As one of the most important and influential guitarists in history, Jimi Hendrix was revered for his unique and modern approach to the electric guitar that combined rock and blues to create a truly unique signature style.
Yet almost as important as his playing is the gear he used. Players love to replicate his equipment to get that iconic, gritted up and hairy high-gain tone.
So today I’m taking an in-depth look at all the essential equipment he used to create that signature Hendrix sound. Covering everything from guitars, pedals, amps, and settings so you can get your hands on his iconic tones for yourself.
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Jimi used a massive number of guitars throughout his career. He tended to smash (and burn) guitars on stage a lot too, so he never stayed with a single guitar for too long.
But out of all the guitars he used, the good old traditional HSS Fender Stratocaster would see the most use and was really what he was known for using.
Aside from flipping the guitar over to play it as a lefty, he’d mostly leave them stock. Keep those standard 60s pickups as originally produced by Fender.
So if you’re looking to get Jimi’s sound, a Strat is a good place to start.
Fender Stratocaster (Olympic white)
Jimi Famously used 2 Olympic white Stratocasters that were gifted to him in the ’60s which he named Carol and Linda.
These saw extensive use in the early days of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Then later on, he’d also use a similar guitar for his legendary Woodstock performance.
Now that particular guitar sold at auction for 2 million dollars, so is probably a little out of most players’ budgets.
But the good news is Fender has made a far more affordable production model which mimics everything about the original Jimi used.
This includes all the small details such as reversed bridge pickups and headstock, and they even re-made vintage pickups exactly how he used them.
Currently, there is no better option out there if you want to get as close as humanly possible to Jimi’s tone without busting the bank.
Fender Custom Shop ‘Voodoo Child’ (Black Beauty)
Another guitar that Jimi was known to use towards the latter end of his career was a black Stratocaster which was nicknamed black beauty.
While this ‘69 Stratocaster has long been out of production, the demand for one just like Jimi’s was so high the Fender custom shop stepped up and offered an exact replica.
This would mimic everything about Jimi’s original guitar right down to the nitrocellulose lacquer and ‘69 pickups which have had the magnets reversed to exactly match Hendrix’s.
Squier Bullet Strat
Now Fender custom shop replicas are hardly within budget for the average player.
But all is not lost! Fortunately, Squier has really stepped up over recent years with their budget Stratocasters which offer the full Stratocaster package at a far better price.
You’ll get a fully featured Stratocaster neck profile and the same 3 pickup and 5-way toggle configuration just like Jimi used.
Jimi was well known for tuning to Eb standard (Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, and Eb). This is identical to standard tuning but every string is dropped down by 1 semitone.
This was purely to match his vocal range and make singing his songs a little less strenuous on his voice.
While Jimi’s tone can be somewhat hard to pinpoint as he experimented with plenty of amps and pedals throughout his career, there are a few defining characteristics that gave his sound that signature Jimi flare.
For his high-gain sounds, he was a big fan of fuzz and very hairy distortion. He was also a keen user of wah pedals, and his cleans were known to be bright and glassy.
Marshall Super Lead 100
This was one of the few amps of this era that would produce the ferocious grit required to accommodate his powerful lead playing. He’d use a full 100w Marshall Super Lead with accompanying 4x12s.
He also utilized amplifier feedback a lot during his live shows which is something you can only achieve using those big speaker cabs.
He’d drive the amp, or ‘dime’ it, very hard which is where a lot of the gnarliness comes from.
Unfortunately, the super lead is now discontinued, but some great alternatives are the DSL100HR which aims to capture that quintessential Marshall sound.
But if you need something that offers more bang for your buck the smaller 20-watt version has some convenient in-built effects which is ideal for the home player.
Jimi’s Amp Settings
Jimi wasn’t shy about getting playful with his tone. He’d experiment with his amp and pedal settings for different songs which makes it hard to pin down a singular one size fits all sound.
With that being said, he would always favor a guitar that was bright, up front, and could slice through the entire band which ensured his guitars could be heard and appreciated at all times.
Gain: 5 – Jimi loved saturating his amplifiers and did not care at all about being clinically clean. But the gain was often left at a modest 5 so he could kick in his distortion and fuzz pedals to do the heavy lifting when it came to his high gain sounds.
Bass: 4 – Bass was not a huge part of Jimi’s tone, he had a bassist for that job. So rolling a bit of this off can help accentuate the highs.
Mids: 8 – This is where the guts of Jimi’s tone sits. Increasing the mids gives you ultra-defined pick attack and helps you to hear all of his expression, making the bends scream and the vibrato pronounced.
Treble: 6 – The treble would often receive a slight boost to help further project the guitar and add some extra teeth and grit to the sound.
Vodoo Child set the standard for how great fuzz guitar should sound. Here we’ll boost the gain a bit to saturate the sound and keep the treble down just a hair to lock the guitar in that fuzzy midrange.
All Along The Watchtower
This is a great example of how Jimi would utilize his clean tones. Contrary to his distorted tones they were very warm and ‘round’ sounding. So here you should up the bass a bit and take out some high-end to give it that balanced sound with no breakup.
A great song to play if you want a slightly more articulate distortion that’s clear and audible across all the strings. For this song, we’ll be turning off the fuzz and dialing the gain back a bit to hone the sound and control it better.
Jimi loved pedals and would make frequent use of them to craft his signature tones.
Essential effects you need on your pedalboard to get a classic Jimi sound would be a fuzz pedal, a vox-style wah, and a chorus/phase pedal.
Vox V846 Wah Pedal
Considered a quintessential Hendrix pedal. The Vox V846, despite its age, has remained hugely popular.
Most notably because he used it during his legendary performance at Woodstock.
If budget is a concern consider the fantastic V847-A which is a stripped-down and more affordable reissue. Or the Dunlop GCB95 works great as an off-brand alternative.
Marshall Supa Fuzz
One of Jimi’s main fuzz pedals. It was actually produced by Sola Sound but was then marketed and distributed on their behalf by Marshall.
It’s based on the tone bender circuit which was modified to give it that bit of Marshall flair.
Of course, this has long since been discontinued. But pedals like the Dunlop ‘Fuzz Face’ or Fuzz Face mini do wonderful jobs of emulating his sound.
Jimi Would often kick his chorus/phaser pedal over cleans to give it that bit of shimmer and movement. It also works great layered into lead sounds such as on the song Machine Gun.
Both the MXR M68 and TC Viscous Vibe are wonderful homage pedals to the original which emulate his classic sound while offering all the reliability of a modern pedal.
Jimi spent a long time dialing in his signature sound and experimenting with his equipment.
The good news is you’re spoiled for choice these days as companies love to make homage and replica pedals and guitars for almost everything he used.
So finding similar equipment to him in the modern day is easier and more affordable than it’s ever been!