Was Jimi Hendrix’s Ambidexterity the Key to His Virtuosity?

Instead of “virtuosity” I would say “genius” … a very interesting article from Sean Michaels in the Guardian:

Was Jimi Hendrix’s ambidexterity the secret to his talent? This is the question explored in a new paper by psychologist Stephen Christman (via TwentyFourBit), who argues that Hendrix’s versatility informed not just his guitar-playing – but his lyrics too.

According to Christman, who is based at the University of Toledo, Hendrix was not strictly left-handed. Although he played his right-handed guitar upside down, and used his left hand to throw, comb his hair and hold cigarettes, Hendrix wrote, ate and held the telephone with his right hand. He was, Christman argues, “mixed-right-handed”. And this “mixed”-ness, signaling better interaction between the left and right hemispheres of the guitarist’s brain, suffused every part of his music.

Hendrix’s special ability, Christman wrote, “enabled him to integrate the actions of his left and right hands while playing guitar, to integrate the lyrics and melodies of his songs, and perhaps even to integrate the older blues and R&B traditions with the emerging folk, rock, and psychedelic sounds of the 60s”. Certainly the guitarist’s technical virtuosity is clear. Christman points to Hendrix’s technique on songs like Still Raining, Still Dreaming, “where Hendrix uses his right hand to play an intricate series of bends and slides, while his left hand, in between plucking the strings, uses the pickup selector to switch back and forth between the treble and bass pickups”.

Read More in the Guardian

5 Comments on "Was Jimi Hendrix’s Ambidexterity the Key to His Virtuosity?"

  1. Jimi Hendrix was pretty up front about his music being influenced by LSD and his first single, “purple haze” was about said chemical. This is where the idea for extended feedback squalls came from, and in my mind, most of the innovation he brought to the instrument. I think this had more to do with it than him being ambidextrous. The main reason I mention this is because in Seattle, we have the EMP, which has an enormous Jimi Hendrix exhibit. In this exhibit LSD isn't even mentioned because of it's illegality and controversial nature. Kurt Cobain's songwriting was inspired by heroin. To quote Bill Hicks: “drugs have done some good things for us.” Deal with it.

    • Word Eater | Feb 26, 2010 at 12:37 pm |

      As an aspiring writer, I only wish I had the balls to drop some acid. Hallucinogens in particular have given us fantastical advances in science as well as art.

      • mikoolayd | Mar 3, 2010 at 8:49 am |

        Maybe neurologically LSD helped him achieve the left brain-right brain balance, since psychedelics connect neurons that usually don't connect

  2. tonyviner | Feb 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm |

    When did HBK start writing for The Guardian?

  3. Anonymous | Mar 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm |

    Maybe neurologically LSD helped him achieve the left brain-right brain balance, since psychedelics connect neurons that usually don’t connect

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