An in-depth look at a modern guitar master’s take on rock, blues, and soul.
• Investigate old-school soul rhythms pioneered by the likes of Curtis Mayfield.
• Learn how to craft melodic phrases on a single string.
• Understand how to effectively choose notes that outline the changes.
Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.
John Mayer has earned the music world's respect as a modern master of blues, rock, and pop guitar. An adroit musician who can combine these worlds in a distinctively original style, he also unapologetically displays a variety of strong influences from the greats.
In this lesson, we'll learn key aspects of Mayer's rhythm and lead playing approach. We'll develop a solid foundation in his soulful rhythm guitar style, and also investigate several of the ways he'd approach soloing over some basic chord progressions.
To explore Mayer's take on rhythm guitar, you'll need to get comfortable with thumb-fretted chords. These are the same shapes that you might already know from playing the music of Mayer's prime influences, specifically Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. If these chord voicings are new to you, here's a primer that introduces the chords that you'll need. Depending on your hand size, you might experience varying degrees of difficulty. Recognize that any way you can fret with the thumb is acceptable—it simply needs to work. You don't need to fret with the thumb's tip, in fact, most people use the inside areas near the first joint.
Learn the Chord Forms
In the series of diagrams below, you can see the various shapes that Mayer favors. The first shape shows the full barre-chord form, and while it's not used in this style, it reveals the basis for constructing the various smaller shapes.
The second shape shows the note you'll want to practice fretting with the thumb. An important additional concept is actually muting the 5th string at the same time. That's done with the thumb tip. If you can't make that happen at first, no worries, just keep working toward that goal.
The third and fourth shapes give your thumb a rest for a moment. These are simple triad voicings that we'll actually be placing above the thumb-fretted bass notes. Get comfortable with these shapes.
The fifth shape shows how it all comes together in the quintessential thumb voicing. The sixth shape, just slightly larger, incorporates a little barre, which makes the grip a little tougher.
The seventh and eighth shapes show the minor chord versions. You'll need these as well, of course. The index finger barre make these a bit more challenging. Work on these last.
Note: If these thumb based shapes are seemingly impossible or just plain tough, try them on another guitar. A guitar with a narrow nut or slimmer neck profile can make all the difference.
There are three reasons these thumb-based chords appear in music. First, a practical reason: Barre chords were always hard and using the thumb was a good cheat. (Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page were human too.) Second, what might have been a compensation for a difficult chord shape became a desirable and stylistic sound. Third—and most important here—is that the pinky is freed up to play extensions and engage in melodic work around the basic shapes.
These diagrams show common ways the pinky can be used to ornament the basic major shape. Get the sounds of the shapes and them work on actually hammering on or pulling off with the pinky (shown by the brown note). The diagrams show the basic major shape with a sus4, 6, and 9.
That takes care of the chords with roots on the 6th string. What about chords with 5th-string roots? Well, the good news is, no thumb! We've just got to deal with more of actual barring on the middle strings. The idea here is to use the ring finger to hammer the 3rd of the chord in most situations, but also the 6th.
You're now prepped to tackle some real music, so let's dig into how Mayer might deal with a slow 6/8 ballad. The progression is simple, just the I chord (G) and the IV chord (C). Let the chords ring as much as possible. Hold your thumb steady and firm. The double-stops over the C chord are a bit freer than you might have guessed, and thus allow you to add some contrast and a melodic aspect to the part, rather than simply playing the most basic chord shapes.
Let's add a solo on top. Ex. 2 shows how Mayer might expand on his basic melodic theme, improvising with slides and various bending techniques. Notice the pre-bend and release techniques in measures three, four, and six. Here you'll actually bend to pitch before striking the notes.
In measure seven we hear a lick that matches the chord: Rather than sticking to the G major pentatonic (G–A–B–D–E) we've been using until now, we include a C note to reflect the harmony. As the solo works on, we include F#, so now we hear the notes of a full G major scale (G–A–B–C–D–E–F#). This F# isn't actually fretted, it's the result of bending the 17th-fret E in measure 11.
The solo finishes with a pretty challenging fingerstyle lick reminiscent of the kind of double-stop figures Mayer is known for. In measure 13, you'll need to place your first and second fingers on the 14th and 15th frets of the 3rd and 2nd strings, respectively. The slides and the 17th-fret notes are all played with the third finger. The final measures are clearly based on octave-higher versions of what we've done in the rhythm guitar part (minus the thumb).
Medium Tempo, Soul Style
In the key of D, the next example has a few more chords in the progression, which harkens back to '60s soul guitar—think Curtis Mayfield and Hendrix. These chord frames below show the basic shapes, in order. You'll want to know them before diving into the music and embellishing the harmony.
The rhythm guitar part in Ex. 3 shows a certain watchfulness in “portioning out" a chord. There's no rule that says a chord needs to be strummed fully, especially not in this style. You can achieve greater depth by thinking in terms of the low, middle, and high portions of a chord. The hammer-on and pull-off figures add melodic and rhythmic interest to the part. First work on each move individually, then integrate the set into the music.
This solo (Ex. 4) is in two parts and shows two important approaches that Mayer takes on tunes like this. First, a diatonic approach that actually fits the chords in the “right" way. That is, the progression is in D major, so use a related scale. In this case, it's D major pentatonic (D–E–F#–A–B) and it's presented in a typical Mayer fashion in a single-string approach. Note that almost the entire first phrase is played on the 2nd string. Mayer is a master of single-string melodic playing, so you'll want to investigate playing scales and licks this way.
The second phrase shows a Stevie Ray Vaughan influence, in that blues licks can be played over anything. In these four measures, we shift to D minor pentatonic (D–F–G–A–C). This fights the changes a bit, but even here, the consistent bending of F to F# makes the phrase at once sensible, yet still gutsy.
- What The Ell? Lessons I Learned from Recreating John Mayer's ... ›
- PRS Silver Sky John Mayer Review - Premier Guitar | The best ... ›
- PRS Guitars Announces the John Mayer Silver Sky - Premier Guitar ... ›
- Watch John Mayer Channel '80s Pop-Rock Vibes on "Last Train Home" - Premier Guitar ›
- Rig Rundown: Striking Matches - Premier Guitar ›
- Rig Rundown: Striking Matches - Premier Guitar ›
- The Acoustic Side of John Mayer - Premier Guitar ›
- Mayer is King - Premier Guitar ›
- John Mayer Pt. 2—A Song Too Perfect To Record? - Premier Guitar ›
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
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.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
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.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
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.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.