Drum Transcription: “Little Wing” — Mitch Mitchell with The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Posted on August 2, 2020
This week we’ve got a full song transcription: “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix.
I really got into Hendrix during the spring semester of my senior year in high school, and as I dove into Mitch’s playing, I poked around online for some drum sheet music. This was back when I assumed the average drummer on the internet knew what they were doing when it came to transcribing (or really when it came to anything).
I found some sheet music for “Little Wing”, which was, uh, pretty not great. About 2 years later, something inspired me to do my own take on the song in its entirety. The transcription I had found could at least give me a head start, and since the song is barely two and a half minutes, the project didn’t take me long.
“Little Wing” has a lot of moves typical for Mitch, namely swung sixteenth notes mixed with some straight 32nd note fills around the kit. There’s also the gag where Mitch leaves the hi–hat open and closes it on the backbeats, which he was a big fan of using on slower tracks (you can hear the same thing in the first minute of “Hey Joe”).
It’s pretty well–known that there are 2 extra beats snuck into the verses, although it can be difficult to notice unless you count out the song. Where these extra beats are is debatable, but if we follow the progression, each phrase ends with 2 beats of C and 4 beats of D.* I think that makes it clear.
One of Mitch’s most famous licks is heard around the 1:04 mark:
He plays variations of this fill on many Hendrix tunes, but with how slow this song is, the pattern here has a much different lope to it.
A personal favorite lick of mine occurs just before the fade–out starts, at 2:07. It’s this linear, Bonham triplet style fill played as straight sixteenths:
I suspect the sticking Mitch used alternates between right and left–hand leads: RLKL RKRL KLRK RLK. Fun stuff. There are a lot of cool fills on this tune, and I suppose I could have just done the fills, but whatever. Like I said, the tune isn’t even two and a half minutes long.
I only hear two toms on “Little Wing”: a rack tom and a floor tom. The floor tom is tuned up pretty high which threw me off a little bit, but I’m pretty sure there’re just two toms on this track. It’s not easy to get a handle on Mitch’s kits — they’re not well documented and I suspect he jumped around setups at will, even on the same album. Mitch’s legendary “Voodoo Child” performance has him playing on a four–tom, double bass kit that almost certainly never made it into the studio.
I noticed that during the fade–out, Mitch uses an open hi–hat almost like a crash. Mitch had a funny way of crashing; he would often crash very gingerly, and sometimes he would substitute a crash cymbal for a ride tap (or in this case, an open hi–hat).
That’s about it for this one. Maybe one of these days I’ll work out the glockenspiel part…
* ↑ Well, technically, the chords are pushed down a half-step, so they would be something like B and C#. But nobody thinks of it like that.
“Little Wing” on Songwhip.