Little Wing Analysis

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Analysis coursework on ‘Little Wing’

From the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 album “Axis: Bold as Love”, Little Wing has arguably become one of their most celebrated songs, and can perhaps be said to be Hendrix’s most endearing ‘ballad’. This essay will attempt to analyse how aspects of the music have given it such an admirably distinct character. The sound is somewhat determined by the ‘rock trio’ instrumentation, and the most defining aspect is arguably Hendrix’s guitar playing. Hendrix’s guitar was tuned a semitone down for the recording, and this had the effect of creating a denser tone than would be produced normally, and made certain guitar techniques easier. Through this and other sound-shaping processes, such as assumedly choosing his Stratocaster’s neck or middle pickup to give a ‘warm’ tone, keeping the sound ‘clean’, and using the ‘Octavia’ effects pedal [Brown 1997: 163; Sievert 1989], Hendrix produced a rich tone for the rhythm guitar part. The Leslie Speaker [Brown 1997: 160,163; Kramer & McDermott 1992] that Jimi ran both his guitar [Ogunjobi 2008: 110, 111] and voice through has a prominent effect upon the mix, more obviously upon the vocals. The voice mostly sounds in front of the listener in the stereo image, but the speaker makes a part of the signal flicker to the right. In conjunction with a slight phasing [Brown 1997: 163; Kramer & McDermott 1992] of the signal, the split vocal sounds slightly out of time with itself, and the overall effect gives the voice a delicate, ethereal quality, which is complimented by the timbre of the glockenspiel. The tonal centre of the song is eb, and the form is five repetitions of the same harmonic structure, with the last repetition fading out after four bars. The opening cycle is just guitar and glockenspiel, until a drum fill in bar 10 signifies the approach of verse 1. This contrasts with Sting’s and Derek and the Dominoes’ versions, which fade in straight to a verse and begin with a full-band...
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