In The Style Of John Mayer

author: shane8002 date: 02/10/2010 category: guitar gurus
rating: 7.3 / votes: 23 
This lesson will focus on the blues side of John Mayer's guitar playing. First off, I will give A basic overview of how John gets his tone. John favors old dumble amps which is used for about 75% percent of the electric guitar tones on continuum, and his two rock signature amp is basically A cloned dumble amp. Guitar wise he uses a strat with very weak pickups and this makes the guitars output low so he can crank his tube amp which produces A much richer and smoothly overdriven tone the louder they are. Also the weak pickups give the guitar A more touch sensitive tone, which allows for more dynamics and subtle nuances.

Techniques

One thing to point out about John's playing style is that he uses his fingers alot, which gives you A much warmer tone than playing with A pick. I highly recommend playing with your fingers at least 50% of the time because this gives you more control over dynamics, and the way you add feeling and rhythm to your songs/licks. Alot of his best songs are played with his fingers for example: vultures, slow dancing in A burning room, I don't trust myself, come back to bed, heart of life etc. This first lick is the main riff to vultures, one of John's most soulful songs, demonstrates how using your fingers can totally make your rhythm, and tone different.
            P.M.       P.M.                  P.M.         P.M.
e---------------------------------------------------------------|
b---------------------------------------------------------------|
g----------------13vZYABLA~HUYABLA---------------------------13-13~---------|
d--14b14.25------14vZYABLA~HUYABLA------------14b14.25-------14-14~---------|
a--14b14.25--16--------16---------14b14.25--x-16--------x-16----|
E---------------------------------------------------------------|
To get the right feel for this lick first play with your fingers. Pluck the first two-note chord with your thumb on the (a string), and your pointer finger on the (d string)and slightly bend a quarter step. Then lightly palm mute and use your thumb to play the (16th fret on the a string). Then for the next two note chord, (on the d and g string), use your pointer and middle finger, and kinda pluck from underneath the string almost like your lightly pulling up on it, and add a generous amount of vibrato. Also notice the dead notes right before the note on the (16th fret a string), this helps add more feel and compliments the note after it.

Chording<

John is also really good with using chords that are not common to most guitar players. John's first album, Room For Squares, really shows this more exotic style of chord progressions with songs like: st. Patrick's Day, 83, 3x5, and Neon. John also brings this along on his more bluesy songs such as gravity. In gravity he mixes more simple Jimi Hendrix style "thumbed" chord voicing with more "colorful" chords. Thumbed chords play A big part in John's rhythm style because it allows you more note's to be added with the chord, and also to play licks with more fluency.
    G major
e----x-----|
b----3-----|
g----4-----|
d----5-----|
a----x-----|
E----3-----|
Thumb on E string This type of "thumbed" chord really frees up your other fingers to add voicings or play simple lead lines on the treble strings. This is the main rhythm part for Gravity using thumbed chords. I'll also add in A lead rhythm lick to give you an idea of how john makes his rhythm playing more soulful and interesting. The chords are strummed listen to the song for the timing. Verse
   (Strummed____)
e---x--x--x----x---------------------------------|
b---3--3--3----5---------------------------------|
g---4--5--4----5--------5----5--5---5------------|
d---5--5--5----5--------5h7--5--7---5------------|
a---x--x--x----3---5s7--------------5h7----------|
E---3--3--3----x---------------------------------|
Chorus
   AM7  D7   EbMAJ7    D7
e---5----5----X---------5-----|
b---8----7----6---------7-----|
g---5----5----7---------5-----|
d---5----7----5---------7-----|
a---7----5----6---------5-----|
E---5----x----X---------X-----|

Lead

John Mayer is one of the best out there right now as far as guitar players of the 2000's, and he's got amazing chops. He uses alot of interesting notes to keep those old blues boxes feeling fresh. One important thing to remember as you get comfortable with plain old pentatonic scales, they will get boring after a while and feel like your getting stuck in A rut. When I play lead lines I use this "scale", there is no name for it but its made up from notes that might not be correct in guitar theory but sound good. Don't be afraid to break away from sticking strictly to the notes in A scale, follow your ear and what sounds good. After you have played A few years and practiced, you wont think of the fretboard in terms of scales anymore but as 22 notes to be creative with; and by practicing alot, especially with A band you know in your head what sounds good. Based on A minor pentatonic
e--------------------------------------------5--8---|
b----------------------------------5--7--8----------|
g-------------------------5--6--7-------------------|
d-------------------5--7----------------------------|
a----------5--6--7----------------------------------|
E----5--8-------------------------------------------|
This lead line is from the intro of Half of My Heart. While it may seem easy to play, it's all about fitting the song and about adding emotion to it when you play the lead line.
e-------------------------------------------------------------------|
b---------13p10vZYABLA~HUYABLA--------------13p10vZYABLA~HUYABLAZYABLA~HUYABLAZYABLA~HUYABLA------------------------|
g--------x---------12vZYABLA~HUYABLAZYABLA~HUYABLA------------------------------------------|
d------x------------------------------------------------------------|
a----x--------------------------------------------------------------|
E--x----------------------------------------------------------------|
 
e-------------------------------------------------------------------|
b---------13p10vZYABLA~HUYABLA--------------------------------------------------|
g--------x---------12s14s12p10--------------------------------------|
d------x------------------------12vZYABLA~HUYABLAZYABLA~HUYABLA~--------10bh12vZYABLA~HUYABLAZYABLA~HUYABLAZYABLA~HUYABLAZYABLA~HUYABLA-----|
a----x--------------------------------------------------------------|
E--x----------------------------------------------------------------|
The dead note string rakes are what add that feeling to the lick, also when you do the vibrato kinda exaggerate it but don't shake the note too fast and don't exaggerate it so much that it sounds like zakk wylde. This next lick is from Come When I Call the live in L.A. Version. This is a perfect example of adding notes that don't really fit into the scale.
e|----5/7-5----------------3---3----x-------------------------------------|
b|-----------5b6-5--3------3---3h5----x-----------------------------------|
g|----------------------5--3------------x------3b43b4--------------------|
d|---------------------------------------5---------------5---------5vZYABLA~HUYABLA---|
a|----------------------------------------------------------53/1---------|
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
This last lick is from come back to bed. This lick is at the end of his solo and it sounds really interesting when played over the solo's chord progression.
e|-----5---repeat 6x-------3-repeat 6x----0---repeat 6x--------------------|
b|--9--------------------7--------------3----------------------------------|
g|--9--------------------7--------------2------------------2h4p2----2h4----|
d|---------------------------------------------------------3------3--------|
a|---------------------------------------------------------x---------------|
E|---------------------------------------------------------3---------------|
Let all the notes ring when you play them, and it has A nice drone tone effect.

Conclusion

Well that's it, and I hope everybody learns something this, not just John Mayer licks but how important it is to play with feeling, emotion, and dynamics even if your playing metal. How you guys enjoy this!
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