TOOLS OF THE TRADE: '68 Fender Strat, Gibson Flying V, Marshall amps, Vox wah, Uni-vox Uni-Vibe, Arbiter Fuzz Face, Roger Mayer Octavia
KEY ALBUMS: Are You Experienced?, Electric Ladyland, Axis: Bold as Love
SIGNATURE SONGS: "Purple Haze," "Little Wing," "All Along the Watchtower"
HIDDEN GEM: "Dolly Dagger"
HALLMARK: Chord melody-based soloing style
Look at any list of the all-time greatest guitarists, and you're certain to find Jimi Hendrix at the top. And that's because, simply stated, he is the most influential guitarist of all time.
Jimi's contributions to the electric guitar are innumerable, but one of the first that comes to mind is his inimitable chord melody-based approach to both rhythm and lead guitar. Influenced by the licks of the great R&B guitarist Curtis Mayfield, as well as Steve Cropper's soulful sounds, Jimi combined these "urban" rhythm styles with the blues of idols B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, and Muddy Waters, and then played it all through a cranked Marshall stack to create a wholly original guitar style.
The second area in which Hendrix had a landscape-changing effect on rock guitar was his approach to his guitar's sound. At the time Hendrix was building his legacy, he was one of the only rock guitarists using a Fender Strat, and consequently, inspired such icons as Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton to give it a whirl. But Jimi's Strat sound was different due to the fact that he strung a righty Strat upside-down to play it left-handed. Because the bridge saddles, pickup pole pieces, and string lengths were intended for right-handed playing, his unconventional use of the Strat altered his tone subtly. For example, his bass strings sounded brighter, and treble strings warmer.
Additionally, Hendrix played his Strat through cranked Marshall amps and in the process became the first guitarist to turn problematic feedback into a controlled art form. Hendrix was also an aggressive user of guitar effects and was one of the earliest guitarists to use them musically rather than as a gimmick. Particularly, his skillful employment of friend Roger Mayer's Uni-Vibe and Octavia pedals is unmatched to this day.