John Mayer

Posted: April 14, 2007 in Guitars, Media

Anyone who knows me knows that I really like John Mayer. He led me to Stevie Ray Vaughan and all sorts of other blues and blues/rock cats. Strange that in high school I was a grunge guy who repudiated solos, but now I spend most of my electric guitar time wailing away over a I IV V progression.

J.M. gets plenty of credit as a popster, and seems to be getting more credit as a blues guitarist, but “speaking as a guitarist,” I think he’s got even more sick twisted chops than people give him credit. Consider “Neon,” it’s just so complex in terms of chord voicings, slapped/plucked fingerstyle with syncopated rhythm, and then he sings over it. mayerrig.jpg
John used to play the above setup (a Fender Vibro King flanked by a couple of Two Rocks), but according to Mix his latest setup involves three John Mayer Signature Series Two Rock amp heads and a Dumble Overdrive Special amp head driving three Two Rock 2×12 guitar cabinets and a Leslie cabinet.


His main electric guitar is a strat, he started playing the SRV strat, but now of course has his own signature models. Incidentally, the only other acoustic guitar that drew my attention because of its rich, deep tone, besides my Martin Jumbo Cutaway (I visited several stores and played a variety of brands), was his signature Martin, but I wasn’t gonna settle for second best.

He likes weak pickups because of their increased sensitivity as well as the ability to run the amp at a higher volume so that the power tubes are strained (as opposed to the preamp tubes), adding just shy of overdrive harmonic edges to the tone without being harsh. A layman’s way to define that kind of tone is “It’s a little distorted, but old people would still enjoy it.” He only plays on the amp’s clean channel, and for JM3 used (among others) the following pedals: clean-boost.jpgibanez-tube-screamer.jpg bb.jpg

Sometimes a clean boost, sometimes an Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer or an original Marshall BluesBreaker pedal for preamp distortion. The tube screamer sort of muffles some of the clarity of the amp’s tone, but the Bluesbreaker is a bit more transparent. Anyway, these are just some things off the top of my head–I could go on for days about gear–guitar gear and tone hunting are forests in which you can lose yourself, and still have a good time.

Here’s J.M. testing his Two Rock Signature; he’s just messing with the main progression from “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.” Notice that he’s got no problem playing the rhythm and lead parts together, like another strat-slinger…uh, what was his name? Oh yeah, James Marshall Hendrix. Mayer is on that level as far as I’m concerned–the afro-american vocal qualities of blues leads + jazz chord voicings + pop song structure.

When my skills are complete I’m gonna bring that level of articulation on my instrument to church music.

  1. Sam says:

    That’s what I like to hear dude. When your’e a Jedi Guitar master, you might not even have to move your fingers to play filthy and ostentatious licks. 😀

  2. tdmiller says:

    “I’m the most powerful jedi EVER.”–Vader announces to himself while brushing his teeth, combing his hair, and shaving, all without using his hands.

  3. rdunn says:

    John Mayer could possibly be one of the greatest players ever. He has opened my eyes to a variety of things.

  4. aslan dean says:

    cool deal, bro. that pic of his amps is a bit old. He’s got a different setup these days. His own sig Two-Rock and a Dumble preamp. Less pics these days of the particulars of his pedals. He’s got ’em rackmounted and has a switcher. Except for the RMC wah. Good luck man. Keep jammin’.

  5. goofydawg says:

    I was really into melodic shredders like Satch and Vinnie Moore and Neil Zaza, and never considered John Mayer in that class of guitarist, but he’s now one of my new guitar gods! He may not play the same style, but his feel and articulation for the guitar is just incredible.

  6. ramz says:

    JM also used a keeley modded blues driver on the trio tour, and hordes of delay pedals inc, waay huge aqua puss, Trex digital delay.

  7. Luke says:

    Hi, I just purchased a Jm strat and is interested in getting the whole two rock amp, keeley pedal and the whole deal. can you contact me for more information on getting that JM blues tone?

