so influential? Jimi Hendrix was influential because he showcased the wide array of sounds that you can make from a guitar. Pioneering various guitar techniques that guitarists would mimic for generations. He experimented with different pedals and effects to create innovative sounds through distortion and volume.

Continue reading to discover more about the 4 ways Jimi Hendrix was so influential.

why was Jimi Hendrix so influential

How Did Jimi Hendrix Influence Other Artists

Jimi Hendrix inspired and continues to inspire generations of guitarists. He demonstrated the possibilities of the electric guitar. Showing the various sounds that levels that it can reach. He was the first blues focused / minded guitarists to become the highest paid performer later in his career. Guitarists like Jimmie Vaughan saw this, even opened for him. Jimmie then introduced Hendrix albums to his little brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Stevie learned how to play every single song from Are You Experienced. This one album had a massive influence on Stevie’s playing style. If you watch Stevie play, you can see various Hendrix licks and techniques come intermittently during solos. Jimi was known for mixing rhythm and lead playing. SRV was in a 3 piece band for the majority of his career so he took from the Jimi Hendrix book of techniques when it came to this method of rhythm and lead.

It wouldn’t be a Blues Guitar Guide article if I didn’t mention John Mayer as well. John is pretty vocal about his biggest influence being SRV. One of SRV’s biggest influences is Jimi Hendrix. John has talked about how as a kid he would solely listen to Hendrix and Vaughan albums for months on end, learning every intricacy he can to master their sound. Similar to Stevie, he incorporates Hendrix licks into his performances and recordings. In the song Who Did You Think I was, John plays the famous Band of Gypsies (Hendrix’s short lived band after the Experience) riff at the end from the song Power of Soul. He demonstrates this on a Tik Tok he made which you can check out here on YouTube.

When he was alive, he influenced current artists as well. Eric Clapton famously experimented with the Wah Pedal after seeing Jimi perform at Monterey. Jeff Beck started re-thinking his playing style. Simply put, after seeing Jimi perform, seasoned professional guitarists went home to practice. Jimi, although new to the guitar scene in 1967, got seasoned guitarists re-thinking the possibilities of their playing and how they can get to the next level.

Why Was Jimi Hendrix so Influential

1. Electric Guitar Pioneering

Jimi was a blues guitarist at heart. Although, he did not stop there. He was creating his own brand of guitar. He mixed various styles together in one set. When he sat in for Cream, Eric Claption mentioned how “he played just about every style you could think of”. Rock, Jazz, Soul, Blues, R&B, he played and mixed them all.

Hendrix also started pioneering double stops to get a more full sound on his playing. Used by many guitarists now, at the time though it was not standard practice. Jimi Hendrix was also one of the first guitarists to sustain notes. Because the volume was so high, Jimi was able to hold notes for an extended period of time rather then striking a note and have it quickly fade away. This pursued tone can be exemplified in his Woodstock Star Spangled Banner performance.

When Jimi first arrived in London, he sat in on a Cream show. At the time, Eric Clapton was considered god in England. He was the peak of how guitar should be played. Many guitarists emulated their playing after Clapton. Although, Clapton was famous for being a strict lead guitarist. Meaning he barely played chords. In comes Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix pioneered rhythm and lead playing at the same time. Jimi grew his rhythm chops playing as a back up guitarist behind Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, etc. Because of this, he was an exceptionally strong rhythm guitar player. A true showcase of this rhythm and lead playing (at the same time) is Killing Floor. I linked to Sean Mann, an amazing guitar player, because he demonstrates just how difficult this piece is while play lead and rhythm together.

2. Innovated Tone Combinations

Hendrix literally started creating his own pedals with the help of electrical engineer Roger Mayer. The pedal they created was called the Octavia pedal and he used it during the solo of Purple Haze. He made the Wah pedal famous with Voodoo Child, combining it with a fuzz pedal. It needs to be said that Hendrix didn’t simply throw these pedals together to make it as loud and distorted as possible. He was controlling and sculpting his sound more then anyone else at the time.

Jimi even has a name for his amp settings. It is called “The Hendrix Setting”. It is quite easy to achieve. First get a Marshall amp as this was Jimi’s favorite. Second, turn every single knob to the max. Third, embrace the feedback.

3. Unique Performances

Jimi played much louder then anyone at the time. There have even been accounts of audience members passing out because of it. In fact, as seen in many live performances, Jimi would often look at the audience and plug his ears with his fingers. Signaling to the audience that its about to get loud. This was one of the ways in which Jimi brought a unique performance, through the sheer volume of his sound.

The other way Jimi created a unique performance was his showmanship. As a background guitarist for Little Richard, Jimi learned how to woo a crowd outside of the music. Jimi started smashing his guitar on stage, a cheap version. He famously lit his guitar on fire, played guitar with his teeth and behind his head. He did it all. Very often he did the Elvis style times 100. Jimi gyrated on his amps, on his guitar and mic stand. He often looked at audience members in the first few rows and made suggestive body movements toward them. These are some of the ways Jimi Hendrix created such a unique and amazing show that was different then anyone had seen. And that is outside of his playing.

4. Unmatched Clothing Style

Not surprisingly, Jimi Hendrix was very into fashion. He was this way his entire life. Jimi wanted to be different and unique when it came to clothing. Early on, he did not have enough money to buy stylish clothing so he improvised. His cousin would say how Jimi would find feathers and put them on his hat or behind his ear. It was the beginning formation of his clothing style.

When he moved to London, that’s when his style exploded. The London scene at the time was colorful, extravagant, and fully grasped by the “hippie movement”. Think of The Beatles Sgt Pepper album and there you go. He was wearing colorful Kimonos and bell bottomed jeans. Militaristic styled jackets. He once got stopped on the streets by an angry English veteran for wearing a British military jacket when Jimi had not served in the British Army. Even though he did serve in the 101st Airborne. He then stopped wearing that jacket.

When he came back to the US, his style changed with it as well. He started wearing skinnier pants and tighter fitting shirts. His Woodstock performance is a good example of this and is my personal favorite.

Gone were the days of wearing a suit and tie for performances or looking presentable for TV appearances. Jimi, as well as The Beatles, influenced thousands of fans to take more risks with their style and to simply wear what you want

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