In this episode of Sound Like, Rabea & Matt attempt to recreate the distinctive sound of the legendary Jimi Hendrix - for under £1500!
Regarded by many as the greatest guitar player of all time, Jimi Hendrix is the iconic trailblazer that flipped electric guitar on its head back in the late ‘60s. With his pioneering psychedelic rock sound, Hendrix invented a unique style that has been drawn upon heavily over the years – making him one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century.
Before his untimely death in 1970, the eclectic frontman’s eponymous band The Jimi Hendrix Experience released three studio albums between 1967-1968. Featuring some of his most renowned singles, including “Purple Haze”, “Little Wing”, “Voodoo Chile” and an acclaimed cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, Hendrix’s final album with The Band of Gypsys didn’t generate hits of the same calibre, yet is still considered a cornerstone of his discography.
Despite his short recording career, Hendrix’s catalogue is highly-diverse and varied. With Jimi being one of the first mainstream guitar players to employ effects pedals, Hendrix broadened the sonic horizons of his contemporaries and continues to inspire aspiring guitarists many generations later.
Although Hendrix crafted an idiosyncratic sound, it’s fair to say that it can be closely captured with modern equipment. With multiple companies recreating his classic gear over the years, including a controversial prototype guitar produced by Gibson in the late 2000s, Rabea and Matt mostly selected products from companies that have produced signature versions of his equipment.
Jimi Hendrix is most synonymous with the Fender Stratocaster. However, as a southpaw, he famously took a standard right-handed version of the instrument and flipped it to accommodate his dexterity. Also ensuring that the strings were the correct orientation, part of hendrix’s unique tone can be attributed to his Strat’s upside-down headstock and reversed bridge pickup.
With a reversed headstock, the tension on the higher strings is lessened as the distance between the tuning pegs and the nut is reduced. This therefore provided Hendrix with a looser feel on the higher strings and a tighter response on the lows, making string bends easier and thus contributing to his distinctive “slinky” playing style.
By flipping his guitars, this also caused the bridge pickups in his Stratocasters to be angled the opposite way. Although it went against Fender’s intended design, this was another ingredient of Jimi’s unique sound as it gave him more top-end presence on the lower strings and a slightly smoother timbre on the higher strings.
For this video, Matt and Rabea decided to choose the Fender Jimi Hendrix Signature Strat – it was a no-brainer!
Although it is different to the Stratocasters that Jimi played back in the day, the Fender Hendrix Strat still carries the spirit of his original instruments. By adhering to those aforementioned aspects with its reversed headstock (2) and bridge single-coil (3), there is no instrument on the market that can get you closer to his sound.
With a vintage-style 6-screw tremolo (5), this bridge will let you add gentle warbles or even replicate some of the more extreme divebomb effects that Jimi famously pioneered. That’s right, he did it before Eddie Van Halen!
But stripping it back to its basics though, the fundamental Strat elements are intact with the Hendrix signature model. Formed from an Alder body (1) with a Maple neck (2), this guitar has a balanced character with a snappy upper mid-range response – thanks to its bolt-on construction.
The traditional Strat electronics are also as standard, with a 5-way pickup blade switch, master volume and a pair of tone controls (4). Fitted with a trio of Fender’s American Vintage ’65 pickups (3), these potent-sounding single-coils recapture that mid-to-late ‘60s Strat character and give you a very authentic impression.
Jimi Hendrix was one of the earliest users of Marshall amplifiers, and for most of his career he powered his sound with three 100-watt Super Lead valve amp heads. Preferring to use all of them in unison through multiple Marshall 4×12” cabinets, Hendrix’s live performances were not only notoriously loud, but this huge setup also helped him to form his heavily overdriven sound.
Labelled by Jim Marshall as “the greatest ambassador” his company ever had, it is believed that Jimi purchased between 50-100 more guitar amps from Marshall before his premature death – to cope with his rigorous touring schedule.
Rabea wanted to use the Marshall JTM45 Reissue head to recreate Jimi’s sound, however at around the £1,000 mark – it wasn’t so budget-friendly! Instead, the boys revisited the trusted Marshall DSL Series and settled on the 15-watt DSL15C.
Discontinued as of early 2018, the updated 20-watt DSL20R is essentially the successor of this popular amp combo. Slightly more powerful with 5 additional watts, this fully-analogue and valve-powered amplifier is certainly no slouch when it comes to volume and feel, giving you a glassy clean sound for tracks like “Little Wing” and that iconic saturated Marshall distortion tone for Jimi’s heavier songs.