  8. Stina says:

    I am just learning to play the guitar after many years of simply sitting back and listening. I have always admired SRV, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, etc etc etc. It wasnt until seeing JM live in concert (front row center!) and being completely mesmorized during his “Gravity” solo that I realized it was time for me to learn how to play for myself. I experienced what I lovingly now call “guitar sex”. After his solo I turned to my mom who was there with me and told her that I needed a smoke. That was the defining moment for me.

    I know that I will never be anywhere near that good. But it is time to stop waiting for other people to play for me. It’s time for me to play for myself!

    During this week I will be trying out various guitars at Guitar Centers in Minnesota. I am looking forward to it.

    Keep up the good work.


  9. Brian says:

    I’m not sure about the trio album, but I’m pretty sure that he’s using the Fulltone Fulldriver 2 nowadays…and he uses a Fulltone Tube Tape Echo (#00048 according to their artist raltions section…and Charlie Hunter, who strongly influenced John and recorded “In Repair” with him uses an OCD….I also know that he used the Electro-Harmonix “Pog” on the same song to get that beautiful organ sound….oh and don’t mind that $1200 price tag on the TTE….everyone uses it….from Kiss to Eric Johnson to The Rolling Stones….

  10. Tim says:

    Huh. I thought it was just an organ.

  11. Brian says:

    How he comes up with such a perfect organ sound in that song is amazing. If you get the Village Sessions Acoustic EP, it goes through the whole (one day long) process of creating In Repair with Charlie Hunter and Steve Jordan. Plus, you get to see all of John’s other pedals (which is quite an impressive sight).

  12. Henrik says:

    hi there!
    nice, detailed description of JM´s gear.
    I think he has one the most gorgeous tones out there.

    BUT there´s something I can´t figure out;
    Why is he running his cleanboost BEFORE the other OD´s?
    Maybe to beef up the cleans or drive the other pedals a bit more perhaps?

  13. Ozz says:

    I just discovered that Johns jazzy playing comes straight from charlie hunter’s style. Apparently he’s trying to get some of that into his playing & I absolutely love it. If you havent heard Charlie, you really should. He plays guitar & bass at the same time (on his 8-string) & is really just one of the most incredible musicians ive heard in a long time

  14. Geoffrey says:

    what type of stratocaster is his beaten up one you have a picture of? its’ black with a white pickguard i’ve never seen his or srv’s like it

  15. Antonio says:

    Hey, In this pic he has the cabinets facing the back. Can someone tell me why?

    And Geoffrey, it’s a custom shop model, that they built together, and lower output pickups, smoother tone. Custom shop is always open (for guys willing to spend 5thou) 😦

  16. Nate says:

    I actually have a strat just like his black one for sale. if your interested email me for pics…
    I’m kinda curious about one of his sounds though… youtube the song belief from the crossroads 2007 listen to the solo and “i don’t need no doctor.” he has the od on of coarse but it sounds like he has a fuzz going on in their somewhere too. anyone know anything?

  17. Sammmyboy says:

    I have right to believe that on the crossroads version of ‘Doctor, he uses a Dallas Arbiter or Hendrix Sig Fuzz face. The sound is nearly identical n=and sooo sweet. Gotta get me that Fuzz Face. By the way, I just bought the green MXR GT-OD and it gives the perfect mix of Mayer Trio OD and a slight amount of fuzz. Perfect with my MIM Strat 🙂

  18. Mark says:

    If you like the tone of the Two-rock amplifiers you should also check out Matt Schofield. Equally as good as john Mayer. A true blues virtuoso With unequaled feel. He also uses the Two-Rock custom Reverb Sig which I just purchased myself. Check out..

  19. Chris says:

    If I had to be stranded on a desert island with any guitar player alive or dead I think he would be the one!

    I just love taking apart his tunes and seeing how they work! The man is a monster on this little thing we all love and live for … the GUITAR!

  20. ollie says:

    where can i buy his guitar???

