When it comes to lists of the greatest guitarists of all time, you will not often see Jimi Hendrix missing! While his career lasted a tragically short time, from 1962 to 1970, Hendrix’s impact across the world was nothing short of incredible.
Despite his small portfolio of music, he is still far more well-known than famous guitarists who have been going for decades!
I was obsessed with Jimi Hendrix’s music as a kid, and when I first picked up my guitar, I spent days trying to figure out how to get my guitar gear to sound just like Jimi did in the ‘60s.
This information wasn’t available on the internet back then, so I had to play CDs repeatedly while I twiddled with the many knobs on my amps, guitar, and pedals. However, with hard work and determination, I got there eventually, and I’m here today to share what I learned with you!
So, whether you’re looking to cover “All Along the Watchtower” or simply want to put your swing on Jimi Hendrix’s guitar tone, this is the guide for you. Read on because we’ll be looking at what Jimi Hendrix’s tone sounded like, what amp settings he used to achieve it, and what other equipment was thrown into the mix.
Bottom Line Up Front: Jimi Hendrix’s signature amp settings feature high mids and treble, with low bass and gain, resulting in a raw and sharp tone that cuts straight through the ‘60s.
However, this tone would not be possible without other iconic pieces of gear in the guitarist’s collection, such as a Fender Stratocaster guitar, a Marshall Plexi amp, and some fuzz, phaser, and wah-wah effects pedals.
Tone – What is it, and what Contributes to it?
If we want to get to the bottom of the amp settings that Jimi Hendrix used, there’s one key place we’ll have to start from – tone. Now, if you’ve been a guitarist for a while, you’ve heard this word thrown around.
Everybody wants to find the perfect tone or mimic the tone of their favorite guitarist, but it can be difficult to achieve because so many variables are involved.
So, what is tone? The tone is how a guitar sounds to the human ear. When we hear an electric guitar, we often use words such as “distorted”, “crunchy” or “clean” to describe the tones that we hear.
On the other hand, if you hear someone playing an acoustic guitar, you are more likely to describe it as oaky, hollow, dense, or rich. These are all perfect examples of identifying the tone of a guitar.
Taking a step back from discussing electric guitars, the fundamentals of every guitar tone come from the woods that have been used to create it, otherwise known as tonewoods.
Some tonewoods invoke more bass-heavy audio frequencies on acoustic guitars, and some tonewoods have unique characteristics that help augment an electric guitar with rich and resonant tones. Cheap tonewoods (particularly synthetic ones) typically have a shallow and flat tone compared to more expensive options.
However, if you’re on a budget and only have a cheap guitar, don’t let this put you off exploring tone! Many other things contribute towards making a masterful tone, the primary of these being the guitar amp.
You could have a super expensive electric guitar with fantastic tonewoods, such as the Gibson Les Paul, but if you only have a tiny budget amp to play it through, it’s not going to sound that great. There are also effects pedals, but guitarists typically use these to augment a tone they have already built through their guitar and amp.
All this talk of expensive guitars, amps, and guitar effects might be a little disheartening if you’re on a budget. Don’t worry because this equipment has tons of cheap or even free digital alternatives.
Whilst there’s no digital equivalent to the guitar, do some research, and you will find a ton of virtual guitar amp simulators and effects pedals, empowering you to tweak your sound until it sounds just like Jimi Hendrix.
You will, of course, need a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to pull this off, such as Ableton, Pro Tools, or Logic, but it can be a fantastic way if expensive hardware simply isn’t practical or affordable.
What Was Jimi Hendrix’s Guitar Tone Like?
So, you want to sound like Jimi Hendrix when playing your guitar – I don’t blame you, he had one heck of a unique tone, and I have known many guitarists of varying ages trying to do the same. However, I’ll give you this warning in advance – it’s not going to be easy!
The reason for this is simple – Jimi was only active as a musician for a short period through the ‘60s, and for this reason, there is not too much documentation out there regarding his specific amp settings. Many people claim that this was done intentionally, with Jimi actively trying to prevent people from mimicking his sound.
