Achieving the John Mayer sound

John Mayer is a very influential guitarist currently, and many people compare him to the likes of Hendrix and SRV so I will do a brief article on his sound too, being a big fan of his. John Mayer is unique in that unlike Hendrix or SRV, he achieved mainstream success based on his acoustic playing and his voice. Later he transitioned over to more of an electric guitar sound.

The Sound

John Mayer uses several different guitars. I’ve seen him use a Gibson SG, an ES-335, but most of the time he plays a Fender Stratocaster. He owns several, the ones that are consistent recently seem to be his Black One and his Hendrix Monterey Strat. His early signature guitar had pickups that had scooped midrange but his Black One seems to have lower output pickups (I assume 5.0k-6.0k) which gets him more of the tone from his amp. His acoustic guitar is a Martin and he has a signature guitar with that company as well.

John Mayer plays with boutique amps. He uses Victoria Amps, Dumbles and Two-Rocks.

The Effects

John Mayer uses many effects, including many vintage and boutique ones. He often uses Keeley modified Tubescreamers, and Blues Drivers, Keeley Katana as well as Teese wahs and Fulltone effects.

Playing Like John Mayer

John Mayer has a unique style that can only be described as a cross between Eric Clapton and SRV. It’s important to have the rhythm down in his songs. In songs such as Stop this train and Neon, he often uses his thumb to lay down a thump-thump beat while he plays the melody. The beat of his thumb on the low E string keeps the rhythm.
Other songs such as St Patricks Day uses a lot of chords that is difficult to change to, and I’m sure John Mayer himself simplifies some of them live. It’s important to practice these songs, especially when singing at the same time.

On his electric songs, his melodic songs require a soft Clapton-esque approach while his blues tunes like Who did you think I was plays almost like a SRV blues tune. It’s obvious that Mayer is very influenced by SRV; when he plays songs live like Gravity, he stretches the solo out SRV-style. Overall though, It’s more important to be precise than to be a showman – John Mayer rarely misses a note.

Equipment Links

Fender John Mayer Signature Stratocaster
Martin JM Acoustic
Two-Rock Mayer Signature
Victoria 50212
Fulltone FullDrive 2
Teese Wah RMC1
Boss DD-5
Keeley Katana