A step-by-step guide to unlocking some of John Mayer's signature acoustic guitar techniques.
- Learn to add percussive drum-like sounds to your playing.
- Combine folk and modern fingerstyle techniques together for a full-band sound.
- Blend classic rhythm and blues guitar styles with pop sensibilities.
John Mayer's acoustic guitar techniques have wowed audiences ever since he first arrived on the music scene. From his unshakeable groove and tough chord stretches to the unique combinations of techniques in his strumming hand, Mayer has challenged the guitar community with a whole new vocabulary for rhythm guitar.
Just check out any YouTube video of Mayer playing live, or listen to songs like "Stop This Train," "Neon," "Queen of California," or "Something Like Olivia" and you'll get an idea of how uniquely he blends elements of folk, R&B, jam band, and pop into his guitar style.
John Mayer - Neon (Live In LA - 1080p)
On top of all of this, he delivers fantastic vocals, masterful lyrics, and great songwriting. Mayer has led the way for a new generation of players, demonstrating how artists can get a full sound performing with just a guitar and vocal.
Regardless of playing level, spending time working out Mayer's signature acoustic techniques is a valuable study. We'll start with a simple breakdown of easier, bite-sized exercises, and then build out into more advanced examples combining multiple elements together. The final goal is to show you how to unlock some of these sounds and add them into your own guitar style. And if you're an electric player, you can still benefit from this lesson, because Mayer uses a lot of these techniques in his electric guitar style as well, albeit with a slightly different approach.
Ex. 1 starts off with an isolated thumb slap. This is a sound you'll hear in many of Mayer's hit songs. Use your thumb to slap the strings with your strumming hand. A percussive drum-like effect is created as the strings are pushed down into the frets of your guitar. The power comes from turning your wrist into the guitar, towards your body. You want to rotate your hand like you would turn a key. The thumb should stay parallel to the strings, and typically makes contact just above the knuckle. This slap is most often played on beats 2 and 4 for pop songs in a 4/4 time signature. Using this technique creates a backbeat type of groove that will give you the feel and vibe of playing with a drummer even when you are playing alone. First, let's try just an isolated thumb slap technique on beats 2, and 4 while counting out loud.
Now that you've got the backbeat thumb slap, let's expand on this technique by mixing in some folky fingerstyle. Ex. 2 blends some fingerstyle playing while still maintaining the backbeat thumb slap over a Dsus2 chord shape.
Once the thumb slap is starting to feel comfortable, try bringing in an index finger brush as well. Ex. 3 demonstrates the same thumb-slap technique, but as that is happening, you'll simultaneously brush down with the fingernail on your index finger. This sounds like a combination of a guitarist strumming a chord and a drummer hitting the snare drum.
This exact technique can be heard on songs like "Who Says," "Heart of Life," and "Stop This Train." It's also important to note that Mayer typically plays this groove with only his thumb and index finger on the strumming hand. Although the overall pattern may seem complicated at first, it's best to simplify it and play with just two fingers, to keep it as straightforward as possible.
John Mayer - Stop This Train - Hollywood Casino - Tinley Park, IL - September 2, 2017 LIVE
Mayer will often add specific embellishments to chords using hammer-ons and pull-offs. Ex. 4 shows the use of a hammer-on from the open 2nd string to the 3rd fret on the downbeat. This is the 6 of the chord hammering into the root note of the Dsus2 chord shape.
Ex. 5 demonstrates the use of pull-offs and hammer-ons over some of Mayer's go-to acoustic guitar chord shapes. Once you start seeing which chord tones Mayer typically does embellishments on, you'll be able to add these techniques into your own progressions.
Little melodic embellishments of the chord shapes are a great way to keep interest in your accompaniment guitar part, either lightly underneath a vocal, or more pronounced and featured when playing instrumental interludes between verses. It's also important to note that Mayer would typically use his fretting-hand thumb to play the bass notes on the 6th string, like in the Gm(maj7) chord shape.
Another common technique Mayer uses is demonstrated in Ex. 6. Mayer uses his thumb to rake strings 4, 3, and 2, then the 1st string is played with an index finger pluck.
This could either be used as an embellishment in the middle of a progression or on a final ending chord like in Ex. 7.
Next let's look at Ex. 8. It demonstrates another way that Mayer would use the thumb-slap technique, but this time it's blended with more R&B chords. When Mayer uses this technique, he'll typically involve three or four fingers in the strumming hand. Here, you'll pluck all the strings together, which will make your guitar sound more like a piano. He goes beyond just the thumb slapping the strings. His whole hand drops on the strings to make sure he's keeping the back beat slap going on 2 and 4.
Acoustic With a Flatpick
While Mayer plays a lot of his acoustic repertoire without a pick, many tunes require a flatpick.
Ex. 9 and Ex. 10 demonstrate how Mayer riffs off chords and uses very common rhythm and blues progressions in his music. In Ex. 9, the G bass note on the 6th string is played with the fretting-hand thumb. Also, all of the notes on the 6th string are played with a light palm mute. Ex. 10 really shows how his guitar style is rooted in listening to players like Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, and Steve Cropper, to name a few.
Whether you learn all of these techniques, or you just take one idea and add it to your guitar playing, this will immediately start to level up your guitar skills. The techniques presented are really just scratching the surface of Mayer's style, each one will prove valuable, especially when accompanying singers.
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We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
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The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
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Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
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For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.