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Thread: Learning Hendrix songs?

  1. #1
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    Learning Hendrix songs?

    Hey guys!

    I am not a beginner and I have been playing for years. Recently, I started trying to learn some Hendrix stuff, primarily Bold As Love. These songs are very difficult and it is hard to figure out which parts to learn. There is alot going on as far as guitar goes in these songs. How do you guys learn these songs? What is the process like? Thanks guys!


    Blayze

  2. #2
    He's dark. He's a man. Darkman's Avatar
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    You mean the lead parts, or the rhythm *and* the lead?

    In a way, though a lot of Hendrix stuff is simple pentatonic, it's difficult because it's so unstructured. There's no metronome beat to follow the notes to. And the rhythm parts are so improvised and different each time that it's hard to spot the pattern within it. His famous "piano style" of rhythm is very loose in structure. It's easy to imitate the style, but hard to play it *exactly* as Hendrix did.

    As far as learning to play it, just break it down into parts like anything else. So it's easier to digest in stages. Learn a part, then move onto the next.

    One trivial thing I noticed about Bold As Love is it's the only time Hendrix plays a very straight ascending triplet pattern during the break part in the middle. I could be wrong, but he never did that ever again. It's funny how Page did the same triplet ascending pattern in Zep 1, but never repeated that either.

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    I would learn Hendrix songs the same way I learn any song:

    1. Overall song structure and form.
    2. Chords, and maybe bass line.
    3. Melody of vocal, and/or guitar riffs. (Probably the latter would come first for Hendrix.)
    4. Solo, if especially interesting or iconic. (Not always the case for Hendrix, much as I love him.)

    Hendrix can be a little more slippery than some, in that his vocals often swoop around, pitch-wise and rhythmically, are sometimes spoken, and his guitar playing contains many "tricks", such as wide bends, slides and use of FX, not mention overdubbing and studio trickery. (Even where these are not too hard to play and copy, they can be very difficult to notate.)
    But the songs are generally tightly written, structurally. There is certainly a "metronome beat" to almost all of them (including Bold As Love), so I don't quite know what darkman means by saying there isn't. (Hendrix did play with timing very loosely, but usually over a steady pulse.)
    In fact, the basic sequence to Bold As Love is a very common one: I-V-vi-IV, in two keys: Db in the verse (Db-Ab-Bbm-Gb) and Ab in the chorus (Ab-Eb-Fm-Db). He's probably tuned down a half-step, so it's played as D-A-Bm-G and A-E-F#m-D.
    Naturally, he's constantly improvising guitar figures over this, but knowing the key and chords is the first step to working those out.

  4. #4
    He's dark. He's a man. Darkman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    There is certainly a "metronome beat" to almost all of them (including Bold As Love), so I don't quite know what darkman means by saying there isn't. (Hendrix did play with timing very loosely, but usually over a steady pulse.)
    Yes let me clarify. I didn't mean the song doesn't have a regular tempo. Of course it does. I was referring specifically to the lead work, comparing say Gilbert playing a 16th pattern, to Hendrix playing a blues phrase just behind the beat and with no regular pattern structure.

    A lot of Hendrix rhythm embellishments don't follow a set time either. With this sort of playing I find it more practical to play the timing by ear and feel, as opposed to counting out some complex timing, because it just makes the learning job harder IMO.

    And this relates to my point about the triplet ascending run. I highlighted it because it's so unusual for Hendrix, but would be basic and familiar to anyone following modern techniques.

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkman View Post
    Yes let me clarify. I didn't mean the song doesn't have a regular tempo. Of course it does. I was referring specifically to the lead work, comparing say Gilbert playing a 16th pattern, to Hendrix playing a blues phrase just behind the beat and with no regular pattern structure.
    Right, which is why I like Hendrix and not Gilbert, I guess.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darkman View Post
    A lot of Hendrix rhythm embellishments don't follow a set time either. With this sort of playing I find it more practical to play the timing by ear and feel, as opposed to counting out some complex timing, because it just makes the learning job harder IMO.
    Yes, but it highlights the limits of what one ought to be copying anyway, IMO.
    Why do we learn a song like Bold As Love? How much of it do we want to learn? Do we want to reproduce a carbon copy? Hopefully not (unless we are playing in a Hendrix tribute act maybe ).

    In fact, I don't hear very much loose timing in Bold As Love. What I hear could all be pretty well notated, conventionally, as far as rhythm and note duration go. What would be difficult to notate is the bends, vibrato, slides, etc., as well as the effects he uses. All these things mess with the pitches to some extent, but are fundamental to the Hendrix sound - and indeed hard to mimic convincingly.

  6. #6
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Playing Hendrix is a very rewarding experience. Unlike playing a lot of other things its not so much what you play but how you play it. Its a question of getting into the hendrix mindset rather than learning the notes (though thats an important step of course).

    When I play in hendrix style I get pretty rough with the guitar. I use more left hand pressure than normal. Obviously I wrap my thumb around the top of the neck (this is pretty much a pre-requisite for that style). Mainly though, I kind of pretend that I am hendrix. Sounds a bit stupid I know, but its like I try to take on his personality. I guess, like most people, I have heard so many hendrix tunes, and his personality comes across so well its easy to do because I feel like I almost know him.

    I never found his playing to have any particular lack or abundance of time-keeping. His note choice is often unconvential although the scales he uses are very ordinary. I think that is probably the closest I can get to a theoretical statement.

    Thats probably not much help for anyone because its all a bit wooly, sorry!
    Last edited by bluesking; 04-25-2010 at 01:20 AM.
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  7. #7
    He's dark. He's a man. Darkman's Avatar
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    Well, all good points JonR

    And Bluesking, I think you actually hit the nail there. It sounds ridiculous but when I'm trying to play like Hendrix or Clapton it's definately a mindset you need to get into. You *become* Hendrix or Clapton and play as they would play.

    Perhaps that's because it's not a technical matter really i.e. they're not technically hard to imitate. It's not about blinding technique. It's about saying something musical with a few notes. I don't know what was in the air back then, but there's something magical about the way they played in the late 60's. I love shred & good technique, but that older stuff is the pinnacle of rock IMO.

    I do suspect their guitars and valve amps had something to do with it. I recall reading an article involving the reviewer trying out some vintage gear, and he said as soon as he hit some notes it made total sense how and why they played as they did back then.

    I don't know. Maybe that's all hokum....

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    try the book of Jimi hendrix playing red house in 3 versions with discussioon and tab

    Quote Originally Posted by justreleased09 View Post
    Hey guys!

    I am not a beginner and I have been playing for years. Recently, I started trying to learn some Hendrix stuff, primarily Bold As Love. These songs are very difficult and it is hard to figure out which parts to learn. There is alot going on as far as guitar goes in these songs. How do you guys learn these songs? What is the process like? Thanks guys!


    Blayze
    try the book of Jimi hendrix playing red house in 3 versions with discussioon and tab

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