We can talk until we’re blue in the face about the plethora of reasons why Jimi Hendrix was the greatest player to ever strap on a Strat. No one has ever matched his blend of virtuosic instrumental prowess, intense emotional expression, Picasso-level attention to the colors and hues in his music, and masterful songwriting, but what really puts him head and shoulders above the rest of every other six-string slinger is his universal appeal. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, loves Jimi Hendrix.
Case in point: Ian Mackaye and Stevie Ray Vaughan could not be more different as people or guitarists. Mackaye was the singer and guitarist in legendary post-hardcore band Fugazi (a group about as far removed from the psychedelic rock of the seventies as humanly possible) while SRV was perhaps the greatest master of electric blues since Hendrix himself. Despite their immense musical, philosophical, geographic, and stylistic differences, both listed Hendrix as their favorite guitarist of all time by a wide margin.
So, it doesn’t matter if you’re a punk in a leather jacket laden with safety pins, a metalhead in a Motorhead shirt, a jazz cat with an expensive hat, a classic rocker with a closet full of vintage concert tees, or a regular ‘ol non-musician who listens to whatever’s on the radio: chances are, if someone asks you who your favorite guitarist is, Hendrix is going to be one of the first names out of your mouth. If you ever ask someone this question and they DON’T drop Jimi’s name, report them to the authorities immediately, because they are not to be trusted, and are probably a lizard person or alien in disguise.
Facetiousness aside, Hendrix’s music seems to resonate with every single human being on a molecular level, and it is hard to quantify how or why. His singular style of guitar playing has a way of forcibly grabbing you by the heart and making you feel all sorts of emotions that don’t really have names, and that’s the sort of voodoo that defies complete explanation. The reason that no one can replicate his guitar style is simple: more so than any amp or guitar, the contents of his spirit were the key to his magic Spanish castle of sound.
While some aspects of the Hendrix Sound are beyond the pale of mere mortals’ limited understanding, every strange phenomenon always has at least a partial explanation, and these Voodoo Child Stratocasters from the Fender Custom Shop are the best attempt mankind has ever made at capturing the essence of his inimitable sound and making it available to the rest of us.
How? Well, the short answer is that a lot of stuff on these guitars is upside-down! Hendrix’s left-handedness (and his tendency to string righty guitars upside down) had a huge impact on his tone and his technique. Because he strung his low E through what would normally be the high E tuner, it had much more tension than normal. This is why all his low notes sounded so round and tight and piano-like! Conversely, his high strings had much less tension on them, so they had a warmer, spongier character with a more percussive attack and more note bloom as the guitar sustained. Less tension also made for easier bending, so Hendrix was able to utilize his signature wide vibrato with ease and perform enormous bends without putting undue stress on his left hand. Simply by flipping the headstock, the Custom Shop team captured a key ingredient to Hendrix’s sound and technique!
The polepieces in the Hand-wound Custom Shop ’69 Single-Coils that sit in these mighty axes further the tonal tweaks begun by the reverse headstock. They also enhance the clarity of the high strings and provide more harmonic content while improving string-to-string balance. Also, the bridge pickup is angled backwards, which gives it an uncommon amount of mass and heft on the high strings while tightening up the low strings even more.
Aside from all these Hendrix inspired tweaks, the Fender Custom Voodoo Child Stratocasters are well-built, solid instruments that play as well or better than anything available to Hendrix in the seventies! In fact, Hendrix himself would have probably killed for a Strat with a modern 9.5″ radius and 6105 frets, because it allows for easy bending all the way up and down the neck. Furthermore, the ’66-inspired oval “C”-shaped neck profile feels as good in my hand as any vintage Strat I’ve ever played.
All of these explanations of technical specifications are well and good, but the true appeal of the Voodoo Child Strat comes from its the way it sprinkles a little Hendrixian fairy dust into your own guitar style and motivates you to use your own voice on the instrument to express yourself in new and interesting ways. To be honest, before I played this guitar, I was expecting to write about how playing it put me in touch with the essence of Hendrix’s sound and vibe, it certainly does that! In these guitars, I found the most accurate emulation of Hendrix’s sound I’ve ever experienced. So, obviously, running through a couple Hendrix tunes was a tear-inducing experience for me, because (if you couldn’t already tell) I am quite passionate about his music.
But, I didn’t really find myself reaching into my bag of seventies blues-rock tricks much when I played this guitar. Instead, with his sound at my disposal, I wound up getting deeply absorbed in writing an angular, spiky, choppy riff that owed more to punk-inflected indie rock music that I normally play than anything remotely Hendrixian. That may seem odd at first blush–after all, who plays post-hardcore on a Custom Shop Hendrix Signature Strat?–but I think it’s actually quite fitting. Hendrix was a completely unique musician, and that is why his music has such universal appeal. So, it only makes sense that his signature guitar would inspire me to play more like myself!
The Wildwood team is proud to present the Jimi Hendrix Signature Voodoo Child Stratocaster because it embodies Jimi’s trailblazing spirit and boundless creativity, and we can’t wait to see how it inspires you to use your own voice in new and innovative ways.