If there's just one moment in rock history that will be remembered forever, it's got to be Jimi Hendrix's earth-shattering appearance at the Woodstock festival on 18th August 1969, where his rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner featured divebombs, screeches, wails and dissonance evoking the horrors of the ongoing Vietnam War.
Hours of delays over the weekend meant that his headline set didn't begin until the Monday morning, when many of the 400,000-strong crowd had already gone back home. But those who hung around for a glimpse of the world's biggest rockstar at the time were treated to a sublime set from a new band which represented a transition from The Experience to the later Band of Gypsies.
The Gypsy Sun and Rainbows
Jimi had put together an expanded band especially for the Woodstock festival. It included Mitch Mitchell on drums, Billy Cox on bass, Larry Lee on rhythm guitar, and Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez on percussion. He introduced them to the weary audience as "Gypsy Sun and Rainbows".
The Gypsy Sun and Rainbows had reportedly struggled to come together as a cohesive unit during brief rehearsals, making Jimi's Woodstock appearance even more impressive. That they seemed so at ease on stage together when it counted is surely a measure of their prowess. Jimi even broke his high E string during Red House, but continued to play the rest of the song unfazed with his remaining 5 strings.
Despite this extraordinary musical display, Jimi Hendrix's guitar gear at Woodstock was pretty straightforward and reflected his typical touring gear of the time. As such, it's a pretty simple job to get ballpark Jimi tone - although recreating the magic in his fingers is another thing altogether!
Jimi Hendrix's Guitar Gear at Woodstock
1968 Olympic White Fender Stratocaster
Marshall 100W 1959 JTM100 "Super Lead" amps
4x12 Marshall stacks loaded with Celestion Greenback speakers
Modified Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face
Shin-Ei Uni-Vibe expression pedal
What Amps Did Jimi Hendrix Use At Woodstock?
Jimi used Marshall 100W 1959 JTM100 "Super Lead" amps at Woodstock, each perched atop a 4x12 stack loaded with Celestion Greenbacks. These amps were the 100-watt version of the JTM45.
What Guitar Did Jimi Hendrix Use At Woodstock?
Jimi used a 1968 Olympic White Fender Stratocaster at Woodstock. Like all his other guitars, he played the right-handed guitar left-handed, or "upside down".
Once flipped, instead of leaving the strings as they were he would restring them so the low E would be back at the top and the high E at the bottom, just like on a right-handed guitar.
It's widely accepted that Jimi used Fender "Rock 'N' Roll" strings at the time. "As far as can be determined, Jimi primarily used Fender Rock 'N Roll light gauge guitar strings (.010, .013, .015, .026, .032, .038) though Mike Bloomfield insists that Buddy Miles insists that Jimi used very heavy strings on the bottom, a medium gauge on his A and D, a Hawaiian G string, a light (not super light) gauge B string, and a super light E," states Guitar Player magazin in its Jimi Hendrix special issue, dated September 1975
Hendrix famously tuned his guitars a semi-tone down, to E♭, which not only gave a heavier sound and helped with big string bends, but also offset potential issues with having longer bass string lengths and shorter treble string lengths as a result of restringing.
The Stratocaster Jimi used at Woodstock is now on display at the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the Experience Music Project Museum) in Jimi's hometown of Seattle.
Jimi Hendrix's pedals at Woodstock were simple yet effective. Credit: Allan Koss
What Guitar Pedals Did Jimi Hendrix Use At Woodstock?
Jimi's Woodstock pedalboard was pretty simple: a Vox Wah, modified Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, and Shin-Ei Uni-Vibe with expression pedal.
Jimi's Woodstock wah pedal is a subject of heated debate: some argue it was an early Vox Clyde McCoy wah modified by Roger Mayer, while others say that it was a Vox V846 Sepulveda wah modified by Dave Weyer. The latter sold at auction in January 2017 for $33,000 but it's still unclear whether this was genuinely the wah pedal used by Hendrix at Woodstock.
Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face
Hendrix used a red Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face at Woodstock. His pedal technician, Roger Mayer, had begun modding Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Faces for him in 1967 and was infamously dismissive of the unreliable nature of the early germanium-based units.
