Here’s a question no-one ever asks – What is the Jimi Hendrix chord? Because, everyone is supposed to know, right?
I’ve heard it so often:-
- “that’s the Hendrix chord”;
- “just play the Hendrix chord”;
- “of course, we all know the Hendrix chord”.
It is somehow assumed that every person who has even so much as touched a guitar knows what it is – and it is usually said in a way that makes folks embarrassed to actually ask “what is it and how do you play it?”.
Let me help you out, I will:-
- Show you an example of the chord in use (by Mr Jimi Hendrix, of course!);
- Give you guitar tabs for the chord;
- Tell you what the “proper” names are for the chord so you can impress (or possibly bamboozle everyone
Example of the Hendrix Chord
Arguably, Jimi used this on “Foxy lady” but the best example can be heard on “Purple haze”.
Here it is during a live performance at the Atlanta Pop Festival
The chord is used by many other players, of course, from many genres – but because Jimi used it in such a novel and aggressive way at the time,, it just got named after him!
Trivia – the Beatles used it as well, but they apparently called it the Gretty chord!
Guitar Tab Examples
Firstly, I’ll show you the version used on the example above in “Purple haze”.
It is based off the “thickest” E string and is in fact an E chord.
Oh, by the way, if you don’t understand how to read guitar tab (tablature) then here is a guide to understanding it.
- The “0” means play the thickest E string open with no finger fretting a note;
- Place your 2nd finger on the 7th fret of the A string;
- 1st (pointer or index)finger goes on the 6th fret of the D string;
- 3rd (ring) finger needs to go on the 7th Fret of the G string;
- And finally, place your 4th (pinky) on the 8th fret of the B string;
- Don’t play the thinnest string. For an E chord it is not a real problem although it changes the sound of the chord. If you were playing this shape for a different chord though, it might sound awful!
So, play those 5 strings – there you go, with a bit of distortion and attitude, you should get it to sound just like Jimi in the “Purple haze” example I showed you further up this article.
Caution – Jimi often tuned his guitar down to an E flat tuning and this is the case on the example – so it won’t sound like it’s in tune, but you’ll still get the chord sound!
Using the same shape?
You can – the reason this sounds so good as an E chord is that you have the open E string underneath the chord which gives it a really full sound.
But if you play the middle four strings only, you have a shape that is slidable – keep your fingers in the same shape but move it up and down the neck.
So, guitar tab for playing a B Hendrix chord would be:
Same fingering pattern as above – but remember, just play the middle 4 strings.
For those that know the notes on the fretboard, you’ll get the chord based on whatever note you are fretting on the A string.
Can I use the same shape on other string sets?
You can – but you’ll get different chords and they won’t be the “Jimi Hendrix chord”.
Thickest four strings
If you take the same shape but play it on the thickest 4 strings, you won’t get the Hendrix chord, but it’ll actually sound quite good – try it – starting with the 2nd finger on the 8th fret of the thickest string.
You’ve just played a C dominant 7th chord based off the 2nd finger position!
Thinnest four strings
If you try the same thing on the thinnest 4 strings – well, you get an “interesting” chord that might make you say “aaargh” like some demented caricature of a pirate of the Caribbean!
Give it a go with the shape starting on the 7th fret of the D string:-
For what it’s worth, you’ve just played (amongst other things) an A add 13 #9 chord!
So What is the “proper” Name of the Chord?
So the vast majority of guitarists will just call this “the Hendrix chord” or the “Jimi Hendrix chord”, but what is it really.
If you talk to jazz players, they are more likely to refer to it the “proper” way – using its name based on music theory.
So, next time you want to refer to this chord, try using the names below, and see what reaction you get!
I’ll use an E chord example here, but it could be A, or B flat (Bb), G and so on, just replace the “E” below with the appropriate note notation and language.
- E7 sharp 9:
- Said as “E seven sharp nine”;
- Refers to an E seventh chord with a sharpened 9th note (the ninth note in the major scale raised by a semi-tone, or one fret to us!);
- Could also be written as E7#9.
- E dominant sharp 9:
- Said as “E dominant sharp nine”;
- Using the word “dominant” implies a seventh chord, so it could also be written “E dominant 7th sharp 9” but jazz players expect you to know this stuff.
- E altered:
- Said (as I’m sure you guessed), “E altered”;
- The word “altered” has a whole series of implications for jazz players;
- Can be written Ealt;
- Firstly, it implies a dominant seventh chord (which basically means a major chord with a flat 7th – that is, with the 7th note of the major scale one semitone (fret) lower);
- Secondly, it means there is a note or notes from the altered scale “added” to the chord;
- This is potentially a huge topic, but just take away that the Hendrix chord could be called “E altered” – or “D altered” if it’s a D version, for example.
I could get into a bunch of music theory here, but I won’t! (I will write other articles on that if you’re interested, just let me know).
But now you have some of the names given to this chord and can deal it out whenever you feel generous!
To Sum Up…
So now, you never have to ask that question and are part of “the club” – you even have tabs of how to play it and you can impress/bamboozle others because you can give it it’s “proper” name – be careful though, folks might think you are showing off!
The Jimi Hendrix chord is so named for the man that made it famous, probably mainly due to the massive influence he had on rock guitar and the chord remains a staple of most guitarists of any genre today.
It is – bluesy, funky, aggressive and downright dirty depending on how you play it and your sound, distortion levels, pickup selection and how you hit the strings.
Let me know whether I have been able to answer that question no-one should ever need to ask, “what is the Jimi Hendrix chord” and feel free to ask any questions using the comments box.
All the best and keep on rockin’