Purple Haze, by Jimi Hendrix – How to Play

purple hazeLook for Jimi's tricks and inventiveness, as you learn how to play his classic Purple Haze, which introduced the world to his amazing talent, back in the '60s.

Purple Haze was written by Jimi Hendrix in 1967 for the record “Are You Experienced.” This was the first single by The Jimi Hendrix Experience that was written by the band. An earlier single titled “Hey Joe” was (possibly) written by Billy Roberts, but Purple Haze became an instant hit and introduced the world to Jimi’s amazing playing, inventiveness, and psychedelic imagery.

We can hear Jimi’s Fuzz Face and Octavia pedals in this song, in addition to tricks such as the way he recorded some of his guitar at a slower speed so that when he played it back at normal speed it produced very high notes not otherwise possible on the guitar.

Key and Scale

Purple Haze is tuned down ½ step to D#.

This song is in E Minor Aeolian, which is created from the G Major scale. The E Minor Blues scale is created from the E Minor Aeolian and that’s where Jimi gets most of the notes for his solos.

E Minor Aeolian = E, F#, G, A, B, C, D
G Major = G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
E Minor Blues = E, G, A, A#, B, D

Purple Haze – parts and analysis

This song only has one real section of music that repeats, but there are a few additional bits that we need to take a look at.

Intro

Part 1

For the first part of the Intro, Jimi plays two bars of A# octaves over the Bass Guitar that is playing E octaves. This creates an Eb5 chord that quickly creates tension and leads into the song’s opening. (Fig. 1) This is very similar to the technique of starting a song on the 5th chord.

Figure – 1

For the next part of the Intro the Bass stays the same, but Jimi starts to play his famous guitar lick. It is eight bars long and is a sort of ”question and answer” type of guitar melody. Let’s break it up into two parts to take a look at it.

Part 2

In this part the first two bars repeat, to make the first four-bar section. Because the first note of the melody is B, the guitar melody can be considered to be in the Mixolydian Mode. (Fig 2)

Figure – 2

Part 3

For the second four-bar section, the same melody is modulated and brought to a conclusion. These four bars introduce some bending and may take a few tries to get right. (Fig 3)

Figure – 3

Verse

The Verse section of Purple Haze is 13 bars long and is the same for each Verse in the song. The first 10 bars is a repeating section of two bars. Let’s take a look at it now. (Fig. 4)

Figure – 4

Let’s take another look at those chords. (Fig 5)

Figure – 5

The first chord in the set is an E Major 7 #9 that has come to be known as the “Hendrix Chord.” It was seldom used in Rock before Hendrix, and it mostly is considered a Jazz chord, even today. For the next three chords, Jimi uses his thumb to play the bottom note on the sixth string, and his fingers to play the other notes. Using the thumb to play chords is another thing that Jimi Hendrix made popular.

The last three bars of the next section can be considered the “Turnaround.” It consists of an E note, followed by a long pause (five beat rest), while Jimi exclaims something like “Scuse me while I kiss the sky!” followed by a two-bar run with similar notes to the opening guitar part. Let’s take a look at that part now. (Fig 6)

Figure – 6

Guitar Solo

After the second verse the Guitar Solo begins and it is played for 11 bars. These 11 bars introduce a new chord progression that we will break up into two parts: the Pre-Solo and the Solo. Jimi covers most of the neck of the guitar in the Solo, really showcasing his vast knowledge of the fretboard. The Solo mainly uses notes from the E Minor Blues scale but there are some notes from the E Dorian scale thrown in. (Fig 7)

Pre-Solo

The first three bars is a sort of Pre-Solo that Jimi uses to launch his Solo. The first two bars are a continuation, or a modulation, of the Turnaround in the verse. We can see that the finger pattern is different, and higher up the neck, but still very similar to the Turnaround in the verse. The chord progression under these three bars is A Major, B Minor, followed by D Major, while Jimi begins his Solo. The Guitar Solo continues for seven more bars while the chord progression switches to a two-bar progression that repeats three and a half times. The progression has us play one bar of E Minor, two beats of F# Minor and two beats of of D Major. (Fig 10)

Figure – 7

Purple Haze Song Structure

Once you have all of these parts down, you can play the whole song, minus the Solo.

This is how it goes:
A = Intro Part 1
B = Intro Part 2 and Part 3
C = Verse
D = Guitar Solo

Purple Haze = A B C C D C C

Here is the Tab (Fig 8 – Fig 15)

Chart

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