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Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix

    Difficulty: Easy – Intermediate

    Genre: Blues/Rock

    For Electric but can be performed on an Acoustic guitar

    One night at one of Jimi’s shows Chas Chandler, a former bass player with the Animals, checked out the show ands was amazed. By the end of the show Chandler had invited Hendrix to London.

    On September 24, 1966 Hendrix arrived in London. Less than two weeks later on October 6, 1966 the Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding playing bass. They quickly recorded Hey Joe and released it at the end of 1966. After five years of hard work Jimi’s breakthrough had arrived.

    Jimi was quickly the hot new name in Britain with Hey Joe at #4 by February of 1967. In January “Purple Haze” and “Wind Cries Mary” were released and became massive hits. In May the band released Are Your Experienced? Which remained #2 through 1967.

    It was now time to introduce the Jimi Hendrix Experience to the U.S. In June the trio played the Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix stole the night with one of his greatest performances ever. With the finale of Hendrix torching his guitar before smashing hit. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was now rising to the top in not only Britain but also the U.S.

    Hey Joe Intro Riff

    The intro is very bluesy.


    After the intro riff is played we begin on a 5 chord progression that repeats over and over for the rest of the song. The C, G, D, A, E progression playfully walks up the neck.

    While the progression is the same, Jimi Hendrix rarely plays the same thing twice. Minor nuances, flurries, and rhythmic alterations keep the progression fresh to the end. We’ll look a little more into the variations Hendrix uses later in the song in future segments of Riff-A-Day. For now let’s take a look at the basic accompaniment provided by Jimi during the 1st verse:

    Break It Down

    You’ll want to pay close attention if you want to play this one as Hendrix did. Let’s take a look at the 1st measure:

    First is the common A shaped barre chord form. It’s called the A shape barre chord, because if it’s played in open position it’s an A chord. If we play it on the 3rd fret (1st finger on 3rd fret of the A string) then it would be transposed to C which is the 1st chord we play in the riff:


    The next chord shape requires the use of your thumb. Yes, I said your thumb! It’s basically a variation of the E shape barre chord that Hendrix almost always used. You wrap your thumb around the fret board and use it to fret the note on the low E string. In this position you should be able to use your thumb to also deaden the 5th string so that it doesn’t ring out:

    By fingering the chord shape this way, Hendrix is able to free up his 4th finger (pinky finger) to add this note to the chord:

    The next measure is the same exact thing as 1st measure EXCEPT it’s all moved up 2 frets. This in fact transposes it to D to A chords instead of C to G chords:

    You should recognize the familiar E open chord in the next measure, followed by a slide up to the 7th fret. Use your 3rd finger to perform this slide so that you can hit the note on the 5th fret of the A string with your 1st finger:

    And here we are at the last measure. Once again, here is the E open chord:

    Riff Resources

    Complete Transcription To “Hey Joe” (PDF)

    Complete Transcription To “Hey Joe” (Power Tab)