The Triad Trick of Jimi Hendrix

The world of guitar music is filled with so many little secrets. For instance, you may hear this lead or rhythm section and like it instantly. However, the moment you try to play it, it just sounds completely off. Even if you dig up the tabs of the song, and even if you dial in a similar type of tone - you still won't be able to reproduce how the original performer or the writer of the song played it.

This is exactly why a guitarist like Jimi Hendrix is still praised even to this day. His songs were filled with so many little secrets, both in terms of technique and tone. You can take your guitar and start playing according to the tabs or sheet music, but there'll always be something "in between the lines" that you just won't be able to get right. One of the examples is his famous triad trick. A very important part of his playing style, this trick, later on, found its way into the world of rock music and with other guitar players, including Red Hot Chili Peppers' John Frusciante. It's a very useful little trick Hendrix used to grab the listener's attention without them even noticing what he's actually doing.

So let us see, what is exactly this unique-sounding triad trick?

It's actually very simple

What's really special about Hendrix's playing was that his approach was, many times, pretty straightforward, yet very effective and innovative. This is exactly the case with the triad trick we're talking about here. It was mostly used in the songs with fairly simple chord progressions where Hendrix would just want to keep things a little more interesting instead of playing the boring old bar chords.

For instance, when playing a major chord, Hendrix would sometimes slide up from the root note up to the major third and play the chord's first inversion. So, for instance, if the chord chart says that you're supposed to play an E major chord, you play the regular bar chord shape and then slide it up to F# with your third finger (major 3rd interval in this case) and play it along with B and E notes.

How does this work in action? For instance, imagine that you're playing the D major bar chord with the root note on the 5th string on the 5th fret. After playing the chord, use your third finger to slide up from 7th to 9th fret on the 5th string, and then add the 4th and 3rd strings on the 7th fret. On top of all this, Hendrix often did hammer-ons on, adding the 6th interval. In this case, you do a hammer-on on the 4th string, from 7th to 9th fret with the 3rd finger, all while playing the D note on the third string.

It might seem a little tricky at first, but you'll get used to it quickly. Of course, the same trick can be done with minor chords. Just slide it up three frets and play the first inversion of the chord. However, in Hendrix's case, and in many other cases, it was mostly about major chords.

The trick can be heard in a song like "Hey Joe." When transitioning in between the chords, Hendrix used it to make things a little more interesting. After all, strumming along in one stereotypical pattern can get quite boring.


It's easiest to use this trick in some of the standard chord progressions played on clean or slightly overdriven guitar. While there are cases when it can be used with distortion, it's usually not advisable to do it on high-gain settings. This triad trick can also sound great on single-coil pickups, especially on the neck position.

As for the examples, it's pretty useful when going from the first to the fourth chord in a given key. For instance, in the key of C major, you play it after transitioning from C major chord to F major chord. In some cases, you can even use it after going from 1st to 6th chord, in this case from C major to A minor.

Overall, this is one of the easiest ways to add some variation and improvise while playing rhythm. But while this trick might be fun and easy to use, try not to overdo it. Insert it here and there, while passing in between the two chords in the progression.

After all, Hendrix was well-known for adding things subtly and tastefully in his music. The best idea is to listen to his music and try to implement it in a similar manner. It will take some time, but it's just one of those things that you'll get used to after a while and start doing naturally.

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