In The Style Of John Mayer

An overview of Mayer's tone, chording, and lead techniques.

11
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----------------13v---------------------------13-13~-----------|
d--14b14.25------14v------------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---------13p10v--------------13p10v--------------------------------|
g--------x---------12v----------------------------------------------|
d------x------------------------------------------------------------|
a----x--------------------------------------------------------------|
E--x----------------------------------------------------------------|

e-------------------------------------------------------------------|
b---------13p10v----------------------------------------------------|
g--------x---------12s14s12p10--------------------------------------|
d------x------------------------12v--------10bh12v------------------|
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---------5v----|
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!

30 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    spitonastranger
    "22 notes to be creative with" Well no wonder john mayers so good he has 10 notes more then everyone else does! minus a few other typos this was a nice article.
    Chevelle454
    ak10 wrote: Cool article, but in the vultures tab you put up, I'm intereted to know how john is able to play in the 25th fret of a strat that only has 22?
    It is a bend from 14 to 14.25, or 14 1/4 Congrats on your fail
    ak10
    Cool article, but in the vultures tab you put up, I'm intereted to know how john is able to play in the 25th fret of a strat that only has 22?
    nyprospect988
    Johns biggest contribution is playing on the 2&4, using the a minor pent over an a major song (i.e. Crossroads) and most importantly his fingerpicking technique. In Stop this train he incorporates a downward w/ his thumb while accurately playing notes w/ his forefinger. This gives acoustic performances a new light by adding a snare drum sound to the song.
    flashmdg
    ak10 wrote: Cool article, but in the vultures tab you put up, I'm intereted to know how john is able to play in the 25th fret of a strat that only has 22?
    Yeah, do you have any handy tips on how to play this? I've got one of those really rare guitars with only 22 frets...
    nyprospect988
    I think johns biggest contribution is the Aminor pentatonic over the a major crossroads blues. Those licks r sick.
    eSdaze
    08L1V10N wrote: get off my metal, screw this pop poser
    People who listen to bands with the name 'dying fetus' in it, don't get to have an opinion.
    ZeligtheAxMan
    Great, great lesson! I'm a big John Mayer fan and you've got some great insights, thanks! BTW, if you're interested, I'd gladly edit the lesson for grammar, etc.
    jimmyespinosa
    Great article, I'd love to check out some other articles similar to this.. If anyone knows about any, please let me know!
    Dmaj7
    shane8002 wrote: Sorry guys never done any tabs or lessons before and this was my first. Its note a 25 fret note its supposed to be a quarter step. Apologys my grammar is rusty if anybody has any questions on any mayer songs just hit me up.
    Its actually an eighth step. A whole step is 2 notes, half step is 1 note, quarter step is half a note, so, eighth step is quarter note. :p:
    jmk1387
    08L1V10N wrote: get off my metal, screw this pop poser People who listen to bands with the name 'dying fetus' in it, don't get to have an opinion.
    lol well put. I hate people who troll just to down an artist. Most people i've found with the "pop poser" opinion usually are only able to name "Body is a Wonderland" by Mayer (a song released 10 years ago). Even people who don't enjoy his style have to admire his technical prowess that is not limited to how many notes he can play in a minute
    Heminator89
    Very informative piece. It actually gave an introduction to every aspect of John's playing. All that is left to do is expand on it
    Windwaker
    You are missing a lot of his lead aspects, such as using minor pentatonic scales modally (IE: A minor pent over Fmaj7) That is arguably his greatest "contribution" to playing and certainly the defining characteristic of his sound.
    shane8002
    Sorry guys never done any tabs or lessons before and this was my first. Its note a 25 fret note its supposed to be a quarter step. Apologys my grammar is rusty if anybody has any questions on any mayer songs just hit me up.
    barden1069
    ak10 wrote: Cool article, but in the vultures tab you put up, I'm intereted to know how john is able to play in the 25th fret of a strat that only has 22?
    lol I thought the same thing too for a second before I realized what it meant... Great article otherwise!
    Dempsey68
    ak10 wrote: Cool article, but in the vultures tab you put up, I'm intereted to know how john is able to play in the 25th fret of a strat that only has 22?
    i think you'll find there's only 21 frets on a fender strat.
    davidpetrey
    Well, I was informed. And don't sweat the 25th fret thing. That's what smart(ass) people like us are here for. To help each other out.
    Guitarfailwin
    Dempsey68 wrote: ak10 wrote: Cool article, but in the vultures tab you put up, I'm intereted to know how john is able to play in the 25th fret of a strat that only has 22? i think you'll find there's only 21 frets on a fender strat.
    Depends on the model and year. Mexi-strats have 21, Americans have 22.