Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing was revolutionary. During his time, he expanded people’s idea of what the electric guitar could do by playing it with his teeth, behind his back, and using many other techniques that were considered novel before.
Hendrix is arguably one of the greatest rock and roll guitarists ever lived. Naturally, many fans are curious about what guitars and other instruments Jimi used throughout his career.
What instruments did Jimi Hendrix play? Hendrix’s main electric guitar was the Stratocaster, but he also played several other electric and acoustic guitars. Fender Stratocaster was the most popular electric guitar of Hendrix’s era. In the 60s and 70s, it was integral to the sound of rock music.
Who is Jimi Hendrix?
When you talk about “iconic musicians,” Jimi Hendrix has to come up. He’s known for his distinctive guitar playing, innovative sound, and powerful persona. He’s also known for being a significant influence on rock music and popular culture in general.
He was one of the first rock musicians to achieve mainstream success, playing with The Jimi Hendrix Experience from 1966 until 1968 and then as a solo artist from 1969 until his death in 1970.
Jimi Hendrix’s First Instrument
Before Jimi Hendrix had a first real instrument, he tinkered with a broom and a one-stringed ukelele. He used the broom to emulate a guitar playing when he was younger. And when he found a ukulele with one string in 1957, he played it with single notes while following Elvis Presley’s songs.
Young Jimi had to be patient, since his first real instrument only came when he was nearly 16. His father Al gave him a secondhand acoustic guitar that cost $5 (which is equivalent to $45 in 2020).
1959: 1957 Supro Ozark 1560s
Jimi Hendrix’s first electric guitar—a Supro Ozark finished in white color—was a gift from his father when he was 16. The guitar was purchased in 1959 at Myers Music Shop in Seattle for $89, and it felt comfortable to Jimi right away. He often used this model through the early years of his road band, The Rocking Kings. In 1960, the guitar was stolen from the bandstand at the Birdland Club during a gig.
1960: Silvertone Danelectro Electric Guitar
Jimi bought this Danelectro Bronze Standard in 1960, with help from his father, after his Supro 1560s disappeared. It was one of the guitars that he kept for the longest time. He called the guitar “Betty Jean” after his girlfriend named Betty Jean Morgan. It was Hendrix’s main axe during his time in the US Army.
1962: 1961 Epiphone Wilshire
According to Epiphone’s catalog, the 1961 Wilshire model was the first iconic Jimi Hendrix guitar. It is also called the King Casuals era Wilshire. Jimi bought this guitar late in 1962, after a period of borrowing and pawning guitars in Tennessee with his band, the King Casuals. At the time, the band already had a recurring gig at the Club Del Morroco.
1964: Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar
Jimi Hendrix’s first-ever Fender Stratocaster was a white ’64 model with a rosewood fingerboard. He bought it at Manny’s Music in New York City with his girlfriend Carol Shiroky’s help. It cost $289.
Stratocasters were Jimi Hendrix’s trademark guitars. Before Hendrix popularized them again, Strats fell out of favor as psychedelic rock became more popular. Hendrix helped bring Strats back into style. Some reports claim that he carried over 13 different Stratocasters on tour.
1967: Monterey Stratocaster
The psychedelic-painted Strat that the guitar god played during his breakthrough performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 has achieved lasting fame for its short lifespan: He lit it on fire. Today, replicas of its flower-power design are still popular–John Mayer plays one.
1967: Tony Zemaitis Jimi Hendrix 12-String
Even though not much information about this guitar can be found, it is confirmed to have belonged to Jimi Hendrix. It is seen in his famous 12-string blues intro to “A film about Jimi Hendrix,” made 3 years after his death. The guitar resides in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
1968: Gibson 1955 Les Paul Custom Exclusive
Jimi Hendrix played a 1955 Les Paul Custom, which he flipped and played left-handed. The guitar was used by Hendrix for only a few months in 1968. Afterward, it was played by Jimi’s close friend Larry Lee during the legendary Woodstock performance.
1969: 1968 Fender Stratocaster Woodstock Electric Guitar
This is probably the best-known guitar of Jimi Hendrix’s. The 1968 Olympic White Stratocaster called “Izabella” was used at the Woodstock Festival on August 18, 1969. During that concert, Hendrix played the instrument in a free-form style for a few minutes, then segued into a wrenching interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The guitar was originally purchased at Manny’s Music on West 48th Street in New York City.
1969: Gibson Flying V Electric Guitar
The Gibson Flying V electric guitar was custom built for Jimi Hendrix in 1969. All hardware is gold plated, and it holds a left-handed tremolo bridge. During the Isle of Wright concert on June 29, 1969, Jimi played this guitar on his song “Red House.”
Jimi Hendrix’s Guitar Amps
Jimi Hendrix was known for using the guitar amplifier as a musical instrument in its own right, an early analog synth. He used the instrument to transform an electrical signal into music.
When he was starting out, Hendrix used the amplifier itself to produce his sound effects. Fuzz-tones, tremolo-picking, wah-wah, vibrato: all those are sounds that could be produced by turning the gain up on the amp. That was Hendrix’s original idea.
Did Jimi Hendrix play any other instruments?
Jimi Hendrix’s guitar work is highly distinctive. Given his status as a legendary guitarist, it seemed like he was playing only on his guitar. Although he was best known for his guitar playing, there was more to him than that.
Jimi Hendrix also played a variety of instruments. Hendrix played the bass guitar on most of the songs on the first two albums. Jimi also used a wooden recorder on his song “If 6 Was 9”. In his song “Crosstown Traffic,” he used a non-traditional kazoo made of a comb and a piece of cellophane. Many fans also recalled Jimi playing the keyboard and drums.
Jimi Hendrix was a truly innovative guitarist. No matter what style of music he was playing, his unique guitar and sound always stood out. Although the electric guitar is his most well-known instrument, he also played many other instruments.
Michaela Jyra Melo is a freelance writer, music obsessive, and professional content creator with a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge with the world. Michaela is a music lover first and foremost. She's passionate about new music and artists, but she also loves to dig into musical instruments and equipment. Michael studies communication at the University of the Philippines. When she's not writing or listening to new music, she can be found reading on her Kindle or traveling somewhere new with friends.