Jimi Hendrix, a legendary guitarist, shaped the world of rock music with his innovative techniques and distinctive sounds. One of his most iconic contributions is the so-called “Hendrix Chord,” which features a unique blend of tonality that sets it apart from more traditional guitar chords.
This chord, formally known as E7#9, played a significant role in establishing Hendrix’s signature sonic identity, particularly in songs like “Purple Haze.”
The Hendrix Chord has its roots in various genres, such as bebop, blues, and rhythm-and-blues, but came into the limelight when incorporated by Jimi Hendrix in his music.
Not only has the Hendrix Chord become synonymous with the guitarist’s style, but it has also influenced countless musicians who want to capture a taste of that iconic sound. In order to truly appreciate the Hendrix Chord, it’s essential to understand its structure, origins, and usage, as well as the various techniques and embellishments that can be applied to it.
Key Takeaways on The Jimi Hendrix Chord
- Jimi Hendrix popularized the unique E7#9 chord, also known as the “Hendrix Chord”
- The chord has origins in bebop, blues, and rhythm-and-blues genres
- Its structure, techniques, and embellishments play a vital role in understanding its impact and recognition.
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Origins and Use
Influence on Rock and Jazz
The Jimi Hendrix Chord, also known as the 7#9 chord, has had a significant impact on both rock and jazz music. Its unique sound has been incorporated in songs across various genres, helping to create a fusion of styles that Hendrix himself was a master of blending.
This chord can be found in the work of many musicians who have followed in Hendrix’s footsteps, including those performing in rock, jazz, and other contemporary styles.
Purple Haze and Other Songs
Jimi Hendrix’s famous use of the 7#9 chord is exemplified in his signature hit, “Purple Haze“. The chord forms the foundation of the song, giving it its distinctive sound. In addition to “Purple Haze”, Hendrix used the 7#9 chord in several other tracks on his groundbreaking debut album, “Are You Experienced“.
Songs featuring the Hendrix chord include “Foxey Lady”, “Little Wing”, “Bold as Love”, “Castles Made of Sand”, “Wait Until Tomorrow”, “Crosstown Traffic”, and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”. Hendrix’s experimentation with the 7#9 chord combined with his virtuosity as a guitarist helped to shape the sound of mainstream rock music in the late 1960s and beyond.
Beyond his work with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix also explored the use of the 7#9 chord in his performances with the Band of Gypsys. As a result, the Hendrix chord continues to be a symbol of innovation and creativity in modern music, embodying the essence of Hendrix’s influential sound.
Understanding the Structure
Major and Minor Aspects
The Hendrix Chord, officially known as the E7#9 chord, is a unique blend of major and minor aspects, which gives it its distinct sound. It consists of a root note (E), a major third (G#), a perfect fifth (B), a dominant 7th (D), and a sharp ninth (G).
The chord’s major aspect comes from the major third interval, while the minor aspect is derived from the minor third interval between the dominant 7th and the sharp ninth.
This intriguing combination of major and minor elements is also reflected in the way the chord interacts with melody lines in a song. Guitarists often solo with the E minor pentatonic scale over the E7#9 chord since they share the notes E, G, B, and D, which further emphasizes the major-minor duality.
Tension and Release
Another fascinating characteristic of the E7#9 Chord is its balance between tension and release. The dominant 7th chord is a source of tension, while the major and minor thirds create a sense of resolution. When played in a chord progression, this results in an intense and captivating sound, often associated with Jimi Hendrix’s signature bluesy style.
The voicing of the E7#9 chord also contributes to its tension and release properties. Usually played on the guitar with a barre chord shape, the major third is on the D string, while the dominant 7th and sharp ninth are on the higher strings. This arrangement of notes accentuates the dissonance between the major and minor aspects of the chord, creating an even stronger sense of tension and release.
The unique structure of the Hendrix Chord, with its blend of major and minor aspects, and its balance between tension and release, is what makes it such a crucial element in blues and rock music. Understanding the musical theory behind this chord can help guitarists enhance their chord progression and lead guitar skills, ultimately elevating their overall musicianship.
Techniques and Embellishments
Bass and Rhythm
Jimi Hendrix’s playing style was a combination of bass and rhythm guitar techniques. He often used his thumb to play bass notes on the low E string, giving his chords a rich and full sound. This technique was also used by other legendary guitarists, such as Stevie Ray Vaughan. Hendrix’s rhythm playing was heavily influenced by blues and incorporated the blues scale, creating a unique and distinctive sound.
