7 Essential Jimi Hendrix Guitar Techniques

Jimi Hendrix is one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock music. He revolutionised rock guitar incorporating the use of effects such as fuzz, wah-wah, octavia, feedback and more. He also had great rhythm and lead guitar technique which can be heard in his music ranging from quiet ballads to aggressive rock.

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Here we will look at 7 essential techniques for every guitarist to learn and how they were used in some of his most famous songs.

Purple Haze

1. E Minor Pentatonic Scale with Vibrato, Bends & Slides
Image how futuristic this tune would’ve sounded when it was released way back in 1967. The hard fuzz tone the guitar jumps right out at you with the angular intro riff. This riff uses the E minor pentatonic scale and is based on the blues. Listen to the techniques used here including the vibrato, ¼ note bends and slides that bring the riff to life.


2. The Hendrix 7#9 Chord
This song also incorporates another essential element of the Hendrix sound – the 7#9 chord. This chord is based on the 9th chord which in turn is based on the dominant 7th chord. The regular 9th chord is the “James Brown” chord used on tunes like Sex Machine and many other funk tracks.

e9 chord e7#9 chord

The 7#9 chord raises the 9th note of the chord a semitone which gives it an edgier sound which is a great for sound for rock music. In Purple Haze Hendrix uses an E7#9 chord in the verse with the #9 note in chord being a G note which comes from the minor pentatonic scale that is used in the riff.


The Wind Cries Mary

2. Chord Embellishments With The Thumb
This more mellow tune shows the subtler side of Hendrix’s playing. Here he plays what is sometimes called a “piano style” of playing. Here he uses his thumb over the top of the neck to play bass notes on the 6th string. This frees up the 4 fingers on the fretting hand to play chord embellishments such as 6ths and 9ths. In the chorus of Wind Cries Mary he uses this technique to play embellishments on the G and Bb chords. Be careful here to also mute the 5th string with either the tip of the thumb or the edge of the 3rd finger.



4. Double & Triple Stop Hammer-Ons
In this song he also makes extensive use of double (and triple) stop hammer-ons within the chords. In the intro you can hear these when he plays the higher versions of the Eb, E, F chords and sometimes in the fills he plays at the end of this riff which is based around the F chord.


Hendrix uses these techniques in his other ballads including Little Wing and Castles Made of Sand.

Castles Made of Sand

5. Sliding Chords
This song features an intro using sliding sus2 chords where Hendrix plays the chord then slides the chord shape to the next position along the neck. Guitarists such as Steve Vai have adopted this technique into their own style of playing. The slide makes the chords much more expressive then simply strumming each chord individually. Also note the use of the thumb again playing the bass notes on the 6th string.


Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)

6. The Wah-Wah Pedal
This blues rock track for the 3rd Jimi Hendrix Experience album Electric Ladyland features the heavy use of the Wah-Wah pedal in the intro. Later heavily used in 70s funk guitar the Wah-Wah was fairly new invention at the time. It works by changing the tone of guitar from low to high mid frequencies when the foot is rocked back and forth on the pedal. This can give the guitar a “talking” sound. This intro riff and the rest of the song is based around the E minor pentatonic scale.



7. Blues Based String Bending
After the Wah-Wah intro the tune really takes off with some very aggressive blues based playing featuring lots of string bending. The technique of bending strings on the guitar comes from blues guitarists emulating singers and how they bent into notes for a more expressive sound. Check out the video below for essential string bending technique tips.


Hendrix only had a brief recording career of 4 years but in that time his mastery of the guitar and use of these techniques changed the sound of rock music paving the way for many guitarists. If you can learn these 7 essential guitar techniques they will serve you well in a range of styles including rock, blues, funk, soul and heavy/hard rock.

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Solving The Mystery of Modes – Part 2

In Part 1 of Solving The Mystery of Modes  we looked at what modes of the major scale were and how the Ionian, Aeloian and Dorian modes can be used in creating guitar solos and melodies. Here we will continue to solve the mystery of modes by looking at the Mixolydian, Phrygian, Lydian and Locrian modes.

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Mixolydian Mode
Mixolydian mode is a major mode that starts on the 5th scale degree which in the example of the C major scale will be the G note for G Mixolydian. This mode works well over dominant 7th chords. So if you’re jamming on G7 which is a common thing to do in funk music, play the G Mixolydian mode.