  21. boltsta says:

    i never thought there could be another guitar player on par with srv or hendrix but i saw jm at albert hall last year an o my god!.mindblowing.also my 10 week old son will be the next guitar god.

  22. Ernie says:

    boltsta ill give john credit where credit is needed. but im sorry sir saying he is up to par with srv or hendrix is a little farfetched dont you think.

  23. juan says:

    Hey do you know if John Mayer uses any noise gates? I know his amps are premiums so he might not need any noise reduction. I know that with high gain amps it’s a must! just wondering what he uses.


  24. Paulo says:

    Dude. Thank you. I too am a Huuuuge fan of Mayer. I am also a praise leader, and I’ve been wanting to bring a Mayer quality expression to worship music. Im glad Im not the only one with this vision!

  25. Taylor says:

    Dude, you said you know a lot about all of John’s gear. I’m looking to get a new guitar and since i emulate him to such a degree, i wanna know all about his strat. Do you think you could tell me about his main guitar? If you could that’d be great.

  26. Tim says:

    The pickups are specially voiced with a scooped mid-range. He tends to use position 4 (neck and middle) and favors weaker pickups.

    The pickups that come in his signature strat are not available after-market inexpensively. If you pay $400 for a set on ebay, it seems to me to be a fairly expensive mod. If you have the money the obvious choice is to get the JM Signature Strat.

    You actually get what he plays (neck, bridge, pups, wood)…but I’m sure if you had the money you wouldn’t be asking.

  27. Trav says:

    I love this website! I’m looking to get jm’s signature acoustic, alot of money though. I just mastered “stop this train” but i cant get the same clean sound. I think it’s the guitar. “neon” is next, any suggestions?

  28. Trav says:

    Oh by the way. My favorite jm guitar has got to be the strat with the roses on it.

  29. Tim says:

    The guitar with roses is a replica of the Strat Jimi Hendrix played at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. I believe it was painted by the art collective known as “the fool.” They also painted the Les Paul (later known as an SG) that Clapton played in Cream.

  30. Krystal says:

    Hi there,
    I just stumbled across your blog while searching for information about John Mayer. He is by far, one of the greatest guitarists of our time. I’ve been listening to him ever since Room For Squares came out & when I found out he was a Berklee dropout, I thought that was awesome.

    I started playing guitar about a year ago; I play left, so its tough to find quality guitars that don’t cost a bundle. Found a Mexi Strat. last year, but was playing mainly acoustic until now. I love my strat. now that my skills are a little more advanced. I started playing on a Marshall 10w amp & am now is search of more power, but that won’t blast out my apt. neighbors. I’ve been told to go Fender tube…..any suggestions?

  31. Tim says:

    I agree. You can hardly go wrong with a Fender.

  32. Joel says:

    Sweet page man, I too have just started to TRULY appreciate the genius guitar playing of John Mayer, and am now playing guitar more than ever. (3 – 4 hours a day) In the past month, my band has worked Don’t Need No Doctor, Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, and Good Love Is On The Way into our repertoire, GREAT songs.

    Again, thanks for some of the cool info on his gear. And also, to the guy that wanted the small fender tube, a Blues Junior would be right up your alley. Perfect for blues tones, gets nice cleans at low volume, and a really sweet blues overdrive without cranking too loud. (though its 15 tube watts is actually QUITE loud, I run my amp in 15 watt mode all the time, and its still vicious)

    Keep Wailin’ Guys!

  33. Samuel1987 says:

    Nice website. Give me a shout when you are ready to bring this sweet sounding music to church cause i will join you. God Bless Samuel

  34. Mark says:

    You don’t need to spend $400 to get JM’s sig pickups. Find a custom pickup winder online and they can make you replicas, only they’ll be hand wound and likely a higher quality of craftsmanship. I enjoy dealing with Klein Pickups and they have a new “scooped” set that will sound like JM’s. The trick to his pickups though, get Alnico 5 pickups with an ouput of about 5.5k. I have alnico 3 pickups with similar output but they don’t have the same bight.

