The Secrets of Jimi Hendrix's Guitar Setup...

Nobody knows the ins and outs of Jimi Hendrix's guitar sound like Roger Mayer.

Mayer had already worked with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck and produced a number of different fuzz boxes by the time he met Hendrix at a gig at the Bag Of Nails pub in London. The two hit it off and Mayer showed Hendrix his Octavia, a unit that added an octave overtone to the original note. Hendrix loved the sound and used it on the solo to "Purple Haze."

"After that we became close friends and started hanging out; and as they say, the rest is history," Mayer says.

He went on to look after Hendrix's gear both live and in the studio, gaining a unique understanding of his requirements, playing style and working methods. Today Mayer produces a range of pedals that take his original designs into the 21st century.

Mayer says an important part of Hendrix's sound was due to his use of carefully selected string gauges, which evened out the guitar's response from string to string.

"First of all, we weren't using a flat-radius fretboard," Mayer says. "We were using the normal one, not the very high radius but definitely curvy. The actual strings we used were not what people would expect. The string gauges would run .010, .013, .015, .026, .032 and .038.

The big difference there is that you're using the .015 for the third, because if you use the .017 for the third, the actual sound of the guitar is very G-heavy. The electrical output of the strings is dependent on the square of the diameter; if you square all the diameters and look at them, you can get much more of an idea about the balance of the guitar.

"You should always remember that, because many, many times people use a set of strings that are completely imbalanced and they just don't sound that good. Most people would say a .010 to .013 is the correct jump. And the .015 is much better for the G than a .017. An .015 squares out at .225 and .017 is 289. So you're going to get 28 percent more output just with a two-pound different in string size."

Although Hendrix used a custom string gauge, Mayer certainly didn't mess with the stock pickups in his Strats. He didn't feel the need.