Fender-hendrix-stratocaster.jpgJimi Hendrix resides in the Pantheon of guitar gods, of that there is not even a debate. He literally changed how the guitar was approached and how it was played. There are iconic images of Hendrix on stage, whether playing a now classic rendition of the American national anthem at Woodstock, setting his guitar on fire and making the flames dance at the Monterey Pop Festival, or the ubiquitous guitar solos with his teeth, and they all have one thing in common. A Fender Stratocaster. The guitar itself is so linked to Hendrix that it is almost unimaginable that he could have ever played anything else. I remember seeing a video of him once playing an old acoustic guitar. It just seemed wrong. Hendrix is Stratocaster!

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Hendrix’s guitar was special for a few unique reasons. As a left handed guitar player, he didn’t play Strats made for lefties. That would be too easy and anyone could do that. Jimi would buy a regular right handed Strat right off of the wall, remove the strings, flip it around, and restring it that way. As a result, the pick guard is at the top and essentially useless at doing its job but an interesting change in the strings is partly what gave him his tone and likely allowed him to expand how the instrument is played. And it is those things that Fender is going for with the new Hendrix Stratocaster.

In honouring Hendrix with a replica of his namesake guitar, Fender is offering the right handed player (sorry lefties, this is not available in a left handed version. You could always buy a regular right handed Strat and flip it. I heard that might work) the chance to travel the frets and feel the strings like Jimi did. With the reverse large 70s style headstock, the low E string is longer than it would normally be and the high E is shorter. As a result your bass strings have a bit more snap and bite whereas the treble strings are more conducive to bends and vibrato than on a standard Strat. The guitar’s body is made from Alder with a gloss finish in Olympic white or black. It features 3 American vintage single coil pickups with 5 available positions. That special touch can be seen in the fact that, as with Jimi’s flipped Strat, these also feature a reverse slant pickup in the bridge position. It has a chrome vintage synchronized tremolo and a master volume and 2 tone controls.

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It has a bolt on maple neck and fingerboard with 21 medium jumbo frets. The C shaped neck’s radius in 9 ½” and as Fender promotes in their literature for this guitar, “is slightly flatter than a vintage style radius—offering enough arc to provide a naturally comfortable fret-hand feel while making it easier to bend notes”. The medium jumbo frets also making chording friendly to play. The neck plate has a silhouette of the man himself as well as an “Authentic Hendrix” engraving for that touch of Jimi. It features chrome hardware, a headstock signature, and comes with a gig bag.

The guitar’s neck was very nice and easy to play. The tone was clear and just screamed to play some blues, making me wish I was more proficient at doing just that. Adding a little bit of natural tube gain was great as well as it was warm and inviting without getting gnarly. Other than a little bit of Chorus on my clean channel, I didn’t play this with any effects. I did use it once jamming with the band but it’s hard to pick out any specific characteristics of a guitar at such ludicrous volumes. Between the reversed strings length, the “flipped pickups”, and ranges of tone available through the pickup selectors and tone knobs, this guitar sounds decidedly smooth and silky when playing in its world. Unfortunately I did not get a tremolo arm to install and try so I can’t speak directly to that feature. It is certainly priced right and offers a great guitar for those looking to play in that blues and 60s-70s classic rock vein.

0145802305_1-1-11-1_art-hendrix-strat_3-7-headstocksig-2.jpgIt’s no secret as I have mentioned it in prior blogs but I’ve never really been a “Strat guy” for a couple of reasons, and to me, those reasons still exist here. As I tend to play heavier music, I will take a humbucker pickup every day of the week. I took the Hendrix Strat to our band’s rehearsal space for practice, strapped it on, plugged it in, and away we went. As we have two guitar players I found my tone struggling to cut through and it had a distinctive twang to it that I really don’t remember in the original Metallica version of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. That is a direct result of the pickups and frankly, was to be expected. My other issues with the Stratocaster also involves the pickups, or more specifically, the posts on the pickups. I have never been able to play a Strat without constantly catching my pick on the raised posts. I’m sure that’s more a result of my poor playing technique than anything but it irks me none the less. And as a player that palm mutes a fair amount and rests my pick hand on the bridge, it wasn’t the friendliest resting place. After a few songs the side of my hand was sore as this particular bridge style is a bit sharp. My final “issue” if you will is that the guitar only came with a gig bag. It was a fairly heavy and padded bag, as gig bags go, but I was surprised that a guitar with this pedigree didn’t come with a hard case. Having said that, I have several cases and can attest to the fact that it fit perfectly in a generic hard shell case so that won’t be a terribly expensive remedy. With those gripes out of the way, I loved this neck. Very inviting to play and smooth to get across. To me, it was the highlight of playing the Fender Hendrix Stratocaster.

As always, your opinion is the one that matters most to you so I encourage you to go down to your local Best Buy, grab this baby off the wall and no flipping and restringing required. Just plug it in and see if it is everything you’ve been looking for as only you can make that call. Happy hunting!

See a huge range of guitars, Fender and many other brands, online at Best Buy.

Darren Blakeborough
My day job is as an Assistant Professor in Media and Communication Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. My primary teaching and research interests revolve around popular culture and technology. I am an adequate at best guitar player currently attempting to romanticize my inglorious youth in a Hair Metal cover band called "Glam Chowder”. When not working or watching TV, I am usually listening to music, recording music, playing music, or trying to figure out what gear I need to make all of that music sound even better.


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