Published on August 10th, 2023 | by AlexandreG.0
The Story Behind Jimi Hendrix’s Upside-Down Guitar Playing
One of the most defining aspects of Hendrix’s style was his propensity for playing a right-handed guitar strung upside-down, a practice that set him apart from his contemporaries. Jimi Hendrix, was indeed left-handed, but he chose to play a right-handed guitar for several reasons. This decision contributed to his unique playing style and innovative sound.
Was Jimi Hendrix Ambidextrous?
Jimi Hendrix was known for being ambidextrous. He was naturally left-handed, but he learned to play the guitar both left-handed and right-handed. Hendrix often flipped his guitars upside down and restrung them to accommodate his left-handed playing, but for example, he normally wrote his lyrics and gave autographs to his fans with his right hand.
Why Did Jimi Hendrix Play His Guitar Upside Down?
- Availability of Guitars: When Hendrix began his music career, left-handed guitars were not as readily available as they are today. It was more convenient for him to use a right-handed guitar and flip it, rather than trying to find a left-handed one. It is also known that he and his father don’t have enough money to afford a left-handed guitar.
- Learning from Others: Hendrix learned to play the guitar by watching other guitarists. Since most of the guitarists around him played right-handed guitars, he naturally picked up a right-handed guitar and flipped it to match his left-handed orientation.
- Unique Sound and Technique: Playing a right-handed guitar upside down gave Hendrix a distinctive sound and playing style. This unconventional approach allowed him to use his strong hand for fretting, enabling him to execute intricate and innovative techniques that contributed to his signature sound.
- Limited Re-stringing Options: In the 1960s, re-stringing a right-handed guitar for left-handed use often resulted in less than optimal string tension and tuning stability due to the design of the guitars of that era. Flipping the guitar allowed Hendrix to maintain better string tension.
- Unconventional Creativity: Hendrix was known for his innovative and experimental approach to music. Playing a right-handed guitar upside down fit well with his avant-garde style, helping him stand out and push the boundaries of guitar playing.
In essence, Jimi Hendrix’s decision to play a right-handed guitar flipped upside down was a combination of necessity, learning from his musical environment, and a desire to develop a unique playing style.
Who Are The Most Famous Left-Handed Guitarists?
- Kurt Cobain (Nirvana): Kurt Cobain, the iconic frontman of Nirvana, was not only known for his distinct grunge vocals but also for his raw and emotionally charged guitar playing. His left-handed Fender Mustang and Jaguar guitars became synonymous with the alternative rock movement of the 1990s. Cobain’s ability to blend catchy hooks with gritty, dissonant chords helped redefine rock music for a generation.
- Paul McCartney (The Beatles): Paul McCartney, a founding member of The Beatles, is recognized as one of the most influential bassists and left-handed guitarists in the history of music. His melodic and innovative bass lines, along with his guitar work, contributed to the band’s timeless sound. McCartney’s songwriting prowess, combined with his multi-instrumental talents, made him an integral part of The Beatles’ success.
- Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath): Tony Iommi’s left-handed guitar playing style played a pivotal role in defining the heavy metal genre. As the guitarist for Black Sabbath, Iommi’s use of downtuned, dark and heavy riffs became the blueprint for metal music. His innovative approach to guitar, even after a tragic accident led to the loss of fingertips, resulted in his distinctive sound that continues to inspire generations of metal musicians.
- Duane Allman (The Allman Brothers Band): Duane Allman, a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, was a virtuoso left-handed slide guitarist known for his soulful playing and improvisational skills. His contributions to southern rock and blues-rock genres were profound, as he seamlessly blended intricate slide techniques with emotive phrasing. Allman’s short but impactful career left an indelible mark on guitar music.
- Albert King (Blues guitarist): Albert King, a left-handed blues guitarist, was a master of the Gibson Flying V guitar and is renowned for his expressive, bending-laden solos. His unique approach to playing the guitar upside-down, using his right-handed guitar strung for a lefty, resulted in a distinctive sound that influenced countless blues and rock guitarists. King’s emotive playing style and powerful voice made him a true blues legend.