Hendrix chord on guitar: HOW to use it!

Jul 28, 2023

Learn the Jimi Hendrix chord, how to play it, and how to apply it in chord progressions on guitar. Simple step-by-step instruction with an easy formula!

If you want to learn the “Hendrix chord” (the 7#9 chord) on guitar and HOW to use it so it fits-  without having to look at song after song and analysis, then this is for YOU! You will not only learn the chords inside-out, but how to set it up in a series of chords for maximum effect- and sound like you really know what you’re doing on guitar!

Let’s dive in…

You’re going to learn:  

  • The 7#9 chord (AKA: The “Hendrix chord”)
  • 2 important progressions to use the chord with
  • Lead guitar “fills” in between the chord
  • Notes/scale tones that FIT the chord to add melody
  • How to make it the main chord (root chord) & how to make it a chord that sounds tense to drive it home

Guitarists who should learn this and why

  1. If you know the Hendrix chord but you’re not sure how to put it into your playing- this article will show you!
  2. If you have limited time to learn a lot of classic Hendrix songs, this will maximize your time as well as your practice so you can sneak it into YOUR playing.
  3. If you like Hendrix-style and want some of his elements in YOUR playing, without having to be an advanced guitar player.
  4. If you aren’t into theory, but just want some practical use of the Hendrix chord/sound to add some zazz to your guitar playing.
  5. If you’re into: rock/blues/funk/neo-soul or R&B guitar!

THE CHORD! (7#9 “Hendrix chord”) 

To get started, below are some EASIER voicings for it in E.

Above: the mostly widely known & used. You can also add the open thickest string (Low E) in the bass for mobility to move chord-to-chord and to beef it up or play it as above. (USE? Sure: “Purple Haze”)

The notes we need (in E) are: E, G, G#, B and you can use D (the b7th). The chord is heard a lot in jazz and fusion, and there’s its roots. The clash of G and G# give it its cool tension. 

When it comes to using distortion, 4 string chord voicings for this chord sound good, as it’s not too much of a wash of noise…

Here are a few more voicings below…then, let’s APPLY IT!

learn at least one in the lower neck range

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Step 1: the Hendrix chord in a progression (example 1 below)

Let’s walk through exercise one ABOVE (also refer to the video below!)

We have a setup with the Hendrix chord (7#9) in a blues-based I-IV-V. Root E being the I, A the IV and B the V. Since you introduce the listener to the tense 7#9, making the A and the B 13th chords sound fitting. These are all “extensions” instead of a typical blues going E7, A7, B7. Not using voicings with 6 strings allows notes to punch through with more clarity instead of a harsh jumbled wash of 6 strings.

Now, we’ll talk scales/notes that FIT each chord in a simple formula! Example 1 below uses each chord’s minor pentatonic from the root (for E7#9 then, E minor pentatonic). Not only does that fit, but it has that cool G note within the scale, so it compliments the chord- and, you guessed it, it’s the Hendrix formula for lead fills! Now when we move to A and B we take THEIR OWN pentatonic root (A minor pentatonic for A and then the same treatment for B).

A great way to learn musicality with BOTH the chords and the scale notes is a “template” as I call it. In the example, I take the same high-to-low sequence down the scale and use that with the next chord (in this case, descending down). This will get you comfortable with adding melody alongside the chords.

(For phrasing, reference the videos at the bottom of the article)

Step 2: Expand the progression and add melody/lead fills!

Now we expand with example 2 above

Now the Hendrix chord is used as the TENSE BITE at the end. Its tension wants to resolve in harmony to the first chord, the A. In this instance, you use E as the V chord of the A. Instead of a common use of E7, add more bite with the 7#9 and it drives it home to A even harder! Very cool. 

Example 2 above sets up a I (A) IV (D) and V (E) in which E is there to steer it back to A! How it works is the A resolves to the D, and the E back to A! In this case, to spice it up: the E7#9 is there- much more far out sounding than standard stock E7.

Example 2 below uses Hendrix and R&B along with some soul musings- double stops (2-note chords), and some phrasing for the sake of lead fills (for thrills)!

The premise for the progression is a common rock formula: beat I sets up the chord and beats 2-4 tell a little story about it. 

The example above has A major pentatonic over A, and D major pentatonic over D for that down-home sweet sound. Then you come rip-roaring in with the E7#9 and some nasty gnarly tension, and use E minor pentatonic! 

(For phrasing, reference the videos at the bottom of the article)

Takeaway value & NEXT STEPS

After you have gotten the two exercises down, you’re on your way. If you can’t remember all the notes: AT LEAST remember the chord progressions and how they work.

Next add the scales alongside those chords so they stick with you. 

Next, move the concepts to other keys. Then, put the 7#9 in place of 7th chords you play/encounter in songs & arrangements (i.e. instead of E7-A, use E7#9-A).

At that point you’re primed and ready to get serious and do a deep dive into R&B and Soul- the roots of a lot of Hendrix’s playing. And of course, you can apply that to your rock to your funk! 

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Video playthroughs and walkthroughs of the examples 👇👇👇

example 1
example 2

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