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G Mixolydian | Download
Listen to the audio of G Mixolydian.

A great idea is to play a mixture of G Mixolydian and G minor pentatonic over this G7 groove. The G Mixolydian creates a great jazz/fusion sound very similar to Jeff Beck.

Another way to look at the Mixolydian mode is that it is the major scale with a flat 7. So where G major would have a F#, G Mixolydian has a F natural.


For a classic example of the Mixolydian mode in action check out the melody for Jeff Beck’s “Freeway Jam”.


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Freeway Jam | Download
Listen to the audio of Freeway Jam.

Phrygian Mode
Jumping back to the 3rd scale degree takes us to the dark sounding Phrygian mode. Sticking with the C major scale the 3rd scale degree is E so E Phrygian uses the notes of C major starting on E. This mode sounds dark due to the minor second interval between the 1st and 2nd notes of the scale which in E Phrygian is the E and F notes.


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E Phrygian | Download
Listen to the audio of E Phrygian.

Like the Dorian and Aeolian modes this mode pattern on the fret board can be viewed as the minor pentatonic pattern 1 with 2 extra notes.


This mode is used in Spanish Flamenco music and also is commonly used in heavy metal. One of the most famous examples is the riff from Metallica’s “Wherever I May Roam.”


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Wherever I May Roam | Download
Listen to the audio of Wherever I May Roam .


Lydian Mode
Lydian mode is another major mode that is less commonly used. The notes of the Lydian mode come from starting major scale on the 4th note. So using the notes of C major it starts on the F note. It has a very open sound to it and works over the exotic Major7#11 chord.


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F Lydian | Download
Listen to the audio of F Lydian.

Another way to view this mode is as the major scale with a sharpened 4th. So with this in mind have a look at the fret board pattern to see how similar it is to the major scale pattern.


2 well known guitarists who use this mode are Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. For a great example of the Lydian mode in action have look at the melody from Joe Satriani’s “Flying In a Blue Dream”.


Mp3 Track
F Lydian | Download
Listen to the audio of Flying In A Blue Dream.

Locrian Mode
The final mode of the major scale is Locrian mode which starts on the 7th scale degree (B note in C major). This mode is not used as much as the others as it’s played over a half diminished (AKA minor 7 flat 5) chord and there really aren’t many songs based on this unstable chord. Usually the half diminished chord is the ii chord in a minor jazz song which is another topic we’ll get to later on! However below is an example of how the mode sounds and its fret board pattern.


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B Locrian | Download
Listen to the audio of B Locrian.


So now the mystery of modes have been solved see how you can use them in your own guitar solos and melodies.
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Solving The Mystery Of Modes – Part 1

For many guitarists modes are a mystery with much confusion about what they are and how they work. Modes form the basis for many guitar solos and melodies in a range of music styles so it’s a must to know your modes.

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Modes and modal music have been around since medieval times. Gregorian chants from the 9th century used modes to give them a particular sound. In the 1950s and 1960s modes became popular due to their use in the “modal jazz” of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The use of modes in jazz in turn influenced rock musicians including The Doors, Santana, Jeff Beck and many more.

Jeff Beck uses modes in his solos and melodies.

In music a mode is a scale starting on a note (or scale degree) that is not the first note (or root) of the scale. For example if you play the C major scale starting on D you are playing the D Dorian mode. The Dorian mode works well over a minor chord or key. In the case of D Dorian this is D minor.


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D Dorian | Download
Listen to the audio of D Dorian.

The modes looked at here are “modes of the major scale” and they all have Greek names. Below they are listed based on the C major scale with some of the chords and keys that they work with.

Modes of The Major Scale

Major Scale / Ionian Mode
To start playing modes it is a good idea to first be comfortable with the major scale which itself is also known as Ionian mode. The first example is the C major scale in the 7th position which means that the lowest fretted note is on the 7th fret.


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C Major/Ionian | Download
Listen to the audio of C Major/Ionian.


The major scale/Ionian mode and works well in songs in major keys from Bach to Bob Dylan to The Beatles. Check out the example of a solo over the chords of The Beatles “Let It Be” using the C major scale.


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Let It Be | Download
Listen to the audio of Let It Be.

