John Mayer has seemed to touch every facet of the guitar universe. His abilities and interests have intertwined with various musical genres. Genres ranging from blues to even country. Although, what genre truly defines and influences John Mayer’s playing the most?
Is John Mayer a blues guitarist? John Mayer is a blues guitarist as well as a genre-encompassing guitarist. Mayer’s upbringing and roots are in the blues with idols like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. John formed a blues-centric group called the John Mayer Trio where he further showcased his blues guitar chops.
Continue reading to read why John Mayer is a guitar master, a blues guitarist, and if he defines himself as more of a rhythm or lead player.
Please note this article is intended for those that are not well-versed in John Mayer’s guitar history or abilities. Guitar heads will find the below information as more of a refresher.
Is John Mayer a Guitar Master?
According to Eric Clapton, John Mayer is a guitar master. The rest of the guitar community would agree. John can construct complex melodies and intricate solo’s that foster both original ideas and the styles of guitar masters before him.
What truly makes John a great guitarist is his ability to pivot. John can go from playing blues in a small club to his solo tour to playing with Dead and Company. All within eight months. To do this requires a complete understanding of the guitar, at a mastery level.
Eric Clapton asked John to play a couple of songs on an album, not completely realizing how good he was at the time. Three songs total to play on. Eric mentions how John cut all these tracks in roughly an hour. That means first or second take on each. Eric was gobsmacked. He had a new respect for John. Eric goes on to mention how John is extremely gifted, with phenomenal facilities. Finally, Eric says “he is a master”. You can find this interview with Eric Clapton here.
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Eric has played with almost every guitar legend since the 1960s. Names include Jimi Hendrix, SRV, Harrison, Jimmy Page, etc. If someone that has played with that much talent, and who used to be referred to as a literal god, calls you a master, then you are a master.
Is John Mayer a Blues Guitarist?
John Mayer is a blues guitarist. His roots are with the blues. In the beginning, he would listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan, his blues idol, and learn his record note for note. He would then dive into B.B. King Live at The Regal or Jimi Hendrix and learn their songs. This foundation defined John Mayer as a blues guitarist and it would show itself even in his pop and acoustic songs.
In 2005, the world started to see John Mayer’s blues guitar capabilities. Up until that point, the majority of the guitar community had turned a blind eye to Mayer. Sure, Continuum had some very good guitar parts, but most guitar heads did not bother listening to them because it was too much of a pop album for them.
In 2005, John Mayer started the John Mayer Trio. A 3-piece band comprising of Pino Palladino and Steve Jordan.
This band had a blues-centric focus. John as the vocals, lead guitarist, and rhythm guitarist all at once.
The band would go on to release one live album called Try!. This is one of the best live albums I have listened to and I even put it up there with Live at The Regal. On this album, the majority of the songs comprise of blues songs. Each song on the album showcases a spectacle of John’s blues guitar capabilities. Songs like Who Did You Think I Was and Out of My Mind.
Ever since starting the Trio and joining Dead and Company, John Mayer is finally getting the recognition he deserves as one of the greatest blues and overall guitarists of this generation.
Is John Mayer a Lead Guitarist?
Yes, John Mayer is a lead guitarist, although he does not fit perfectly in that bucket. John grew up as a bedroom guitar player. Meaning, that he was responsible for the complete sound of “the band” which was just himself. To do this, he had to play rhythm and lead guitar at the same time.
Similar to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, two of John’s idols, he learned how to play rhythm and lead lines intermittently. A great example of this is his live rendition of Try!. In this song, he adds a percussive element while raking heavily and fretting singular notes. His strumming hand is constantly moving to keep the rhythm steady.
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For this reason, it is not a correct definition to stick John Mayer in the lead guitar bucket. For he has a strong background in rhythm guitar as well. He often mentions in interviews and Instagram Lives how he thinks of himself more as a rhythm guitar player.
The only exception is when he plays with Dead and Company. With this band, he does hold the lead guitar hat. Although it is still much different than most lead guitar roles. Just as Dead and Company / Grateful Dead are different than most bands. With Dead and Company, John plays 99% of the solos but he also contributes to the rhythm section intermittently. Very little is he not playing the guitar and just singing when there is not a solo.
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