  35. Zak says:

    Hi, Iv’e been trying to figure out what pedals he uses and exact settings he leaves them on at shows. Do you happen to know?

  36. Chass says:

    I’have just spent about 2 months trying all the strats (americans, squier and mexicans) that were in the music stores in my town and I can say that some squier sounded dull but others sounded like a holy grail.

    I knew that I was looking for that strat kind of particular snap and I can say that some americans standards sounded very bad.

    I finally bought a mexican standard strat.

    I play on an old (196x) traynor bassmate tube amp that I modded (bass/treble instead of tone button and a 12″ vintage 30 speaker) and on a korg 3000g multi effect.

    The fact is that just using the function called “tube distortion pedal” and a simple reverb I can easily have about exactly the JM sound.

    I programmed the expression pedal to ajust the gain and with the pedal set on 3/10, the sound is purely JM in the slow dancing… video up here. so don’t need that 600$ tube screamer!

  37. Coletoy says:

    hey man i love how you simplified the terms. way to go. although i have to say i specially love the last part when you said you would eventually bring it to church music. =) i have the same goal as well. xD musicians who play at church know that they should never settle for less specially when it comes to playing for God. =)

  38. Clay says:

    My friend and I tried to bring real rock to our church, and we were successful until they got rid of our teen service and merged us with the adults. We try our best to bring blues, rock and soul into the music, but it just doesn’t work. We graduated and left for college soon after, so we didn’t have too much time to try and leave our imprint. Hopefully some up-and-coming players can help with that though.

  39. Weslee says:

    Yeah i would say John M is deff one of the next legends. And thats REALLY great that your bringing that to your church! I play at my church and we just rec. our first live album. Its so good to hear people are rising up in their churchs worship! so good luck dude!

  40. JimmyB.H. says:

    not even close to hendix as far as chords and lead parts together

  41. Hello fellow machine heads, Listening to Meyer caused me reminisce… You see I’m a retired pro-circuit Bassist and audio engineer. I had the privilege to work many phenomenal musicians during my life including Crosby Stills and Nash on the light side to Ozzy on the rough. But the greatest experience I ever had was with Stevie Ray Vaughn with double trouble on his last North American tour one month before the day the music died.
    I think it was the second to the last date before Alpine Valley (before Eric Clapton’s son died postponing the tour), he was in Fairbanks Alaska and I was local hire with Top of the World Productions. Their crew was late so I did most of the dial-in during sound check for Monitors and had the honor of hanging with Stevie. He was really upset at his crew, not helped at all by the fact that he was recovering from his cigarette habit (all his guitars wreaked of smoke and it gave him a nic fit). I drove him to the local drug store so he could get his nicorette gum and it settled him right down. When we came back, the crew was there but he wasn’t talking to them. He sent everyone to the buffet telling them he wanted to be alone. I was going to follow them but he grabbed my arm and said, ‘you can stay if you want’. The system was full-on doing the burn in and he said ‘I like what you did for me here (referring to the sound), then he said you wanna hear something? And I said ‘play some Jimmi’ knowing he loved jimmi’s music. He got that big toothie smile on his face, tilted his hat back and played Third Stone From The Sun for me with all the effects from start to finish. We where the only people in the whole 5000 seat auditorium and I had goose bumps the whole time. The best thing that ever happened to me in music. RIP Stevie.

  42. P.S. John Meyers tone and feel, live at the Cross Roads Music festival playing ‘gravity’ gave me the inspiration I needed to pick up my guitar again. This dude deserves all that he has. Keepin it real.

  43. @ Antonio; Many artists used to turn their rear ported cabinets backwards so they get the powerful bass response without over powering stage volume. Too much stage volume bleeds into the vocal mics creating a cross-talk/comb filter/delay effect which totally muddies up the mix. Also this eliminates having to soak up too much of the monitor power for that great bass response. Without it, you have to put more guitar into the monitor mix. It’s a different world now with everyone using in ear monitors. Also; I believe he would have the speakers in the rear facing cabs 180 degrees out of phase to adjust while reversing the pins on the mics in back so the signal to to snake would be in phase. Just an an educated guess. Peace.