Apart from its two versatile channels, this amplifier is also known for taking pedals well – both through its front-end and its effects loop section. As Jimi Hendrix used a number of pedals, having a decent pedal platform was key, and the DSL20R really delivered when used in conjunction with the stompboxes that the guys chose. That moves us nicely onto the next section…
Like I mentioned in the introduction, Jimi Hendrix was one of the first “famous” guitar players to experiment with effects pedals. In fact, he popularised many of the staple stompboxes that you’ll see gracing the pedalboards of guitarists all over the world today; most notably wah and fuzz.
However, Jimi also experimented with modulation, delay and pitch-shifting effects too, which were essential in forming his psychedelic sound. In this next part, we’ll break down each of the contenders that Rabea and Matt picked to emulate Jimi’s old-school counterparts.
It’s fair to say that this particular pedal became an instant classic once Hendrix got his hands on one. Although Vox offer a number of different wah pedals currently, the V847-A Original Wah will get you closest to the sound of the initial versions that the rock icon used.
In the video, you’ll notice that Rabea employs this effect in the playing excerpt of “Voodoo Child”. Closely emulating that vocal-like riff with the same articulate expression heard on the original recording, it’s evident that this wah has a fairly wide sweep that’ll range from throaty lows to searing highs. If you’re really fastidious about recreating Hendrix’s wah sound, frankly – there’s nothing better!
For achieving his super-gnarly fuzz sound, Hendrix’s initial weapon of choice was the Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face pedal. Powered by a pair of germanium transistors, this stompbox allowed the legendary axeman to attain the aggressive, broken-up sound that defined many of his tracks.
To appease the players that crave this unique sound, Jim Dunlop currently produce the Hendrix Signature Fuzz Face Mini. Faithfully recreating the sound of his original units, this tiny pedal has a mini enclosure so that you can easily mount it to your pedalboard. Striking the perfect balance between old and new with its vintage tone and modern size, both traditionalists and contemporary players are catered for.
You can hear this pedal in action in the majority of the playing clips in the video. Check out the “Voodoo Child” and “Foxy Lady” excerpts in particular, where Rabea uses it to play the main riffs.
Although Rabea and Matt picked out this pedal, they didn’t end up using it in the video. However, that may be because the Univibe was something that Hendrix employed only in his later years with The Band of Gypsys.
The best example of this effect can be heard in the song “Machine Gun”; giving Jimi’s bluesy riffs an oscillating and uneasy movement akin to a chorus or phaser. The MXR M68 Univibe lets you control its speed and depth, so that you can set it subtle or extreme. But if you want to sound like Hendrix, crank the depth to drench your signal with modulated goodness!
Out of the effects that the guys chose, delay is perhaps the least synonymous with Jimi Hendrix. It is suggested that he may have used Echoplex units in the studio, but these tape delays only became popular once players like David Gilmour used them in the ‘70s – after Jimi’s death.
However, the track “Red House” is an example that people refer to frequently. In the recording, you can hear how delay adds thickness to Jimi’s lead parts for a more three-dimensional vibe. The most affordable pedal out there that can get closest to the Echoplex sound is the Tone City Tape Machine. With its repeats having a deteriorating and dark quality, the Tape Machine captures the character of these older units and is, of course, far more practical and reliable!
The EHX Octavix is what is known as an ‘octavia’ pedal, which essentially combines a fuzz sound with a reproduction of the guitar input signal (typically raised by an octave). This is another effect that was put on the map by Hendrix, and it produces a piercing “doubled” sound that can really cut through in a mix.
Jimi therefore used this commonly as a solo boost of sorts, via his original Roger Mayer stompbox. The Octavix isn’t too far away from that particular pedal from a tonal perspective, and you can hear Rabea using the effect in the “Voodoo Child”, “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady” excerpts.
If you’re interested in finding out how to achieve the tones of your favourite artists, check out more of our Sound Like articles by clicking here.
Matt Hornby: Hi, guys. I'm Matt.
Rabea Massaad: I'm Rabea.
Matt: This is Sounds Like on Andertons TV.
Rabea: Matt, this is a hard one today.
Matt: This is a difficult one. Well, it's probably the most difficult, the most kind of-- I don't even know what the word is.
Rabea: Anticipated, prestigious.
Matt: - amazing.
Rabea: I'm disclaimering right now. I am not this artist. I will never be able to play like this artist. Either way we will try.
Matt: We're going to try and sound like James Hendrix.