However, anyone who has read an interview with Hendrix will know he is just not like this – he did not praise himself as some sort of genius (even though he was!), and I am sure he would have happily shared his amp settings if people had asked.
While there is a severe lack of photographs depicting Jimi Hendrix’s amp settings, there is a tone of other information we can use. Firstly, we can simply use our ears to decipher what was going on in that damn guitar of his. Listen to just about any Hendrix track, and you will hear a uniquely raw, fuzzy, and characteristic tone.
While critics at the time constantly commented on Jimi’s guitar being “awfully distorted”, this simply was not the case – he used the gain on his amp quite subtly, configuring it to ensure that the tone only distorted at louder volumes.
He set his amp mid-dial a lot higher than most guitarists would, which ultimately gave his guitar-playing such a full and cutting tone. He provided an additional layer of clarity by boosting the upper mids further along with the treble.
So, when it comes to emulating most Jimi Hendrix songs, I would use the following amp settings:
- Bass: 4
- Mids: 8
- Treble: 6
- Gain: 4/5
Remember, these amp settings should only be used as a framework for emulating Jimi Hendrix’s tone. He had heavier, soft, and songs that combined the two, so you will need to adjust your amp settings depending on the song you want to perfect.
Knowing that people reading this would want to practice particular songs, I’ve done a deep dive to uncover the amp settings to some of Hendrix’s most iconic tracks. I’ve picked three that contrast against each other, so it should help you gain a bigger picture into emulating that raw sound of Hendrix!
“All Along the Watchtower” Amp Settings
When I hear the name Jimi Hendrix, the guitar tone and song that immediately pops into my mind is that of “All Along the Watchtower”. I remember the moment I first heard this song, and it is nothing short of a masterpiece.
While my jaw was dropping to the floor, I listened to an incredible mixture of raunchy guitar distortion that somehow felt clean, with sets of licks, flourishes, and solos that were simply out of this world.
While this song feels heavy, the guitar is not that distorted, and the rest of the amp settings reflect the signature settings that were just mentioned, with some minor changes. To replicate the tone of “All Along the Watchtower”, you can go ahead and try the following amp settings:
- Bass: 5
- Mids: 6
- Treble: 6
- Gain: 4
“Hey Joe” Amp Settings
I remember my dad telling me when Hendrix’s song “Hey Joe” first came out. Jimi was in the news constantly for supposedly trying to “make as much noise as possible”, and my father claimed that “Hey Joe” was almost like a reaction to this negative press.
He wanted to show the world that he was equally capable of making softer and more majestic songs, and “Hey Joe” was the product of that.
Right off the bat, Hendrix uses a notably lower gain level for this track, with his tone being almost completely clean. He does use a little bit to add his signature grit to the riffs, and some solo sections have more distortion than others.
Other than that, his amp settings are similar to the last track, although the bass is a little higher than normal, assumably due to the track being a little more rhythm-heavy. The amp settings for “Hey Joe” are as follows:
- Bass: 6
- Mids: 7
- Treble: 6
- Gain: 2
“Voodoo Child” Amp Settings
While there is no denying that Jimi Hendrix was highly talented at producing ballad-esq rock songs with only a pinch of distortion, this dude still loved to crank it up, and I couldn’t think of a better example than on this final track choice, “Voodoo Child”.
While “All Along The Watchtower” enthralled me instantly upon listening, “Voodoo Child” was perhaps the second or third Hendrix track I heard, and it truly solidified my love for this dude. The track is gritty and raunchy, and the guitar is overdriven enough to disperse any annoying critics and journalists quickly.
Once again, Hendrix cranked up the mids for this one, although the bass and treble have switched places slightly. However, the most notable difference here is the gain, which is cranked right up. If you want to have a go at this ’60s banger of a track, use the following amp settings:
- Bass: 6
- Mids: 8
- Treble: 5
- Gain: 7
Jimi Hendrix’s Guitars, Amps, and Gear
We’ve already taken a deep dive into the amp settings that Jimi Hendrix would typically use for different performance styles, and you can go ahead and try those out on any guitars or amps you may own.
