Interview with Roger Mayer: The Secrets of Jimi Hendrix's Guitar Setup

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zombiwoof

As has been said, those string gauges are just a stock Fender Rock and Roll gauge set, but I have read that Hendrix experimented with substituting some different gauges for some strings (like a .009 for the first instead of the stock .010, and maybe one or two other string changes). I think Roger Mayer knew a lot about Jimi's effects and recording stuff, but not much about his guitars. Jimi did a lot of modifying of his guitars on his own, like bending the trem bars to a shape he liked best, and changing the right-handed nut to one that works correctly with a left-handed player (reversing the string slots). I don't think we'll ever know exactly what gauges he ended up using, in the beginning he used that 10-38 standard R&R Fender set, but later changed some string gauges and also reportedly started using Ernie Ball strings at one point after they came out.

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thetanman2233

Odd concerning the string gauges. In the interviews of people who played with him, they always remark about how heavy his sets were, Mike Bloomfield and Jeff Beck being the two that come to mind right away.

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bahadir

@peter hodgson

his string gauge is not custom just regular Fender light set

@guitarkevin

you dont have to be a copykat,they are just Fender Rock n Roll strings,
many other players used them (Clapton,Albert Collins,Rory Gallagher),they are now discontinued.
Todays regular set unbalanced for me,i dont like light top heavy bottom strings.

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sleddawg

I re-strung my Strat with the gauges he recommends - it's a revelation! This is how the guitar should work. It's balanced, stays in tune, perfect. Totally amazing.

Now I have to put togehter a bunch of sets. .015s are not easy to find...

I may try some other gauges, but with the same relative sizes. Perhaps it will retainthe balance and have a bit more gain?

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@WhiteCatzs

The one thing I was hoping that would be discussed, and never is, is what did Jimi have all the dials (treble, bass, presence, mid range, gain) etc. etc. etc. set at on his Marshall heads. Probably Eric Barret, Jimi's equipment Manager would have known.

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shredderpete

Knowing how Jimi and Roger worked (from hours of phone conversations with Roger), that would have changed with each venue, pedal and studio. Probably even from take to take if it wasn't sitting right.

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GSUSH

So I imagine the red light and tuning problem was to do with the heat generated from the bulb as red bulbs are used in heat therapy???

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johnnycnote

I knew someone who had a Psychedelic Machine, a distortion + phase shifter thing that Hendrix used to use. I had a chance to try it a few times. It was AC powered, was about the size of a small shoebox and had dials on the front.

The main one switched from a couple of distortion modes to several phase shifter modes. The first was a straightforward phase shifter, while another mode was "eccentric". The first time I tried it I recognized it immediately as the same sound on "The Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock, and "Machine Gun" from "Band of Gypsys".

There's one here, http://youtu.be/RkwmQD6v4SM. It's the same device, but the demo isn't very good. I don't think the guy using it knows how to get a decent effect out of it. There are some other versions that must be copies that turned up later. The few examples on YouTube don't provide a good enough demo to know for sure what they'll do.

I'm sure it's worth a mint now, if he still has it (i.e. hasn't sold it for drugs, etc.) . . .

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krshnakrunch

Hendrix didn't use a Psychedelic Machine - he used a Fuzz Face and a Uni-Vibe. While the Psychedelic Machine and Uni-Vibe were both made by Shin-Ei and produce almost identical Leslie simulation effects (which are heard on Star Spangled Banner and Machine Gun), the Uni-Vibe is more suited to guitarists because it has a foot-contolled continuously variable rate control while the Psychedlic Machine has a rotary switch with several preset rates. The Psychedlic Machine also has a rotary switch for selecting fuzz only, vibe only, both, or bypass - not very practical for a guitarist like Hendrix who liked to switch effects on and off in the middle of a song.

Definitive proof that Hendrix used a Uni-Vibe can be seen in photos of Hendrix performing at Woodstock, which clearly show the Vox wah, Fuzz Face, Uni-Vibe foot controller, and Uni-Vibe main unit at his feet. Do a Google image search for "Jimi Hendrix Univibe" and you can see several examples. There is also a dark stage photo of the Band of Gypsys performance when Machine Gun was recorded where the Uni-vibe foot controller is visible.

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darrylabbate

Excellent article, I especially love the bit about his string gauges. I'm gonna try now going lighter on the G and low-E strings. I've always noticed their sounds were off but it never occurred to me to try lighter gauges on those strings

I also had no idea that Roger Mayer was making effects... I would have definitely bought his Octavia over Dunlop's

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koali

It appeared to me 40+ years ago there was not much adjusting going on in live playing - it was Hendrix and the pedal and the amps. You heard live what you thought was only produced in a studio. Jimi didn't fuss or jerk around to see how it was coming along. I don't like to think John is taking credit for or 'co-wrote' that sound. ("I helped Jimi Hendrix develop his sound/music") I like to think John kept him from getting a electrical shock is all. Jimi's success with the guitar is what made people examine it more clearly and become electrical wizards later.

tejasbluesman52

At the end of the story does he really mean red light can make your guitar out of tune? I've never heard of this can anyone clarify?

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Ajahni

He is obviously insane. Pickups don't matter??? Is he crazy? You can tell the difference between the sound of custom shop 69 pickups from the John Mayer type Big Dipper pickups from 72 pickups from noiseless pickups easily. All these pickups have a different sound. We all know that the 69 pickups give you the Hendrix sound more than any other. Pickups and your phrasing are the key to tone.

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iamonlyagypsy

I don't get the whole aspect of the string gauges Jimi used. What did Mayer meant by "squares" when describing the strings? Thank you!

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shredderpete

Roger's referring to mathematics: multiplying a number by itself.

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guitarkevin

Very interesting to hear about the string gauges Hendrix used. I wonder how many copy cats are going to try mimicking that now. And I never heard of spot lights knocking a guitar out of tune.

Great article.

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shredderpete

Thanks!

I'm going to try a .015 next string change. The overly-loud G always annoys me.

I once asked Roger what he thinks of those string sets you can buy that are calibrated to have relatively equal tension to each other. He says that's pointless because players should be more concerned about the sound than the tension (although I guess if you're using a buttload of gain or compression it won't matter so much).

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