5 Pedals or Less: How to Sound Like Jimi Hendrix
There are many things that make the musicians we idolize so special. We can be drawn in by their musicianship, their songwriting, or even something as simple as the character they bring to their music. Their music leaves a mark on us that can eventually shape how we view all music going forward. But what is it about the guitar players we idolize that helps them stand out from the rest? What separates Slash from Mayer? Gilmour from Moore? Or even guitarists in the same project such as Greenwood and O’Brien?
You could answer that question in a number of ways; influences, touch, feel, style, but a clear separation that these guitarists have from each other is tone. Any musician worth his salt can spot the difference between an Eric Clapton solo and a BB King solo, despite one being heavily influenced by the other. Their tone is what makes them, them, and no two guitar players are the same regardless of how much influence they have from each other.
Unfortunately a large part of their tone is dictated by attributes that are unique to them. I’ve seen some great renditions of Eruption in my time, but there’s something about watching Eddie himself play it that just cant be attained elsewhere, because its his voice that created that solo, that style of playing that has influenced so many. Fortunately however, an equally large part of their signature tone is created by the choice of equipment they use, which we CAN take influence from, and implement into our playing almost directly.
Today, I’m going to set out on a journey to find the tools necessary to help you recreate the sounds of some of your favourite players. I’ll be giving you my picks that I think will get you one step closer to sounding like one of the all time
greats. And to challenge myself, I’m going to see if I can do it in 5 pedals or less. Mostly to keep the costs down, but also just because anyone can sound like anyone if they have endless budget and options, and where’s the fun in that?
I’ll be kicking this run of articles off with someone who has influenced almost every guitar player since he stepped on to the scene in the mid 1960’s…
What can I say about Jimi Hendrix that hasn’t already been said? Maybe that he used to like eating peanut butter straight from the jar, no one has said that before, probably because it isn’t true and I just made it up now. The point is, Hendrix is the man. The dude just took guitar playing to a level that no one had seen before and if you say that you aren’t influenced by his playing then you’re either lying or you just don’t realize it.
I’ll say this now; sounding like Jimi Hendrix is going to take a lot more than five pedals. He had a great understanding of theory he was an incredible songwriter, and a virtuosic
player. Do not, I repeat do not, expect to plug in five pedals and expect to sound like this man because you will be sorely disappointed. However, your tone will be pretty close, and if you put your mind to it and study the craft like Hendrix did before you, then you may have a shot. So lets get down to business shall we?
Pedal Pick No.1: Jim Dunlop Fuzz Face Mini Hendrix Edition (£113)
Bit of a no brainer this one. To sound like Hendrix you’re going to need fuzz, and what better fuzz to use than a signature fuzz from the man himself? The Hendrix Fuzz Face mini is a compact, affordable version of its much less pedal board friendly older brother, providing you with sweet screaming leads and chunky Red House style riffs.
A big part of sounding like Hendrix when it comes to drive is being able to roll off your volume and get a warm clean sound, which a lot of drives struggle to do well. Fortunately, this pedal does this very well. Almost like, it was designed like that to help you sound like Hendrix?
To summarise, a lot of Fuzz’s will get you close to sounding like Hendrix, but why not give yourself a break and get one that will basically give you Hendrix’s exact tone. Job done.
Pedal No.2: Dunlop Cry Baby Wah (£75)
A lot of Hendrix’s lead sound was blasted through one of these bad boys. The filtering sweeps of the classic wah pedal can be heard on most of Hendrix’s classic solos (Crosstown Traffic, Little Wing, Voodoo Chile) and is an essential pedal when it comes to sounding like Hendrix.
Now I know a lot of people love wah, and they love to talk about how every wah is different and that’s why there are like eight million versions of wah to choose from. But if you ask me wah is wah, and I’ve never once thought about replacing the classic Cry Baby wah. It does wah as well as anyone would ever need it to in my opinion (bring on the haters), there is a Hendrix signature edition Cry Baby but that costs significantly more than this one and if you want to go full Hendrix fan boy then you’re more than welcome to. For me, this is the perfect wah, and for £75 you cant goes wrong really.
Pedal No.3: MXR Univibe/ Hendrix Univibe (£120-£130)
If I’m being honest, I don’t really know what univibe is. It kinda sounds like chorus, but also has a phaser vibe to it, but it also doesn’t really sound like either of them.
What I do know, is that it sounds awesome, and Hendrix thought so too so if were gonna sound like Hendrix we need one in our rig. I’ve provided two examples here, the standard MXR univibe, and the Hendrix univibe. They both sound great, the Hendrix one is obviously a more accurate recreation of the vibe he was using at the time, but the standard one does a really good job as well. Plus, the standard univibe is a better all round univibe in my opinion, so for anyone who wants to sound like Hendrix but also wants to do some Gilmour type licks or other vibe based riffing, I recommend that. If you’re just gonna play Hendrix, then obviously the signature one is for you.
Pedal No.4: MXR Hendrix Ocatavia (£129)
This final pedal is more of a bonus one for the die hard Hendrix fans, I whole heartedly believe that if you were to acquire the previous three pedals you’d have no trouble pulling out your favourite Hendrix sounds. But, if you do fancy going the extra mile, then the Octatvia is the place to start. Again, this pedal doesn’t really make much sense to me, I’m not 100% sure exactly what it is or what bracket of pedal style it sits in. But fuzzy octave sounds cool, and is very Hendrix. They bring out a certain style of expression in your playing that will inadvertently make you play more like Hendrix, and if you’re trying to sound like Hendrix then you definitely want something in your rig that helps you do that organically. I know we’ve had a lot of Hendrix signature pedals, and I’m not the biggest fan of pushing one brand of pedals because I believe it can make your rig limiting. However, octave leads is so quintessentially Hendrix, that you’d be foolish not get a signature one if the goal is to sound like him. Its also one of the cheaper ocatavias on the market as well, so it just makes sense doesn’t it?
By Dan Tredgold
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