Rock god Jimi Hendrix is inextricably linked with the Fender Stratocaster guitar, an instrument he wailed on during legendary shows at Woodstock and at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, where he famously set the instrument on fire. Fender has now created a new Jimi Hendrix Strat combining features of a vintage instrument with the playability of a modern guitar.
This promo display appears in a Guitar Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to advertise Fender's Jimi Hendrix model for righties (Hendrix was left-handed and known for popping into music stores, picking a right-handed Strat he liked and then flipping it over and restringing it for left-handed playing).
The Jimi Hendrix Strat plays like a regular modern Fender, but the upside-down headstock will make viewers do a double-take. It takes a moment to get used to tuning the guitar with the tuning knobs facing down rather than running along the top of the headstock.
This particular Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster comes in a color known as "Olympic white." It approximates the shade of the guitar Hendrix famously played at the Woodstock music festival in 1969. The guitars sell for $899 in the US and can also be picked up in the UK for £689 and in Australia for AU$2,399.
The pickups on the Jimi Hendrix Strat (pickups translate string vibrations into an electrical signal)
are upside-down compared with a standard Strat configuration. "Sonically, it's still every bit a Fender Stratocaster, but it's just got a little bit of a different sound," says Justin Norvell, Fender vice president of product development. "The bass notes have a little more treble and clarity. Everything is more toward the middle. It has a tighter balance."
This special neck plate on the back of Fender's Jimi Hendrix Artist series Stratocaster features an engraving showing it has the official blessing of the Hendrix estate. The guitar takes many of the features of Hendrix's upside-down Strats from the '60s and combines them with modern-style frets and a body designed for right-handed players.
Note the configuration of the pickups on Fender's Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster. The most obvious difference is the slant of the pickup closest to the bridge (the butt end) of the guitar. Hendrix was known for buying regular right-handed guitars and flipping them over and restringing them for his left-handed playing style. Fender replicated that pickup configuration for right-handed guitarists with this special model.
Owners of the Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster may require a moment to get used to the downward-facing tuners. This replicates the look and the string lengths of a vintage upside-down Hendrix guitar, but the shape of the body itself remains standard, making the ax easily playable for right-handers. The fretboard and frets are also designed with modern players in mind. The fretboard is flatter and the frets themselves fatter than those you'd find on a vintage '60s Strat.
Fender's Artist series Jimi Hendrix guitar is made in Mexico, which helps keep the price under $900, making it more accessible than a typical American-made Strat. The back of the upside-down headstock features a replica of Hendrix's signature.
So you want to play like Jimi Hendrix? This Fender Artist series Jimi Hendrix guitar comes in black or Olympic white. It could be a good start in your hunt for the Hendrix sound, but there's a lot more to the musical mix than just a guitar.
Justin Norvell, Fender's vice president of product development, shares some advice for Hendrix fans: Start with a good guitar; then study hard. "The gear is important for the foundation of a sound," he says. "On YouTube you can see his handwork and close-ups and how he played chords. He wrapped his thumb over the guitar a lot." Now go practice.
This is a Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster you can buy from Fender guitar dealers. If you buy it and then take it straight to a gig and play it, you'll be following in Hendrix's footsteps. "Jimi is interesting because he was known as an off-the-rack player," notes Fender vice president of product development Justin Norvell. The legendary guitarist wasn't big on fancy modifications. He liked stock instruments.