Aeolian Mode
Obviously all songs aren’t in a major key so what mode do you play in a minor key? For many minor key songs the natural minor scale or Aeolian mode is used.

The Aeolian mode is the notes of the major scale starting on the 6th scale degree. So using the notes of the C major scale the mode begins on A for A Aeolian. Here A Aeolian will work well for songs in the key of A minor.


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A Aeolian | Download
Listen to the audio of A Aeolian.

Songs that use the Aeolian mode include:

  • Black Magic Woman – Santana
  • Autumn Leaves – Jazz Standard
  • Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
  • Achilles Last Stand – Led Zeppelin
  • Since I’ve Been Loving You – Led Zeppelin
  • Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
  • Do I Wanna Know – Arctic Monkeys

The fret board pattern for Aeolian mode is shown below. This pattern and some of the other mode patterns on the guitar fret board contain the main minor pentatonic pattern (AKA minor pentatonic pattern 1). When I first learnt the mode patterns I thought of them as minor pentatonic patterns with 2 extra notes. So if you’re already familiar with the minor pentatonic pattern this is a great way to learn the mode patterns.


Have a listen below to the A Aeolian mode being played is part of the solo from Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”.


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Stairway To Heaven | Download
Listen to the audio of Stairway To Heaven.

Dorian Mode
Another commonly used minor mode is the Dorian mode which starts on the 2nd scale degree of a major scale. So using the notes of the C major scale the mode starts on D for D Dorian. This mode was popularized by Miles Davis on his “modal jazz” album Kind of Blue. This mode is less dark sounding than Aeolian mode. Tunes that use the Dorian mode include:

  • So What – Miles Davis
  • Light My Fire (solos) – The Doors
  • Riders On The Storm – The Doors
  • Oye Come Va – Santana
  • Another Brick in The Wall Part 2 (Solo) – Pink Floyd


Mp3 Track
D Dorian | Download
Listen to the audio of D Dorian.

Like the Aeolian mode the basic fret board pattern for the Dorian mode is similar to the minor pentatonic mode with 2 extra notes.


Below is a sample of the solo from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” which uses the Dorian mode.


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Another Brick In The Wall Pt 2 | Download
Listen to the audio of Another Brick In The Wall Pt 2.

In Part 2 of Solving The Mystery of Modes we will look at the other 4 modes of Mixolydian, Phrygian, Lydian and Locrian and how they’re used on guitar.
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Playing Bar Chords in Songs

In the previous bar chord guitar lesson we looked at the correct hand position required to play clear consistent bar chords. Once you’ve mastered this the next step is to know where and what bar chords shapes to play on the guitar neck within a song.

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6 String Bar Chords
The main bar chord shapes are based on open string E and A chord shapes. For example the F major bar chord at position (fret 1) is the E major chord shifted up 1 fret with finger 1 barred behind.

e_majorE major chord

barchord_fF Major Bar Chord

If you look at the F minor bar chord you will see that it is simply the open E minor chord again with finger 1 barring across the 1st fret.

e_minor2E Minor Chord

barchord_fminorF Minor Chord

5 String Bar Chords
The A major chord forms the basis for 5 string bar chord with the root note on the 5th (A string).  So at position 1 Bb major is the A major open string chord moved up 1 fret with finger 1 barring across the 5 strings. The 5 string major bar chord can be played 3 different ways. The first is following what you usually see in bar chord diagrams with fingers 2, 3 and 4 in a row and all strings from 5 to 1 being played.

a_majorA Major Chord

barchord_BbmajorBb Major Bar Chord

Muting The 6th String
When playing the 5 string bar chords it can be good to mute the unwanted 6th string with the edge of finger1. This help to prevent it ringing out when strumming preventing it clashing with many chords. It’s a bit subtle in the photos but you can see finger 1 touching the edge of the 6th string to mute it.