To create his signature embellishments, Hendrix would use techniques like double-stops, where two notes are played simultaneously, and hammer-ons, where a note is played and then quickly “hammered” onto a higher note without picking again. These techniques gave his chords a more complex and dynamic quality, adding to the overall richness of his sound.
Voicings and Extensions
In addition to his unique approach to bass and rhythm, Jimi Hendrix was known for the innovative voicings and extensions he used in his chords. He would often use dissonant chords, such as the B7 and the famous E7#9, nicknamed the “Hendrix Chord.”
These chords added tension and excitement to his music and contributed to the unforgettable sound that we now associate with this legendary electric guitarist.
Hendrix also made extensive use of the pentatonic scale in creating chord voicings, often adding extensions and alterations to common chords, such as the G chord. These unusual chord voicings, combined with his unique approach to rhythm and playing technique, made Jimi Hendrix’s music stand out and continue to influence guitarists to this day.
Impact and Recognition
The Hendrix Chord, also known as E7#9, had a significant impact on popular music and continues to be recognized for its distinct, fiery sound. This chord became synonymous with Jimi Hendrix and the raw, electric emotion that he brought to his music.
Inspiration to Other Artists
The unique sound of the Hendrix Chord inspired numerous artists across various genres, from pop to R&B. One notable example is The Beatles, who incorporated the chord into their song “Taxman”, written by George Harrison. The distinct sound of the Hendrix Chord can be heard throughout their beloved song, demonstrating its wide influence even beyond the realm of rock music.
The Hendrix Chord also impacted alternative rock bands like the Pixies, who were drawn to its unconventional qualities. This chord brought a sense of excitement and innovation to music, pushing the boundaries of what was traditionally considered possible with the guitar.
The unparalleled sound of the Hendrix Chord left a lasting impression on the music landscape. Often played on a Strat guitar, this chord came to symbolize the intense, trailblazing style that defined Jimi Hendrix’s work. Even today, guitarists who experiment with the Hendrix Chord pay homage to the late musician’s innovative spirit and enduring legacy.
The popularity of this chord helped to cement Jimi Hendrix’s status as a cultural icon, transcending the world of guitar playing and leaving an indelible mark on the history of music itself. Its inclusion in songs spanning various genres speaks to the chord’s versatility and enduring appeal.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the name of the Hendrix chord?
The Hendrix chord is formally known as the E7#9 chord, or technically Eb7#9, as Jimi Hendrix often tuned his guitar a semitone flat on most recordings.
Which song features the Hendrix chord?
The Hendrix chord is famously featured in songs like “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix.
How do you play the Hendrix chord on guitar?
To play the E7#9 Hendrix chord on the guitar, place your fingers on the following frets and strings:
1. Index finger on the 7th fret (5th string)
2. Middle finger on the 6th fret (4th string)
3. Ring finger on the 7th fret (3rd string)
4. Pinky finger on the 8th fret (2nd string)
Strum the chord, including the open 6th string and muting the 1st string.
What is the theory behind the Hendrix chord?
The theory behind the Hendrix chord is rooted in its dissonant, bluesy, and complex tonality. It is a dominant 7th chord with a raised 9th, which creates a unique and challenging sound. This chord combines a major and minor third, producing a distinctive tense quality that became a signature sound in Hendrix’s music.
Is the Hendrix chord used in Little Wing?
While the specific E7#9 Hendrix chord might not be prominent in “Little Wing,” Jimi Hendrix employs other unique chords and progressions throughout the song. These chord voicings showcase Hendrix’s innovative rhythm guitar style and his ability to create memorable melodies
What are other chords commonly used by Jimi Hendrix?
Apart from the E7#9 Hendrix chord, Jimi Hendrix frequently used other unique chords to craft his signature sound. Examples of these chords include his variations on dominant 7th chords, major chords with added 9ths, and other embellishments that made his rhythm playing stand out.
My name is Howard Matthews and I have been playing the guitar since I was knee-high. My parents like to joke that I was pulling the strings even before I was born. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my dad’s guitar, wreaking havoc on the chords.
Now, 40 years later, I can attest that I play them much better than I did back then. I have followed in the footsteps of both my parents – much to their delight – and have been the main guitarist in my band for the best part of three decades.
Music has always been my passion, and until recently my life has been so consumed with it that I haven’t had a moment to have a breath (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)!