  44. I love how the sound guy has the sweet spot on the forward facing cab marked for mic placement.!!!

  45. max gibson says:

    I agree with you guys on Matt Schoefield 3 times better player .
    the major thing about Meyers is his playing sound so sterile, it has no feel to it like he is going through the motions while making faces.
    I know at least a hundred better guitar players better than Meyer he just got lucky at the right time .
    sorry about the typing I am terrible at typing but had to say something about this hack.

  46. danny says:

    john mayer is amazing at what he does,
    yes there will be players than him. but not many can can express the way he expresses him self on his instrument, Matt Schoefield is just a typical blues player. john Mayer is very versatile at what he does..
    he has great feel in his instrument.

    watch this whole video,

  47. blueguitar says:

    I didn’t pay much attention to Mayer til my roommate in college was watching his Any Given Thursday DVD and I caught some of it… particularly the song Something’s Missing. I started to realize he was really talented, but he’s even grown and evolved since then. I’d put him up there with Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I used to get these DVDs with supposedly great guitarists who were shredding and got bored with it all cause it was all about speed and not about melody or expression, whereas Clapton, Vaughan and Mayer have a lot more going on. And with Mayer you get that additional r&b vibe that’s really grown on me. Plus his lyrics are well written (I’ve always loved his line “One finger on the trigger of a telephone”).

    Anyways, found this blog cause I was curious about some of his gear. I’ve played acoustic for 8 years and only got into electric maybe 2 years ago when I started leading for a youth group. Think definitely you’re right on about bringing a Mayeresque quality to church music… the stuff the youth like especially is all about repetitive guitar riffs and chant like stuff, no real depth. And little room is often given for artistic expression, but everything is dictated by norms everyone’s comfortable with or whatever the mainstream christian music industry pumps out. I know it’s more about the spirit behind the music when you’re singing it, but it’s hard to wrap your heart around sometimes.

    And I would encourage anyone looking to emulate John Mayer to do what he’s obviously done: listen to a bunch of stuff, find what you like and find your own tone that’s pleasing to you. Guys like him can give lots of tricks and advice (for instance, I learned he only uses a clean channel and uses effects overdrive/boost – I’ve never really liked any built in over drive I’ve messed with and like the versatility of different pedals), but the whole fun is chasing down that elusive tone your craving but can’t explain.

  48. Gene Duvernell says:

    We all know what they say about opinions and how they’re like a certain body part….Here’s mine – what we take with us from this world are the extreme/memorable experiences from our lives. For me that is 2 shows of Hendrix in 68 (Milwaukee), SRV in the 80s in Charlotte and even though I’ve never seen John Mayer, I know from his music and how his playing has blown away me and many of my friends who grew up in the 60s – this is one of THE major rock guitar dudes in my life – his depth, complexity and feeling – will always be a resonationg experience in my mind. I think Mayer does this for a lot of guitar players. Also, I think it’s hard if not impossible to compare live artists with those who have left us.

  49. ankgi anggara dluna says:

    i like your mucic. . .

    please reply my message

  50. ankgi anggara dluna says:

    i’m your biggest fans . . .

    i have guitar fender telecaster. . .

    all my influense is john mayer

  51. ankgi anggara dluna says:

    i from indonesia

    i waiting you to concert here. . .

  52. Khensani says:

    Just love your music was wondering when are you going to visit SA

  53. Mateo says:

    wait…I though John Mayer played bass……;P

  54. Dominic says:

    Please listen to this John Mayer performance at the 2007 Crossroads Festival You can see him kick on one of his pedals and I’d like to know if this Hendrix/SRV type sound is from the his Keeley Modified TS808 Tube Screemer or something else. This is one of the Stomp box sounds I’ve been looking for for many years.

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