However, there is no denying that part of Jimi Hendrix’s stand-out sound came down to his specific equipment. I want to help you get Hendrix’s guitar sound perfected as much as possible, so I’ve researched further to figure out what gear you need to match him. Let’s take a look.
Jimi Hendrix’s Favourite Guitars
Jimi Hendrix used a variety of amps and pedals to achieve his signature sound, but being one of the world’s greatest guitarists of all time, the guitars he chose are hugely important.
Despite Hendrix only being active as a musician across eight years starting in the early ‘60s, this dude accrued a ton of guitars in his collection, especially when you consider that he was only 27 years old when he died. Therefore, there is no way I could go over every guitar that Hendrix used – I’ll just stick to some of his absolute favorites.
Hendrix’s love for guitars can be summarized nicely in two words – Fender Stratocaster. This dude was lucky to be around when Fender first started producing Strats, although he only purchased his first in 1964.
It was a classic black Fender Strat that is ubiquitous within any band practice room and home studio, but in the early ’60s, they were highly sought after. Hendrix paid $289 for it, and while that might not sound like a lot, it was a huge amount of money in the ’60s!
However, Hendrix’s love for Stratocasters did not end there – by far, his most famous guitar was purchased a few years later, essentially being the white version of his black Strat.
However, this particular guitar has been named the “1968 Fender Stratocaster Woodstock” model, due to Hendrix famously playing it in the classic Woodstock ’69 concert. It’s a truly iconic guitar now being stored in Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture, after being purchased for an understandable price of $2,000,000!
Hendrix had tons of other Fender guitars in his collection, but the Strat stands tallest amongst his entire collection. I can only assume that this was due to the guitar’s beautifully balanced sonic profile, making it perfect for him to customize to his liking through amps and pedals.
Gibson Flying V
Jimi Hendrix’s musical performances were all about breaking down walls and destroying boundaries, and while he achieved this with his music alone, the dude always had a visual element to his performances that took this one step further.
A classic example of this is the Gibson Flying V. While Flying V guitar bodies are relatively common these days (particularly in heavy metal scenes), this was something very new at the time, and while they sounded incredible, many people were scared of the unusual visual aesthetic.
Not Jimi, though – in fact, that dude took things a step further by painting the black body of his Gibson Flying V with psychedelic patterns, using red, yellow, blue, white, and green paint to doodle his Flying V into becoming one of the most unique and sought after instruments of all time!
There’s no denying that this guitar does not have quite as balanced of a tone as the Fender Strat, but it brought a lot visually, and any tonal qualities that were lost through using the guitar were no doubt made up for with amps and effects pedals.
Jimi Hendrix’s Favourite Guitar Amps
Earlier, when we discussed the amp setting configurations found in Hendrix’s music, I mentioned that you could try the settings on any guitar. This is true, but there’s no denying that you will get better results using Hendrix’s exact amps.
As I said at the beginning of the article, don’t worry if you cannot afford these amps, as there are tons of virtual amp simulators on the market for both of these listed amps!
Marshall Superlead Guitar Amplifier Head
Jimi Hendrix sure did have some iconic gear, ranging from his Woodstock Fender Stratocaster to his fuzz pedal (more on that later). However, I would argue that Hendrix’s most classic piece of gear is his Marshall Superlead Guitar Amplifier Head, often known as the Marshall Plexi.
This amp packs some serious volume and tone, so there’s no wonder why Hendrix became so fixated on this amp. He only managed to get his hands on it in 1966, but after he heard its power, he used it for pretty much every concert he performed until his untimely death.
It featured everything the guitarist needed, from six-tone rotary controls, four inputs, two channel switches, and of course, the signature Marshall aesthetic of a black covering with a white Marshall logo.
The only downside to this amp was its sheer volume and size when paired with a cabinet, but these were not problems that got in Hendrix’s way!
