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Learn To Play Jimi Hendrix Hey Joe

Updated on December 15, 2015

Hey Joe - The Genius of Jimi Hendrix

Listening to the great Jimi Hendrix was overwhelming to a kid learning guitar long before TABs but we all knew he was special. Sadly Hendrix's blaze of glory was far too short and he left the world too young... Hey Joe is one of Jimi Hendrix's best loved songs, and here I show you some beginner chords and licks to "busk" Hey Joe for yourselves and some resources for the more skilled players among you! Have fun....

Intro photo and music graphics are my own. Please do not copy.

Guitar Chords for Hey Joe - Play Hey Joe Guitar Chords

Hey Joe Chords
Hey Joe Chords

The graphic I have made for you shows you the simplest way to play the chords of Hey Joe. Jimi Hendrix played with several versions of each chord of course and never played it the same way twice, so remember this is a version for beginners and buskers and don't come after me with a gun in your hand. If you play with the recording you may have to detune. Hendrix often played with his strings tuned a semitone down to make bending easier. The tuning is variable, but usually would be Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb rather than E, A, D, G, B, E standard tuning.

Hendrix performing Hey Joe - Jimi Hendrix on French TV

Hendrix was probably the most influential guitarist of all time! Here in the video we see Jimi Hendrix chat backstage with band members before playing what seems to be a standard version of Hey Joe for French TV. He is using a Flying Vee - a very different guitar from his usual reverse strung stratocaster - in this extract.

I have taught many people how to play Jimi Hendrix songs. Would you like to learn to play Hey Joe? It is a classic song from Jimi Hendrix but how do you play it? Jimi Hendrix burst onto the scene when I was a beginner on the guitar. Hey Joe was the debut single for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but it was written by Scottish folksingers in 1956!

Hey Joe Lyrics

These lyrics are provided for educational purposes only

Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your...

Hey Joe, I said where you goin' with that gun in your hand

I'm goin' down to shoot my ol' lady

You know, I've caught her messin' 'round with another man

I'm goin' down to shoot my ol' lady

You know, I've caught her messin' 'round with another man

Huh! And that ain't too cool

Hey Joe, I've heard you shot your woman down,

shot her down, now

Hey Joe, I've heard you shot your old lady down,

You shot her down to the ground


Yes I did, I shot her

You know, I caught her messin' round, messin' round town

Uh, yes I did, I shot her

You know, I caught my old lady messin' 'round town

And I gave her the gun



Shoot her one more time, baby

Yeah! Oh Dig it

Oh alright

Hey Joe,

Where you gonna run to now?

Where you gonna run to?

Hey Joe, where you gonna run to now?

Where you, where you gonna go?

Well, dig it

I'm goin' way down south,

Way down to Mexico way


I'm goin' way down south,

Way down where I can be free

Ain't no one gonna find me

Ain't no hangman gonna,

He ain't gonna put a rope around me

You better believe it right now

I gotta go now

Hey Joe, you better run on down

Goodbye, everybody

Hey Joe, uhh

Run on down

Jazz Influences on Hey Joe

Hey Joe and the Cycle of Fifths

The chords for this song very cleverly use the Cycle of Fifths. In a world used to 12 Bar Blues and Pop Turnarounds, this blew our minds away. Jazz uses this type of chord progression all the time and the chords were probably drawn from that jazz influence!

The Cycle of Fifths is called that, because each chord is five notes away from the last!

C d e f G

G a b c D

D e f g A

A b c d E

This gives the song a relentless feeling of tension as it moves further and further away from the starting key....

Visit Jimi Hendrix MP3 Store

More about Hey Joe

Plus some great beginner guitar pages

Hey Joe is thought to have been written in 1956 by Billy Roberts and Scottish folk singer Len Partridge when they were performing on the Edinburgh folk circuit It was registered for copyright in 1962 by Billy Roberts well before before Hendrix recorded it. Hundreds of musicians have recorded Hey Joe, the earliest known commercial recording was by The Leaves in 1965 and following this The Jimi Hendrix Experience had a very successful cover version in 1966. It was Jimi Hendrix debut single! The story tells the song of a man who shoots his wife in a fit of jealousy and runs away to Mexico...

You can read more here....

Who wrote Hey Joe?

As a professional guitar tutor I have taught people to play all of these songs and many more. I recommend the transcribed version for sale if you want to play seriously, but for beginners I do hope you have found this page useful and will perhaps visit some of my other pages here and elsewhere.

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Chromatic Runs for Hey Joe - Hendrix Style Run for Hey Joe

Chromatic runs for Hey Joe style study
Chromatic runs for Hey Joe style study | Source

Again, Hendrix played this song differently every time he graced the stage, this is a series of runs that works really well as a left hand warm up. You play each run in position using all four fret hand fingers for best effect. It works really well with the song!

Please let us know about it here. Thanks for calling in! :)

Do you have a favourite Hendrix song? - Can you play Hey Joe?

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    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      8 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      A Truly Great guitarist, I liked Purple Haze and All Along The Watch Tower. Nice Lens and very informative.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Another classic for every guitarist to keep in their repertoire. Great lens.

    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 

      9 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Love Jimi"s music. I'm sorry he couldn't be with us longer.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Awesome, I have this as double 'b' side with All Along The Watchtower on Voodoo Child 45 vinyl priced in UK 'old' money at Two Shillings and Sixpence. My favourite a tie between VC, Little Wing, and Purple Haze.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very niche! I love lenses on a single song. They seem to do well, plus there are probably all kinds of budding guitar players out there that would want some tips on playing this song. Added to Nail that Niche challenge for July.

    • profile image

      callinsky lm 

      10 years ago

      This is a great lens. I will save it as a favorite so my son can check it out. He plays guitar all the time. I can't get him to do much else. (O;


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