Share this page!

Between 1958 and 1970, Jimi Hendrix ascended to the zenith of guitar god, putting his name as the greatest guitarist of all time. The intriguing question that naturally arises is this: How did Jimi Hendrix learn to play guitar? And, who taught Jimi Hendrix to play the guitar?

Hendrix’s journey to becoming a legendary guitarist is not just a musical tale but a captivating narrative of resilience and profound passion for the instrument. From his humble beginnings, grappling with poverty, to his meteoric rise as a musical icon, every chord struck and every note played is a testament to the extraordinary force that was Jimi Hendrix.


Jimi Hendrix’s Early Influences and First Instrument: An Ukulele


Jimi Hendrix’s musical journey embarked upon the fertile grounds of his early life, characterized by both hardship and a profound connection to music. Raised in poverty, Jimi Hendrix’s introduction to the world of melodies and rhythms began within the familial confines of Seattle. It was here that the vibrant music scene ignited the flames of Hendrix’s passion, setting the stage for the extraordinary odyssey that awaited him.

Central to this musical was his father, “Al” Hendrix, a pivotal figure in nurturing Jimi’s interest in music. Despite few resources, Al provided Jimi with makeshift instruments, and this early encouragement allowed Jimi Hendrix the freedom to experiment and paved the way for the birth of a musical prodigy.

Jimi Hendrix’s initial foray into the world of music was marked by the use of improvised instruments, notably a guitar made from a cigar box and later a ukulele. Playing by ear along to Elvis albums, Jimi discovered the nuances of tuning a single string to produce different pitches. This seemingly humble ukulele became the testing ground for the manipulation of sound which would later become a hallmark of his distinctive style.


Jimi Hendrix’s First Electric Guitars: A White Supro Ozark and a Red Danelectro


At the age of 15, Jimi Hendrix immersed himself in the dynamic music scene of Seattle, he drew inspiration from local guitarists, turning their melodies and chords into the building blocks of his musical foundation. The key to Hendrix’s early success lay in his dedication to learning the intricacies of the guitar by ear. This approach was a testament to his innate musical intuition, a quality that would distinguish him throughout his career.

Another important moment occurred after the tragic death of Jimi Hendrix’s mother, Lucille Jeter, in 1958. This poignant event had a profound impact on him, with playing the guitar becoming a therapeutic escape for processing his emotions. Jimi Hendrix’s first guitar, a $5 acoustic guitar purchase from James McKay, marked the beginning of a more focused practice and a deeper exploration of the instrument.

The introduction of the electric guitar marked a turning point in Jimi Hendrix’s sonic exploration. The white Supro Ozark was Jimi Hendrix’s first electric guitar, purchased by Al. With this electric guitar, Jimi Hendrix unlocked new dimensions of sound, experimenting with amplified possibilities that hinted at the revolutionary path he was destined to tread.

The Danelectro, his second electric guitar, affectionately named “Betty Jean” after his girlfriend of the time, emerged as a pivotal chapter in Hendrix’s musical evolution. With this guitar, he plays with friends, learning licks, and mastering basic guitar techniques. From the humble beginnings of a one-stringed ukulele to the stolen Supro and the cherished Danelectro, each instrument played a crucial role in shaping Hendrix’s evolving style.


The Man Who Taught Jimi Hendrix How to Play Guitar


Jimi Hendrix’s self-taught approach to the guitar, influenced by blues records and artists like Muddy Waters, showcased not only his determination but also his unique perspective. His ability to pick up riffs and tunes by ear, coupled with experimenting with amplifiers to create distinctive sounds, underscored his innovative spirit even in these early stages of his musical odyssey.

Still, the year 1959 marked a significant encounter for the 16-year-old Jimi. While attending a gig from The Midnighters in Seattle, he crossed paths with guitarist Billy Davis. Davis generously allowed Hendrix to play his electric guitar, providing him with invaluable lessons.

Captivated by Davis’ onstage presence and unique style, Jimi Hendrix absorbed the influence, incorporating elements of Davis’ stage act into his performances. Techniques such as playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his back, which later became synonymous with Hendrix’s legendary stage persona, were born from this influential encounter.

The Supro Ozark served as a canvas for his sonic artistry, pushing the boundaries of traditional guitar sounds. It was during this period that Jimi frequented the local Rotary Boys’ Club, where access to amplifiers provided the perfect environment for him to explore the sonic possibilities of his instrument.



FAQs: How Did Jimi Hendrix Learn Guitar?


How Did Jimi Hendrix Get Good at Guitar?

Hendrix honed his guitar skills through extensive practice, fueled by a profound passion for the instrument and a love for music and sound. His dedication was evident to everyone who knew him, contributing significantly to his mastery.


Who Taught Jimi Hendrix to Play the Guitar?

Initially self-taught, starting with a one-string ukulele, Hendrix’s journey progressed when his father gifted him a budget-friendly acoustic guitar. While he began alone, the influence of friends, neighbors, and local musicians played a crucial role in shaping his evolving technique.


Did Jimi Hendrix Know Guitar Theory?

While Hendrix might not have had a formal academic background in guitar theory, his intuitive knowledge of the instrument was profound. He possessed a subconscious understanding of how guitars functioned, how notes harmonized, and the intricacies of harmonic progressions. His mastery, in part, stemmed from a relentless hunger for knowledge and a desire to absorb the playing styles of those he admired.


Was Jimi Hendrix a Self-Taught Guitarist?

Initially self-taught, Hendrix’s journey into guitar involved seeking guidance and knowledge from various sources. His curiosity led him to friends, neighbors, and local musicians, where he actively asked questions and absorbed their playing styles in his quest to develop his unique musical identity.


Why Did Jimi Hendrix Play His Guitar Upside Down?

Jimi Hendrix played his guitar upside down due to his left-handed preference and the scarcity of affordable left-handed guitars. In light of financial constraints, as his family faced economic challenges, the expensive nature of left-handed guitars made it impractical for Hendrix to acquire one. Rather than succumbing to this limitation, he showcased his resourcefulness by innovatively flipping a regular right-handed guitar and making necessary modifications for optimal playability.

Guitars are typically designed for either left-handed or right-handed players, and the scarcity of left-handed models, coupled with their higher cost, presented a challenge for Hendrix. Despite suggestions to learn with his right hand, Jimi remained steadfast in his left-handed approach, emphasizing his determination and individuality. This decision not only shaped his unique playing style but also contributed to the distinctive sound that would later define his iconic musical legacy.

It’s intriguing to note that Hendrix, despite predominantly using his right hand for daily tasks, exhibited natural left-handed prowess while playing the guitar. This ambidextrous ability added an extra layer to his already unique identity.



Is just a guy who got tired of bothering his friends talking about music, and decided to create a blog to write about what he loves the most.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments