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50 years agoThe wild guitar god: virtuoso, innovator, trade mark

Half a century ago, one of the most influential guitarists of all time died: Jimi Hendrix. No one else’s electric guitar playing was as innovative and revolutionary as his — many IP rights are related to the artist.

Until his early death on 18 September 1970, he would be changing the history of the instrument and of rock music forever. Jimi Hendrix became a trade mark long ago — literally: His name is protected at the DPMA (DE30232623).

Hendrix’s unique guitar playing was based not only on virtuosic skills but also on a lot of then new technologies he either was the first to use or he used like no one else. The guitarist was also experimenting with sounds: He used and combined all available effects in the recording studio and on the stage and created new ones.

Whammy bar and wah effect

His preferred e-guitar was the Fender Stratocaster (see for example US4803906A), which he did not mind smashing or setting aflame on the stage. One of its technical features was the vibrato bar (DE1297970A). Hendrix was the first to max out the sounds made possible by the whammy bar and to make this an important element of his guitar playing style. His famous rendition of the national anthem of the United States at the Woodstock festival — unthinkable without this patent! By the way, the vibrato bar is still being further improved today (see for example DE202019000687U1).

Hendrix also made the wah-wah pedal popular (DE1264225A, “Tone regulator for the creation of the wah effect” (Klangreglerschaltung zur Darstellung des Jauleffekts). The effect can be heard in the intro of “Voodoo Chile”, for example.

Hendrix’s legacy

To copy his complex sound, Hendrix’s countless imitators used to have to face the arduous task of buying his line-up – guitar, effects units, amp, speakers – from different sources. Thanks to technical innovations, it is possible today to copy his analogue sound digitally. Modelling allows digital signal processors to be used for the creation of the typical sound characteristics of certain amplifiers, effects pedals and guitars at the push of a button with one device.

Hendrix’s guitar maker Fender presented a digital module for the versatile use of e-guitars and receiving devices long ago (US7678985B2). Other manufacturers offer, for example, a programmable amp pedalboard that provides the guitarist with freely selectable digital effects and switching functions on the stage (US8957297B2). Even the audio feedback effect, excessively used by Hendrix, can be generated by synthesisers today (DE102015002381B4).

These and all other technical innovations in rock music are easy to search in DEPATISnet, the electronic document archive of the DPMA.