Have you ever been watching one of John Mayer’s live shows and one second you see him with a pick and the next without. The first time I noticed this, I thought to myself “man this guy sure does drop a lot of picks.” At the time, I was practicing SRV style raking and constantly dropped my picks. So I thought, well he must still have that issue. Then the camera angle of the live recording zoomed in on his right hand and I could see the pick tucked away while he was finger picking. That got me thinking, how does John Mayer hold his pick. His picking in general fascinated me and I had to get to the bottom of it so I could introduce the technique into my playing.
How does John Mayer hold his pick? John Mayer holds his pick loosely with his thumb and index finger. While playing, John pick switches. The process of switching from holding the pick with his thumb and index fingers, transitioning to between his index and middle finger in a second. At which point he will finger pick.
Continue reading to learn more about his unique pick style and how you can master it.
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What Kind of Pick Does John Mayer Use
Up until around 2014, John has primarily stuck to one kind of pick. Of course, there are obviously times where he used different kinds/brands/sizes but he most often used the Dunlop .88mm standard pick. To be specific, the Jim Dunlop Tortex .88mm Standard.
Famously, he has gotten custom picks from Dunlop with his childhood photo and signature on it. This has caused guitar enthusiasts to wonder what gauge this pick is because it is in fact custom. Because of the brand+color offering, it can be assumed that it is the .88mm version.
Although Mayer is often very outspoken about his gear and technique, etc. He has never truly talked about the pick that he most often uses. This analysis is based on general knowledge on guitar forums (I know, a very trustworthy source indeed) and concert videos. The only time he has been outspoken about the pick he uses recently (2018-present) he does not give the name. He does this in an Instagram live and does not give the name because it is “wildly expensive” and does not want his viewers/listeners to go out and spend a ton of money on a pick, hoping it will help them play and sound like John Mayer.
How Does John Mayer Hold His Pick
As mentioned above. John Mayer holds his pick with his thumb and index finger. This method is very common and is likely what you do. The alternative would be with your thumb and middle finger but I have personally never seen anyone do that in person. The majority of the time when Mayer switches to finger picking mid-lick, he tucks the pick between his index and middle finger. Although, he has been known to cradle the pick under his middle finger. This cradling under the middle finger is very difficult not only to finger pick with it there, but the transition itself from picking to fingerpicking.
A great video to watch is an Instagram live Mayer did giving his audience a guitar lesson. In this lesson, a viewer asked this very question I am writing about now. He shows how he makes the seemingly seamless transition from finger picking to picking and where he stashes away his pick. For the this video, go to minute 25:55 to see him explain it further.
Check out this video showing Mayer’s pick technique in action during a recording. Here he is recording the solo to “I Guess I Just Feel Like”. Fast forward to the 4:50 mark and you will see him make the transition from finger picking to picking. You will notice how the majority of the video he is finger picking, as soon as he wants to have the solo get more aggressive/faster, he switches to the pick and starts raking.
John Mayer Pick Technique: Switching Between Pick and Fingers
I’ll be honest, the way to practice this Mayer technique is boring. It involves barely touching your guitar, a guitarists worst nightmare. Absent of the guitar, I encourage you to just hold your pick normally between your thumb and index and practice switching it to between your middle and index. Then practice the reverse way, from middle and index to standard thumb and index. You will drop your pick many times, you will not get it far enough between your index and middle fingers, you will get frustrated and think to yourself “why am I practicing throwing my pick around when I could be learning Who Knows“. I linked the song reference prior because I love it and if you haven’t heard it, then I encourage you to check it out.
Once you have the pick switch down without the guitar. Grab your now dust covered guitar, wipe the dust off and implement on there. Practice with simple open chords. Strumming with your pick -> pick switch –> finger picking the same chord.
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