The second fingering is to use only fingers 1 and 3 with finger 3 barring across strings 3, 2 and 1. With this chord it is important to mute string 1 by not applying full pressure with finger 3 on this string. If you do apply pressure to string 1 you end up playing a 6 or 6th chord. This is a nice jazzy sounding chord but it is not always suitable for many songs.

barchord_Bbmajor2Bb Major Bar Chord

The final option is similar to the previous one except to use the little finger to play strings 3 and 2 by laying it flat. This option is handy if you’re quickly changing from a 5 string minor bar chord to a 5 string major bar chord as you only have to take finger 2 off the fret board and lie finger 4 down to play strings 2 and 3.

barchord_Bbmajor3Bb Major Bar Chord

For the open string A minor chord forms the basis for Bb minor. If you move the A minor shape up 1 fret then bar the 1st fret you’re now playing Bb minor.

a_minorA Minor Chord

barchord_BbminorBb Minor Chord

Learn the 6th and 5th String Notes
With this knowledge we can learn where all the major and minor bar chords are on the guitar fretboard.

  • To learn all the 6 string chords based on E major/minor learn all the notes on the 6th (low E) string.
  • To learn all the 5 string chords based on A major/minor learn all the notes on the 5th (low A) string.

Guitar Neck Notes

Learning Bar Chords in Songs
To help to learn where all the bar chord are on the guitar neck try this exercise. Play the chord progression to Angie by the Rolling Stones using only bar chords. Initially keep the strumming simple with one strum per beat and see if you can play along with the original recording of the song.


Once you can play the bar chords of the song swap the 6 and 5 string bar chords around and vice versa. For example instead of playing the 6 string F major bar chord play the 5 string F major bar chord. You will find that some chords are very high up the neck making them awkward to play such as the 5 string A minor bar chord so you can just stick with the 6 string bar chord version of A minor.

Dominant 7 Bar Chords
Also note that this song introduces the dominant 7 bar chord the 6 and 5 string bar chord shapes for these chords are shown below.

barchord_f7F7 Bar Chord

barchord_Bb7Bb7 Bar Chord

Another good song to use for this exercise is Hotel California by The Eagles. Again for this song try mixing the 6 and 5 string bar chords while keeping the rhythm simple with 1 strum per beat while playing along with the song.


You can do this exercise with almost any song but the best songs are those with a good collection of chords. Try songs by The Beatles, The Eagles and Crowded House as they often use a range of chords that aren’t just the common I IV V chord collections of G C D, A D E and D A G.

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Breaking The Bar Chord Barrier

Are you a guitarist who is comfortable playing open string chords but when it comes to bar chords they are a barrier to playing certain songs? The key to breaking the bar chord barrier on guitar is building hand strength and placing your hand in the correct position on the guitar neck. In comparison to open string chords such as G C and D bar chords are much more difficult to play as they require extra pressure for the strings ring out clearly.

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To help build the hand strength necessary for a clear bar chord sound try this exercise. Using just your first finger bar it across all the strings at the 5th fret. Ensure that the finger is perfectly parallel with the fret and placed up against it as close as possible.

Bar Chord Parallel Palm

To help keep the finger straight keep the palm up and close to the bottom of the guitar neck.

Also ensure that your thumb is placed behind the fifth fret spot on the neck and pointing upwards.

Bar Chord Thumb

If your hand is placed correctly there should be a gap under the guitar neck so that you palm doesn’t actually touch the bottom of the neck.

Bar Chord Palm Gap

The thumb will act as a vice helping to apply pressure to the first finger. While you are doing this pluck each string individually checking that each one is ringing out clearly. If any strings are muted try moving your finger up or down slightly in relation to the floor. If some strings are still muted you may simply need to apply more pressure. As I say to my students it should be slightly painful ;) Like the tips of your fingers your first finger will also develop calluses from playing bar chords. Once this callus has developed playing bar chords won’t be as painful.

A Major Bar ChordAfter you have your first finger working with all strings ringing out clearly we will add the other fingers. Here at the 5th fret we will play an A major chord using the 6 string major bar chord shape. Add finger 3 to the 7th fret on the 5th string, finger 4 to the 7th fret on the 4th string and finger 2 to the 6th fret on the 3rd string. Now pluck each string individually checking each one rings out clearly.


I recommend to first practice bar chords on the 5th fret as it requires less pressure and finger stretching than playing further down the neck such as at fret 1 for the F bar chord. Once you have each string of your A chord ringing clearly try the same shape at fret 4 for Ab, fret 3 for G, fret 2 for F# and finally fret 1 for F. Of course check that all the string rings out clearly for each chord.

For the next bar chord lesson we will look at the six main bar chord shapes and how to use them to all the main chords on the guitar.

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