Tuesday, 4 September 2007

MYTHBUSTERS - Was Hendrix Ambidextrous?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMost of us are agreed that Jimi Hendrix was a phenomenal guitar player; many would argue that he was the greatest guitarist the world has ever seen. Even his detractors will grudgingly admit that he was ahead of his time and was pushing the boundaries of guitar playing. I think it would be fair to say that the man had talent.

However, there is one much-quoted talent that I'd like to take issue with. It's often been said that Hendrix was ambidextrous, but I have never seen any film footage or photographs to confirm this. Searching the web I find articles that claim that he could play the guitar right-handed, but preferred the play it left-handed. But where is the proof that he ever played right-handed? I have never seen any.

I wonder if something has been lost in translation over the years? We know that Hendrix could play guitars that had been strung for either a left-handed or a right-handed player. I recall an article in a guitar magazine, many years ago, which was looking at a Martin acoustic guitar that Hendrix had used and that had always been strung right-handed. Indeed, to have strung it left-handed would have placed tensions on the top of the guitar that the internal bracing was not designed to withstand. Also, in his autobiography, One Train Later, Police guitarist Andy Summers talks about how he once jammed in the studio with Hendrix playing bass. After a while Hendrix asked him if they could swap over and if he could play the guitar, so they swapped instruments. This would imply that they were each using the same guitars, so they must have been strung the same way (I'm assuming right-handed in this instance). Further to this, Hendrix was known to have occasionally played a Hagstrom 8-string bass on some of the 1967 sessions. (See pic). It's doubtful that this bass was converted for left-handed stringing - especially if Noel Redding also played it.

So, my guess is that the truth behind this myth is that Hendrix played guitars strung for both left and right-handed playing, and not that he actually ever played right-handed.

Unless you know differently...

(Please use the comments below to discuss...)


  1. We're not sure if he played right AND left. We are certain that he played left. It also seems apparent that he wrote right. Which, might be a source of confusion.

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