Rabea: Oh my God.
Matt: Jimi Hendrix.
Rabea: Jimi Hendrix. [laughs] James Hendrix. That's wrong Matthew.
Matt: No, he knows. He is the guitar player of all guitar players.
Rabea: He pretty much influenced most of the greats.
Matt: He kind of.
Rabea: If not all of them.
Matt: Well, an electric guitar is so associated with that guy.
Rabea: He doesn't really need an intro does he?
Matt: No, he doesn't at all but I'm blabbering on about it.
Matt: Anyway, so to sound like Hendrix there's a few components which are like key. We've already had a little think about it and we're going to probably struggle to-- for £1,500, it's such a tall order. I mean a lot of earlier guys didn't use those pedals. Hendrix is a bit of an exception. He has not loads of pedals but the three or four he does have add up to a few hundred quid quite quickly so for our £1,500, I don't know what we're going to do.
Rabea: Well, let's not wait here and find out, Matthew. Let's go and find out ourselves upstairs. There it is.
Matt: This is the one.
Rabea: Is that the one?
Matt: We don't really have another option for this, I don't think.
Rabea: Well, I don't think it'd be right to have another type of guitar really. I mean when you consider the design for it, the price point and the way it looks.
Male: Excuse me, chaps.
Matt: That's all right. It's the summer holidays, it's busy. There isn't really another option really. It's going to really put us up for a challenge though for £700 this Hendrix Strat, that's how much it costs. The thing with this is because he played a right-handed guitar left-handed, the pickups are reversed which does add some definite character to his sound.
Rabea: It's even got his little signature on the headstock.
Matt: Another authentic Hendrix thing.
Rabea: Authentic Hendrix.
Matt: I think if we were a lot of other guitar players, maybe we'd go, "Oh, let's just use a Squier
Rabea: It's hard to know how on point this guitar is going to sound, but we don't as much really have a choice. It's going to be this guitar. You might have noticed we're in the Marshall section, the orange section, the Blackstar section. Now, if budget wasn't a problem, I'll either say the JTM-45 MkII or one of the Astoria's because they have three different kinds: low gain, sort of mid gain and high gain, so we would have gone for one of those. However, my idea--
Matt: What is it?
Rabea: You know how we said we were never going to use the DSL40C, why don't we get the DSL5C because it's five watts, still valve so it'll be pokey and it'll be loud enough to be able to gig with it but-
Matt: We can turn out--
Rabea: - because the thing with wattage that people don't seem to understand is although you know 100 watts in
terms of volume is quite drastic to five, a valvem still produces a lot of noise. The thing about wattage is the headroom of the cleans and stuff like that and things that start to bottom out, start to over compress when you crank them in full. The thing with high gainers, we need this for more of a clean slightly, slightly broken up sound. I'm thinking we're not going to find what M?
Matt: Is that a 10-inch speaker in these?
Rabea: That's a 10-inch speaker I think, yes.
Matt: I think because Hendrix was somebody who played four 12s, didn't he?
Rabea: He's got a good idea, yes. How about a 15 watt -
Matt: A 12-inch speaker it's likely to move kind of similar manner there at least.
Rabea: It's probably going to be a loud one.
Matt: That's another hundred quid but that does mean we've got 700 plus 500 is about--
Rabea: Is 1,189.
Matt: Yes, so we still got £300 left for the pedals.
Rabea: For pedals.
Matt: All right, so we need some pedals for Hendrix and there's one in particular which is so associated with him that we've got to do it and that is the Fuzz Face. I think originally he had a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz which they no longer make, but there is a version which is exactly the same circuitry as that original one but it's smaller, in a small stone box style. I think that's what I'm sure.
Rabea: Yes, absolutely.
Matt: It's the blue one here.
Matt: I like sea color type things.
Rabea: We definitely need an octave, kind of fuzz octave because he was famous for having that upper octave on top of a fuzzy sound.
Matt: Especially that Purple Haze soul type of sound.
Rabea: Yes and Voodoo Child, stuff like that.
Matt: There is the Octavix by Electro-Harmonix. There's also- we did spot--
Rabea: The Curling Bridge.
Matt: Yes, that one.
Rabea: That one's round the corner and that's basically the same thing as the Octavix down there. It's basically Octave Fuzz, the upper octave and it's really should give you that Jimi sound, that feel.
Matt: That's only 67 quid.
Rabea: That one's 140, isn't it?
Matt: Yes, I think the Fuzz is about 100 so even with those who are already on--
Rabea: We still need a vibe.
