The Hendrix Fuzz Tone – Which Pedals?

One of the most elusive tones of all time is that distinguishable fuzz sound by the god himself, Jimi Hendrix. In your face, raw, exciting, and bluesy all describe this wonderful effect that Jimi got out of these pedals. I say pedals plural as his fuzzy sound can’t be attributed to just one pedal.

In the 1960s’, when fuzz pedals were introduced, germanium transistors were used giving forth a huge, warm, fuzzy sound. However, in the late 60s’, a lot of fuzz pedal makers switched over to silicon transistors which has a more aggressive and biting sound, with more gain on tap.

If you are looking for the early Hendrix sound, aka the Monterey tone, then you would want to look into a germanium transistor based fuzz pedal. This is also the tone you would hear on his early albums. Some good pedals to replicate this sound are the Hartman Germanium Fuzz, and the MJM London Fuzz 1. There are plenty of sound clips on YouTube to hear these pedals in action.

Now if you want more of the later Hendrix/Band of Gypsys tone, or Isle of Wight tone, then you would want a silicon based fuzz. These pedals are typically brighter and cut through the mix better. Their added gain takes things to a new level. I personally have the Roger Mayer Axis Fuzz which is amazing for this tone. There are a lot of ways to dial in different shades of the Hendrix tone with this pedal. As well, there are great things being said about the Gypsy Fuzz by KR Musical Instruments, although this pedal can be tough to get your hands on. Randy Hansen actually exclusively uses KR pedals for his Hendrix rig.

Some tips to really nail the tone:

1)    Make sure you are using a Stratocaster guitar, as Hendrix mostly used one and the single coil pickups react really well with fuzz pedals. Low output pickups work best as they were standard on Strats during Hendrix’s time.

2)    Amp wise, a marshall would be preferred. Infact, best case scenario is a Marshall 100watt superlead, superbass, or JTM-45/100. But other marshall based amps will work.

3)    The amp must be cranked to get the sound. Otherwise the Fuzz won’t sound great. Also when the amp is cranked, you can get controlled feedback from the fuzz as well as additional harmonic overtones that made Jimi’s tone 3 dimensional.

4)    If you can’t crank it due to neighbours, then stacking it with an overdrive or preamp pedal can help. Or you can look into installing a PPI Master Volume, or attenuator.

5)    Dialing in the volume and fuzz/drive on the pedal really high is something that Hendrix did a lot. To control the sound, all you have to use is your volume on your guitar. If you turn the volume down, the tone will clean up a ton. And when your guitar volume is all the way up, you will be balls-deep in fuzz, which is a great transition for solos.

6) Experience with different positions on a Wah pedal. This will add different shades to the fuzz tone, whether you want it brighter, or more bassy. I recommend the RMC Teese Picture Wah.

Anyway, I hope this info helps you are on your search for the perfect Hendrix Fuzz Tone!

How to get Jimi Hendrix Tone

When it comes to tone, Jimi Hendrix never fails to amaze me. Of course his guitar playing is light-years beyond any human form, and top it off, even his tone is untouchable. With his rig, he was able to project a harmonically-rich, monstrous roar that was so elusive, so mind-boggling, yet very pure and organic. His rig gave him the dynamic to be able to tell a story with his amazing skill. The components of his rig allowed him to express himself deeply, whether he wanted to make his guitar sing, laugh, cry, scream, or whisper. With all of this dynamic, Jimi could take us on a trip, describing the ways of the universe, enlightening our souls with pure energy. No one will ever be able to do what Jimi did. But wouldn’t it be great to come close? Wouldn’t it at least be awesome to get some of those great tones that he got?

Well lets start with the basics. First the guitar: it should be a Fender Stratocaster, with three single coil pickups. These pickups should be low-output as that’s how they were in the late 60s’ and play a big role in the tone equation. There are some good copies on the market that’ll do better than a lot of Fender Strats produced today. If you can get your hands on an 80s’ made in Japan Tokai Strat, you’ll get a really well crafted guitar, a lot having the 60s’ specs. Jimi’s guitars were coated with nitrocellulose which some say allow the guitar to breathe better then today’s poly finish. In the last two years of Jimi’s short life, he primarily used a black and a white strat, both with maple necks. Also he typically used light strings (10-38) tuned down a half step (Eb), allowing him to bend notes with total ease.

On to the Amp: its gotta be a 100-watt superlead, superbass, or jtm45/100 with at least 1 4X12 cab. The 100-watters offer a lot more headroom, and the cab will make for a bigger sound. The amp power tubes can be KT-66s, EL-34s, or 6550s. Two great amp makers that specialize in building these plexi style amps from the late 60s are MetroAmp and Germino. Both excellent brands that go the extra step to nail that vintage tone. Don’t forget about the speakers in the cab; they are very important in achieving the sound. Jimi used Celestions, a very good brand. However, currently they don’t make the same speakers today that they once did. Scumback is great brand of for getting vintage spec speakers. Finally, you will realize that a 100-watt stack will blow your ears off. Consider getting a PPI Master Volume installed, or look into purchasing an attenuator. This is crucial since cranking the amp is part of getting the tone, and getting into pure tube saturation.

Lets talk about Effects: Hendrix used a wah, univibe, fuzz, and octave in a live setting. I’m sure most of you know what these pedals do, so I won’t go into it too much, but I will recommend some brands. Most mass produced pedals on the market today do not replicate the pedals used in the 60s/70s, and even worse, a ton of them are digital! So to get closer to the tone, you’ll want to look into boutique pedals. For the wah, the Real McCoy Teese Picture Wah is said to be the closest. For univibe, an original shin-ei would be amazing, and incredibly expensive. So the Megavibe by KR, and Aquavibe by Foxrox are fantastic. For the Fuzz pedal, Roger Mayer Axis Fuzz and KR’s Gypsy Fuzz are very expressive. Here’s more on Hendrix Fuzz Pedals. And for the octave, the Chicago Iron Octavia is a favorite of Hendrix enthusiasts. Finally, the cables used also are also a piece of the puzzle. Jimi used coily cables that are said to smooth out the treble a bit.

Now go out there, hook everything up, crank the fuzz and control it with your volume knob to go between clean and fuzz tones, and start exploring the world of great tones. You’ll find that there really are endless amounts of different tones you can get with a little tweaking. Enjoy!