If you are not a guitarist, it can be difficult to understand and realize the complexity and mastery of John Mayer’s guitar playing. Both from a technical perspective as well as from a writing perspective. Mayer can both construct ear-catching guitar melodies while also playing guitar solos with exuberant feeling. So, what are the best John Mayer guitar songs?
The three best John Mayer Guitar Songs are Who Did You Think I Was, Helpless, and Born Under a Bad Sign.
Continue reading to find out:
- What is John Mayer’s Favorite Song to Play?
- The 3 Best John Mayer Guitar Songs and an Honorable Mention!
- What is John Mayer’s Biggest Hit?
What is John Mayer’s Favorite Song to Play?
John Mayer’s current favorite song to play live is Wild Blue. On Cory Wong’s podcast, Wong-Notes, Mayer mentioned how he has recently enjoyed playing songs that have catchy and intricate melodies to them which are fun to play. Songs that have enough room to play live where each performance can be different.
When talking with Christian James Hand on Instagram Live, Mayer mentions how Wild Blue is a creation that he cannot trace back to his own musical DNA. Meaning, that he does not know the part of himself that wrote it. Wild Blue is one of those songs that surprised him.
In the past, John’s favorite songs to play were those that had a heavy Stevie Ray Vaughan influence. Now, as he changes musically, he prefers songs with more of a melodic component to them. With Cory Wong, John mentions how these songs with a heavy melodic component like Wild Blue feel very good in the hands, they “feel like how ripping on the guitar used to feel”.
As with any guitarist, favorite songs to play change in time with ourselves and it will surely change again with Mayer.
Best John Mayer Guitar Songs?
The three best John Mayer guitar songs are:
- Who Did You Think I Was
- Born Under a Bad Sign
Continue reading to find out how each of these songs got their rankings.
As I always mention with any “Best Of” list, it is subjective. This list is focused heavily on John Mayer’s blues work, both original songs, and covers. The first two are originals and the third is a cover with some of the best guitar playing I have ever seen.
I chose to not include any Dead and Company songs on this list, as a separate one was created for that which you can find below.
1. Who Did You Think I Was
The best John Mayer guitar song is Who Did You Think I Was. Specifically the version from the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010.
Here Mayer was joined by the great Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino, forming what is known as the John Mayer Trio.
The song was released in 2005 with the John Mayer Trio and is in the key of A at a staggering BPM of 96. Its main influence is from Joe Walsh’s song Funk 49 as well as Jimi Hendrix’s song Bleeding Heart.
After being introduced by Bill Murray, the songs off with a fast double stop slide, to a hammer on from the G note to the A note on the G string. From there it’s a quick back and forth between the D note on the A string to the C note on the low E string. This fast lick makes up the majority of the main riff with little intricacies throughout. It has become a very famous Mayer riff that guitar enthusiasts cannot stop playing and listening to.
This fast lick is quintessential 2000’s John Mayer, with a heavy influence on SRV and Hendrix rakes but the absolute precision of Jimmie Vaughan. Notice his right strumming hand is constantly moving, keeping the rhythm throughout the entire song.
Find Out The 3 Best John Mayer Acoustic Songs Here
The solo yells tube screamer and is a sight to behold. At the end of the main version of the song, John adds on Hendrix’s magic.
Mayer starts playing the famous Hendrix / Band of Gypsy’s riff from Power of Soul which he describes here.
The second best John Mayer guitar song is Helpless. Specifically the live version from the Bud Light Tour in 2017.
The song is in the key of A minor, a favorite among guitar players.
Helpless starts in F and progresses across D and A variations before going into the signature “Helpless” riff. A relatively simple chord progression that utilizes Hendrixisms to fret the low E string with the thumb. The strumming pattern and rhythmic changes are what start to make this song more difficult.
The song and specifically the Bud Light Concert is a perfect example of a near-perfect guitar song. It starts with the chord progression above with embellishments on the A chord.
The entire rhythm of the band is dictated by the faster strumming pattern nature of this song. The rhythm alone of the main guitar riff has a very Stratocaster feel to it with the subtle rakes and chord embellishments.
Discover The 3 Best John Mayer Blues Songs
Before long, the first solo enters. The first solo lives in A minor pentatonic, mostly shapes 1 and 2. This solo is different, the melody captures the feel of the song and it is not just a collection of fast notes or overused licks. It derives feeling from both Mayer and the audience. This is exemplified at the 2:20 mark when John starts playing the turnaround and the camera pans to the audience member making a guitar face.
One of the parts that truly makes “Helpless” one of Mayer’s bests is at the 2:47 mark. Here John uses a complicated technique of raking constantly and fretting various chords sporadically. Keeping the rhythm with this technique is extremely difficult.
Finally, the second and best solo arrives. A grungier, more SRV-esque style and tone. With this solo, Mayer makes the guitar sing.
In the studio version, the outro solo is a spectacle. Check out the full version of Mayer recording it here.
3. Born Under a Bad Sign (Cover w/ Gary Clark Jr.)
The third best John Mayer guitar song is Born Under a Bad Sign.
This is a cover Mayer performed with Gary Clark Jr. and Booker T. Jones in 2013 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. Original song by the late great Albert King.
This is the best blues solo I have ever heard John play. He mixes the styles of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan seamlessly.
The beginning mostly comprises of Gary Clark Jr. on vocals while Mayer lightly plays some rhythm. The true talent surfaces when Mayer’s solo arrives at the 1:34 mark.
John Mayer’s solo in this cover is pure blues improvisational mastery which is why it got the third spot on this list. Mayer puts an exuberant amount of feeling into this solo, mixing pitch harmonics and complex riff runs to make his guitar sing.
Find Out The 3 Best John Mayer Dead and Company Songs Today
It is when Mayer and Gary Clark Jr. start soloing together that true mastership shows itself. The two enable a technique called Call and Response. John and Gary start having a conversation solely using their guitars, of which Mayer gets the last word.
The honorable mention goes to John Mayer’s rendition of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s So Excited. It is impossible to be a guitarist and not make a guitar face just listening to this.
What is John Mayer’s Biggest Hit?
John Mayer’s biggest hit is New Light. As of September 10th, 2022, the song is John Mayer’s most played song on Spotify with 562 million streams and 99 million views on YouTube, the most of his channel.
The song was released in 2018 but most recently appeared on Mayer’s album Sob Rock.
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