Voodoo Child is one of the biggest hits played by Jimi Hendrix. The opening riff is perhaps one of the best guitar riffs in rock ‘n’ roll music history. If you’re a guitar player, you may ask yourself the following question.
Is Voodoo Child hard to play?
Voodoo Child is, technically speaking, not that hard to play on a guitar. Every intermediate guitarist has enough skill to learn it. However, it is very hard to make it sound just right. You can learn it, part by part, very quickly but it takes a lot of time to play it with ease and confidence. And that’s the crucial thing.
Jimi Hendrix is known as the best guitarist of all times. That’s why every song played by Jimi Hendrix is NOT easy, no matter how easy it seems, in terms of technicality. He could play a simple chord, or a simple string bend. Still, the way he plays it is not easy to copy.
The same goes for this song – Voodoo Child. In this article we’re going to analyze every guitar technique used in this song. Let’s go!
Without the skill of playing a vibrato on your guitar, you can forget about this song. Vibrato plays a crucial role throughout the whole song.
You need to have strong fingers and very confident attitude to do a proper vibrato in this context. Test yourself before playing this. See how your vibrato sounds like. If it sounds dull and if it doesn’t excite you in any way, you need to practice it more.
And that’s not just confined to this song. In general, you have to be able to perform vibrato with ease and confidence when you play guitar. Without vibrato, every guitar playing sounds boring, lifeless and dull.
So, the bottom line is this: Learn vibrato. Practice it a lot. Even if you know how to perform vibrato, practice it anyway. It is an integral technique used in this song.
Here, take a look at this video lesson, just to remind yourself how to practice this crucial technique.
Another crucial technique without which one cannot play Voodoo Child is string bending. String bending is used not only in the opening riff, but also throughout the whole song.
String bending is technique that goes hand to hand with vibrato. To be able to perform proper string bending, you have to have a strong fingers.
Many guitar beginners struggle with this technique. That’s because guitar beginners don’t have developed strength in their fingers yet. Make sure you develop your fingers’ strength by practicing it every day.
I encourage you to take a look at this related article. I’m sure you’ll find valuable information in it.
Voodoo Child is a song in which you can notice something interesting. What? Well, Jimi Hendrix plays it in a way that it sounds like he is both rhythm and lead player at the same time.
He plays chords, slides and riffs in one moment, and then in another moment he plays solos, licks on the higher strings.
So basically, in this song you have quick changes between lower strings and higher strings. To do that properly, you have to have developed dexterity.
Jumping from first few frets on lower strings to higher frets on higher strings requires certain amount of finger dexterity and confidence.
Luckily, there’s one famous exercise for dexterity development. It is called a spider exercise. Take a look at it. Do it every day for 5 to 10 minutes. Quickly, after a week or so, you’ll notice how your playing transforms (in a good way).
Sliding on a guitar string is perhaps on of the easier techniques used in this song. Practice it every day. Sliding requires some level of finger strength and dexterity.
We already mentioned how to develop dexterity. Along with spider exercise, and vibrato exercise, practice sliding. It is fun, and it fits very well with other techniques.
There is many soloing in this song. Alternate picking is, along with legato, the most common guitar technique when it comes to soloing.
Make sure you know how to employ this technique in your guitar playing. Without it, you cannot perform a good solo, especially the Voodoo Child solo.
Legato consists of hammer on’s and pull off’s. Jimi Hendrix uses these heavily in his guitar playing. To perform hammer on’s and pull off’s correctly, you have to develop strength in your fingers.
Guitar beginners often struggle with this. Their hammer on’s and pull off’s sound too quiet, or too weak in general. Finger gym exercise is the best exercise for this technique.
Just keep in mind you don’t overdo it. 10 minutes a day is enough. Anything more than that will make your fingers sore.
Pentatonic scale is a ‘must know’ scale in guitar world. Nearly every rock ‘n’ roll song relies on pentatonic scale. In this case, Jimi is using a standard minor pentatonic scale. The scale has only five notes.
From that scale, every riff is derived. Not only riffs, but solos as well are played using only this scales. Knowing how to use pentatonic scale means you know to use it throughout the whole guitar fretboard. Make sure you learn positions of the scale.
Palm muting technique is useful when you want to stop your guitar from ringing. Without proper palm muting, you’ll sound muddy and noisy.
Palm muting will give your playing sense of control and stability. Those are ingredients for sounding confident when you play.
Tone Pots + Pedals
Voodoo Child tone is very peculiar and authentic. To get it, you’ll have to use certain pedals. For start, let’s just mention the fuzz effect that’s being used.
In this case, I think the Dunlop’s fuzzface pedal is perfect. It’s because you’re getting both the fuzz effect and the 60’s vintage tone and vibe, that’s perfect for Voodoo Child. Check it out on Amazon for more info.
Another effect that’s being used in Voodoo Child is delay. For the best delay, I recommend you to check out MXR carbon copy analog delay pedal. It is great because it really blends together with high gained, dirty and fuzzy tone. Check it on Amazon for more info.
When it comes to amp settings, remember to set high reverb, add some bass up to 6 or 7 and overall output volume to 7. It varies from amp to amp, so you should tweak it a bit until you find the sweet spot.
Here are some general tips for mastering this song quickly.
Play With Pentatonics
It’s been stated already – pentatonics is a ‘must know’ scale. Yes, you can copy the solo of Voodoo Child note by note, but it doesn’t make sense if you don’t know what you’re playing and why you’re playing it.
Knowledge of pentatonics will make your soloing so much better. Use your practice time to learn some typical Jimi Hendrix pentatonic licks. Then you’ll start to notice why you’re playing what you’re playing.
Dexterity is perhaps the most important aspect of guitar playing. Dexterity means accuracy, precision and confidence. You can learn how to play something, but if you’re not accurate, you’ll sound sloppy, tight and weak.
Dexterity is what most guitarists struggle with throughout their learning process. To improve your dexterity, you should practice spider exercise. Here, take a look at the video showing the exercise. It takes only 10 to 15 minutes a day of practicing spider exercise to notice improvement in one week or two.
Taking a rest is equally important as practicing guitar regularly. When you feel like you’re hands are not listening to you, then you should rest a day or two from guitar.
Your body and your mind need a time of rest in order to process and adopt all of the new information acquired by playing. That way you’re giving you’re body a time for relaxation.
Don’t overdo practice. Whenever you feel either soreness in your fingers, or tightness in your playing, take a rest.
Train Your Ear
Every advanced guitarist has a great ear. You have to train your ear to make yourself less dependent on tabs and other helping tools.
Especially in this case. Jimi Hendrix, the best guitarist of all time, surely didn’t have tabs back in the day. Those great guitarists only listened to the radio and played guitar based on what they’d heard.
By training your ear, you’ll make your own “map”, you’ll improve your authenticity. It’s often an overlooked advice. Don’t rely on tabs. Just play guitar and use your ear only.
I hope this article gave you a valuable information and tips on Voodoo Child. If you enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it, I’m more than happy about it.
Don’t forget to check out other interesting, guitar related articles on this site.
Cheers, and rock on!