What Jimi Hendrix can teach Jazz Guitarists

Jimi Hendrix is a one of the most influential guitarists in history. There is a lot to be gained from checking out guitarists outside the jazz guitar. In this video I will go over how you can apply some of the ideas that Hendrix uses in his playing when you are playing chords in jazz.

The examples in this lesson are all on the first 4 bars of the jazz standard “You Stepped ut of a dream”, which consists of two bars of Cmaj7 and two bars of Dbmaj7.

A Jazz comp example

The way we mostly comp in jazz is by using complete chords and then use different voicings to create movement in the top notes or in the inner voices of the chords.

This is shown in the example here below:

How Hendrix would play it

If we take the chords and try to imagine playing them in the style Hendrix might use on his ballads like Little Wing or Wind Cries Mary then that might yield something like this:

The important thing to notice here is that the chords are played in the begining of each chord to state the harmony.  The variations that are used are not complete chords but more double stops and partial chords. The sound of this approach is  a lot lighter than using only complete chords and that can be a nice variation to add in your comping vocabulary.

The way I am playing example 2 is of course also changing the  feel of the song, so we still need to find a way to apply this to a jazz standard without making it sound like a Jimi Hendrix cover.

The way the chord is split up in bass note and chords so that it spells out a back beat groove and this is probably the main reason it sounds so little like a jazz groove.

A more jazz example of this approach

Example 3 is taking some of the techniques used in example 2 and then adding more of a jazz feel to it. The idea is quite simple, the chord is still initially stated and then the rest of the time is used to add fills and partial chords. The fills do convey the sound of the chord, but does not yield a complete chord sound all the time.

In this example I am using the same ideas for fills but taking away the back beat feel so that the jazz feel isn’t lost. 

A closer look at the Techniques in the fills

The two main ingredients of the fills Hendrix uses are probably the chords themselves and then mixing this with pentatonic ideas.

A “jazz” version of this could be to use the chord and also use a pentatonic scale that fits the chord. In this example the chord is a maj7 chord so a suggestion for a pentatonic scale could be the E minor pentatonic scale as shown here below.

If we relate the Em pentatonic scale to C maj 7 we get:

E   G   A   B   D   E

3   5   6   7    9   3

One thing that wouldbe useful to explore is some of the intervals we have in the scale. The 3rd bar shows a simple set of intervals in the scale.

Practicing Fills from Chord shapes

On the Cmaj7 I am using some of the Em or G major pentatonic ideas that you would often associate with a G major chord. One good exercise to get used to some of the G major fills that are in the style of Hendrix is to go over the fills that I have written out in example 5. This is associtated and based on the E minor pentatonic scale and the G chord shown in the 3rd bar.

Another possibilty is to take the same exercise and use the fills associated with the C chord in the 8th fret. This is shown in example 6 here below:

Applying the Hendrix exercises to a Cmaj7 chord

As a short example of how I apply the G Hendrix fills to a Cmaj7 I have written out the chord and the fills here below. 

Using Fills in comping and soloing

With the long history of jazz guitar it has become a common thing that we add to the style by borrowing techniques and ideas from other styles. I personally find it great that we keep developing the style and that jazz in this way keeps changing and evolving.

Incorporating fills into your playing is a good way to add some color to your comping. You can of course also use these ideas in your solos as melodic material, something you will also hear Hendrix do in his solos.

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What Hendrix can teach Jazz Guitarists

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