Although there is no consensus on what was inside the red Fuzz Face pedal Hendrix used at Woodstock and elsewhere, the chances are it was a modified silicon Fuzz Face circuit - although some sources indicate it could have been a modified Octavio circuit instead. What we do know is that Jimi ran his Fuzz Faces cranked, into his cranked Marshalls, using his guitar's volume controls to do all the heavy lifting when it came to volume and tonal nuance.
Woodstock was the first public outing for the Shin-Ei Uni-Vibe as part of Jimi's guitar rig, as he had only discovered it a couple of weeks before during rehearsals for the festival. The Uni-Vibe sounded immense and otherworldly when combined with Jim's wah and Fuzz-Face. It was subject to a light "tune-up" by Roger Mayer but was not heavily modified like his other pedals.
Get the Jimi Hendrix Woodstock Sound
Pretty much any Marshall or Marshall-style valve amp will get you close to Jimi's Woodstock sound, although of course a JTM45 or even JTM100 would be the best choice for accuracy.
Alternatively, use a Marshall-in-a-box preamp pedal to get as close as possible without forking out on a new amp.
[product=formula-b-super-plexi-v]The Formula B Super Plexi mimics the sound and feel of a raging Marshall JTM45. It features a boost channel that you can drive into the "Plexi" channel, or vice-versa. It works great in front of an edge-of-breakup amp - but try it in the effects loop for equally impressive results.[/product]
[product=formula-b-eighty-master]The Formula B Eighty Master is Marco Bovelli's latest take on the Marshall-in-a-box formula - an addition to the existing Super Plexi which is based on the JTM45. The Eighty Master moves things forward by a couple of decades to focus on the Marshall JCM800 series of amps, which was all over rock tracks in the '80s. You can even switch between "50w"and "100w" modes, recalling the 50w JCM800 2204 and the 100w JCM800 2203 respectively. Turn down the gain and you'll get a superb Marshall crunch, with an effective EQ section to really help you dial in that Jimi sound.[/product]
Any vintage-style wah should do the job; bonus points for picking up an actual vintage Vox wah.
The Fuzz Face
[product=solidgoldfx-if-6-was-9-mk-ii]The SOLIDGOLDFX If 6 Was 9 MkII fuzz is a variable-voltage silicon Fuzz Face design, optimised to play nicely with wah pedals and giving you additional options for EQ, dynamics and voltage. If you can't dial in a Jimi Hendrix Woodstock sound with this, just give up trying![/product]
[product=fredric-effects-duoface]The Fredric Effects DuoFace is a more affordable alternative to the SolidGoldFX If 6 Was 9 MkII. It lacks some of the bells and whistles of the Canadian-built pedal, but still manages to pack in independent germanium and silicon circuits. Be sure to make use of your guitar's volume control to eek out a wide range of textures, just like Jimi did![/product]
[product=formula-b-vintage-vibe-mk2]The Formula B Vintage Vibe Mk2 is a superb homage to the original "Leslie-in-a-pedal", the Uni-Vibe. It's one of those memorable and highly addictive effects, up there with fuzz in terms of the character it endows songs with. Most famously used by Jimi Hendrix during his Woodstock set and live Band Of Gypsys album, as well as by David Gilmour on Pink Floyd tracks such as "Breathe", and Robin Trower on his Bridge Of Sighs album, the Uni-Vibe is all over late-1960s and early '70s rock. "One of the best priced, best sounding Uni-Vibes out there."- Guitar Pedal X[/product]
[product=signal-cheyne-aurora-vibe]A more compact alternative to the Formula B Vintage Vibe MkII is the Signal Cheyne Aurora Vibe. Chewy and lush, it offers a simplified Tone and Depth control set but the sounds are still super-vibey, ranging from gentle pulses to lush swirls and even getting very "throbby" at higher Depth settings.[/product]
Slash's almost mythical tone achieved on Guns 'n' Roses' 1987 debut, Appetite For Destruction, was a result of good fortune along with a very big dose of talent...
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