Fender Princeton Reverb
Looking to emulate the incredible tones of Hendrix without breaking the bank and your back from purchasing and transporting a massive Marshall Plexi? Well, you’re in luck because Hendrix was well known to practice and record on smaller amps, showing particular favoritism for the Fender Princeton Reverb.
This amp was produced from the early ’60s until the early ’80s, but Hendrix managed to grab one of the original issues created back in 1963.
Believe it or not, this little amp only had a modest wattage of just 12 watts! That is crazily quiet when you compare it to the Plexi. However, it shows that crafting a perfect tone is not all about volume.
All Hendrix needed to practice was the balanced tones of the Princeton Reverb – sure, he switched it out for a stack amp combo when the volume was needed, but the modest tones of the Princeton were just fine for personal use. It’s a great alternative if you’re looking to play the guitar like Hendrix, without having to push the boat out.
Jimi Hendrix’s Favourite Effects Pedals
We’ve covered the guitars, and the amps – all that is left to do is talk about Jimi Hendrix’s favorite guitar effects pedals. Anyone who has listened to Hendrix’s music will realize that his tone cannot be achieved without pedals.
He was a pioneer in how he integrated pedals into his sound without sounding gimmicky – let’s take a look at a few that he used frequently.
If I had to use a single word to describe Hendrix’s tone, it would have to be “fuzz”, and Hendrix knew exactly what he was doing here, commissioning Roger Mayer to develop the custom Axis Fuzz, especially for him in 1967.
It is believed that the guitarist used a few different rudimentary fuzz pedals before he commissioned this bespoke beast, but you can hear the difference in his late-career music when he started using this bad boy.
In terms of tone, this is by far the effects pedal I would recommend the most if you try to emulate Jimi’s style.
However, you should bear in mind that the fuzzy gain output of this pedal will boost the volume dramatically, which means you will have to go back through those amp settings and turn down the gain a little. Needless to say, you’ll truly be perfecting his tone at that point!
However, Hendrix’s pedal collection didn’t end there. A glance across the musician’s back catalog will present a ton of interesting psychedelic effects that were pretty groundbreaking at the time.
To pull this sound off, Hendrix frequently used the Univox U-915 Uni-Vibe for phasor and flanger effects, augmenting this further with the fantastic Vox V846 Wah pedal.
I don’t have too much to say about these pedals other than that, while they may seem insignificant, they are some of the most important elements to Hendrix’s tone, and his music would not be the same without them.
Sheesh, we sure have covered a lot of information today! It would be best if you didn’t leave this guide with burning questions, so let’s take a quick breather and go through the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Jimi Hendrix’s amp settings.
Answer: Jimi Hendrix’s amp settings depended greatly on the song he was performing, but generally, he has the bass at around 4, the mids at 8, the treble at 6, and the gain at 4 or 5.
Answer: Jimi Hendrix used a lot of amps throughout his career, but his favorite was by far the Marshall Superlead Guitar Amplifier Head, otherwise known as the Marshall Plexi.
Answer: Despite being active as a musician for under a decade, Hendrix built up a huge guitar collection, but the most prevalent guitar within this collection was his various Fender Stratocasters.
Answer: Absolutely – Jimi Hendrix pioneered the usage of various popular guitar effects pedals, including the Roger Mayer Axis Fuzz, the Univox U-915 Uni-Vibe, and the Vox V846 Wah pedal.
Well, if you wanted to pay homage to Jimi Hendrix and sound just like him as a guitarist, then you certainly came to the right place – we covered just about everything there is to discuss the matter.
Hendrix is well known for his mid-heavy amp settings and surprising lack of gain, and this is something you can emulate in your bedroom whether you have the right equipment or not.
I wish you the best on your guitar journey, and while I think it is great that you want to configure your amp to sound like Hendrix, I encourage you to use this as an opportunity to figure out your perfect tone.
Hendrix’s tone was amazing, but it was his tone, and you should think hard about what you like about it, what you would change, and you’ll have your own personal tone in no time. Good luck!
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