Matt: We need a vibe.
Rabea: Let's check out MXR for some vibealicious vibeage. It's all a bit loud but it's great. We need a vibe, we need a wire.
Matt: We do.
Rabea: I think we've got our Octavix. We've got our Fuzz Face so we're probably on point there.
Matt: Well, with the MXR Uni-Vibe.
Rabea: Which is there.
Matt: Which is here. Which is around the £100 mark and then a load of Hendrix's his stuff was modded by guys like Roger Mayer and there is a Hendrix Dunlop Wah, but honestly I think he used a Vox Wah most the time. A standard Vox Wah might do the trick.
Rabea: Okay. Well, let's get it. Have we got budget for it? It's always the question.
Matt: We need to go and do some maths.
Rabea: Okay, let's math it.
Matt: Math it out.
Rabea: We are back in the video room.
Matt: We are back once again and this is the-- I don't know what to call it. This is just the pinnacle of doing sounds like maybe-- maybe it's the [crosstalk]
Rabea: That's why we pushed them back so far.
Matt: To be honest a lot of you have said, how on earth could you do [unintelligible 00:07:49] before Hendrix and things like that. I guess if we covered all of the-- their kind of the icons first, it would have just got boring after a while and then they all wouldn't have tuned in.
Rabea: The hardest bit about this has been, we're listening to vintage recorded, that into tape, into just like -- It's so far removed from any of this.
Matt: Live recordings as well which are like the gear varies and the gear did vary in his rig and also he had a lot of modern stuff which just adds even more kind of complication to it.
Rabea: Just to say now, Matt has been playing some rhythm and he's been using the trusty old Fender Bassbreaker.
Matt: And a Fender Custom Shop Strat.
Rabea: That would be Peter Honore's 1954 reissue.
Matt: It's actually a very, very, very nice guitar.
Rabea: It is a beautiful guitar and then moving straight on to mine rig. This is the Fender sort of Jimi Hendrix-- authentic Jimi Hendrix Strat I guess. It's maple neck not too fat of a neck. As you pointed out, the pickups are actually the other way around because-
Matt: They flip that way.
Rabea: - it was as if Jimmy this is an upside-down right-hander that he'd flipped or whatever. It did just kind of plugged straight in with a clean tone, did kind of just sound right.
Matt: Yes, it did totally and especially as we've got kind of a few pedals that-- Well, in fact, all the pedals are really, really, really specific-
Rabea: Very much so.
Matt: - in terms of getting there. I guess we could run through that now.
Matt: At the beginning, Hendrix as well was famous for running his Vox Wah first in the chain. We've tried to do that as well. That's just a classic out of the box Vox Wah.
Rabea: Again, it's legit in terms of the tone that it gives off. We could have got the Jimi Hendrix Dunlop Wah but apparently, it's not that legit in terms of its tone.
Matt: It isn't a Vox Wah.
Matt: He's known for playing the VOX Wah. We tried to go, "Let's get a Vox Wah."
Rabea: Because we're trying to go for the vintage tones as opposed to the signature gear I guess.
Matt: Yes. Next up, we have the Fuzz Face. This is the mini Hendrix. This is the same paint finish which you might recognize from Jimi's original one, which is probably like that size. It's a replica of the circuitry in that original one.
Rabea: Moving on.
Matt: Yes, that's the Electro-Harmonix Octavix which is for some of the lead stuff gives you that kind of octave up undertone essentially.
Rabea: What's interesting is we didn't know what it was going to sound like, because we've been told that this is very good for that Jimi vibe as well as there are loads of pedal companies that make the same sort of thing. Then we've got the MXR Uni-Vibe which, as we said, unfortunately, we didn't actually use it in any of the excerpts, but I'll give you a quick demo of what it sounds like. It's great Uni-Vibe at the end of the day.
You've got speed, level and depth. Then you've got the option to add or subtract-- I think it's extra vibe with the little button here. Then lastly, is probably the most affordable pedal in the entire rig and that's the Tone City Tape Machine. The only reason that we did that was because we didn't have enough budget to get more of the original Echoplex-style echo going on.
Rabea: Let's give you a quick demonstration of the tone. I'll just show you the amp. We've got basically the amp's working in two different ways. It's the DSL15C. It's pretty much the same as the 4E to be honest.
Matt: Just a little more interesting.
