The “Hendrix Chord”

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Such is the legend and influence of Jimi Hendrix that the man actually has a chord nicknamed after him. Imagine that. As far as we know, no other rock guitarist has been so honored.

Dubbed “the Hendrix chord” by the many guitarists who use it, it is an extended dominant 7th chord with an augmented (sharpened) ninth. This chord form got its nickname because it was a favorite of Hendrix, who did a great deal to popularize its use in mainstream rock music.

The most famous example of his use of it is the E7#9 chord around which his signature hit, “Purple Haze,” is built. One could argue convincingly that “Purple Haze” owes much of its sonic identity and appeal to its author’s choice of the more tonally colorful E7#9 chord voicing rather than a more straightforward E major or E7 chord.

“Purple Haze” starts with the mounting tension of its famously staccato tritone intro; a tension that is explosively released when the Experience launches into the body of the song with Hendrix blasting out a raw and aggressively bluesy E7#9 chord. The chord is also implied throughout “Foxy Lady.” Both it and “Purple Haze” were included on the U.S. version of the landmark debut album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967’s Are You Experienced. Later, Hendrix also used the chord on live versions of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”

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