Rabea: Yes, it's plug and play. It has a half-power mode. There's no standby to turn it on. We've been using it
between the two channels. We've been using the classic gain with both gain and volume on full. Hopefully, we can get a quick screenshot of the settings. Then on ultra-gain, we've had the gain just a tiny bit dialed in but then volume gunned. Then when I'm switching channels, I'm literally bringing up bass to number four and taking it out. The clean house bass has no bass and the distortion has bass. It's interesting how it works but I'll show you. If I first of all give you the clean.
Matt: That sounds great actually.
Rabea: That is what I used. That tone is what we did for Little Wing. We didn't do anything else just straight the amp with the reverb, the ultra-reverb on the amp.
Matt: It actually sounds way better further away as well. [laughs]
Matt: What am I saying?
Rabea: It is really loud in here.
Matt: It's horrible.
Rabea: Deafeningly loud. To show you the other tone that we got. If I put the bass back in-
Matt: Then it's getting on.
Rabea: - and then swap the channel over to ultra-gain.
I think most of that saturation is actually coming from the power section of the amp because it is on full. There is no master volume, we're just running channel volume on full which is 15 watts. That's the power valves really putting out there. That's probably why we're getting that. I actually think that's a great tone. This is the Wah pedal and for me, this was the most legit tone we managed to get.
You know what I mean?
Matt: It sounds great.
Rabea: It's that.
It's totally-- I don't know.
Rabea: For me, it instantly sparks up that's the sound.
Matt: It really swell. It's really warming.
Rabea: Obviously, there's a bit of hiss because the volume-- the amp's on full. That's the Vox. Now, we're on to the Fuzz Face.
Matt: It's already pretty noisy.
Rabea: I'll show you on the neck pickup and on the bridge pickup how we used it.
Matt: Go for it.
Rabea: Then we'll put it on the bridge.
Rabea: It's just, it's got the saturation and it's the sustain, you can hold that note and it should just hopefully just carry on.
Matt: It's got that feeling like it's overloading kind of feel. It's wonderful.
Rabea: Yes, the next one is probably the most piercing sound in the room.
Rabea: It's brutal. Well, this is what it sounds like. This is the Octavix doing its thing.
Matt: That's really, really, really loud. It's totally legit.
Rabea: It is. That was with the Fuzz Face in. What's interesting is when you use the Octavix with the Tape Machine on the neck pickup without the Fuzz Face, you do get the Purple Haze style.
Tape machine just to give you an idea of what it was doing. This is it straight in.
Just to smoothen out that reverb give it a lot bit more blue that's it.
Matt: Then with the Octavix.
Rabea; Yes, if you put it in with it.
Now, Uni-Vibe. I'm going to do is I'm going to put it on a clean channel.
Rabea: It's a good position for-- Let's check a little bit more level in.
Matt: More reverb, we put the reverb up.
Rabea: Lovely, lovely, very vibing vibe pedal.
Matt: Apparently, he got older one of these later on like Band of Gypsys era. One thing was said was that his had the speed really low.
Rabea: That is the rig. There isn't anything else to say, really. It's definitely a tall order. There's no doubt about it. I think we knew when we started filming this earlier on today that it was going to take a while.
Matt: Totally. The one thing you might say is that with the DSL15 like, "Can you gig with that? Will it get over a drummer type of thing?" I think depending on your drummer, you might be lucky. You can get that in the 40s as you well know. Even the five when it's more.
Rabea: There you go. There you go. All the gear, as normal, will go in the description box. We'll give you links so that you can check out each one of these pedals. The guitar, the amp, and everything.
Matt: We'll even stick the Bassbreaker in as well so you can have a look at that. Let us know what you think.
Rabea: We'd love to know what you think.
Matt: That was the difficult Hendrix one. Let us know how you think we did. Suggest some more stuff.
Rabea: I'm going to suggest one thing.
Matt: Go on.
Rabea: Can we do this by busting the bank one time?
Matt: That's probably a really good idea, isn't it?
Rabea: Definitely a good idea.
Matt: Definitely. It'd be definitely a good idea.
Rabea: Absolutely. On that note, I've been Rabea.
Matt: I've been Matt.
Rabea: This has been Sounds Like on Andertons TV.
Matt: See you later.
Matt: Not that. The last chord, it's a [beep] thing.
Matt: Oh, man. That's [unintelligible 00:21:54] [beep] again.
Rabea: Eaten by a shark.
Matt: Nice for the beach.
Rabea: It is. [laughs] That's a good analogy. It's like swimming across the channel and getting knifed on the beach. At the other end when you think it's all victorious.
[00:22:29] [END OF AUDIO]