5 Secrets Behind John Mayer’s Incredible Guitar Skills

5 Secrets Behind John Mayer’s Incredible Guitar Skills

Second in line to Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer is probably one of the most influential guitarists of our time. His technical skills, songwriting abilities and his inspiration from the Blues are some of the reasons behind that strong statement.

If you’re in the process of learning the guitar, emulating an artist’s style can be beneficial! Many would say that we learn by imitating until you begin to develop your style. So, if you want to play the guitar like John Mayer, read on as we explore the secrets behind his techniques.

1. Fretting notes with the left thumb

This technique is regarded as a bad one by classical guitarists. Still, the moment Jimi Hendrix first started doing it, it became a popular technique that’s widely adopted by some guitarists – like John Mayer.

To master this technique, here’s a useful rule of thumb. It’s usually applied when playing barre chords with root notes on the sixth string. So, instead of playing your regular barre chords, the sixth string is now fretted with your thumb.

2. Licks over any chords

This refers to the combination of playing a chord, then outlining the notes of the chord with single-note lines. Rather than playing an A major chord throughout a bar, John Mayer would play the chord on the first beat before proceeding to play around with notes within the A major scale to outline the chord.

To give you a gist, you don’t have to play the full chord to obtain the actual sound of the chord, which is why licking over chords gives you the liberty to play with any notes as long as the arpeggio or pentatonic scale corresponds to the note you intent to play. Hear how this technique brought to life in John Mayer’s song, “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room”.

3. Slides

The slide technique means sliding up and down a strong while fretting the notes with your fingers – depending on the direction you’re sliding. It can be achieved by using a guitar slide, and it creates a smooth and slippery sound that is often heard in the Blues. John Mayer uses this skill effortlessly, making it sound like as if he’s playing a single-stringed instrument. Hear it for yourself in his solo “Gravity”.

4. Double-stops

A double-stop is when you play nothing more than two notes at the same time. It can be played on adjacent strings or non-adjacent strings. Sounds complicated, but it’s pretty simple because you don’t have to do anything special in fretting the notes of a double-stop. Just fret them the way you usually do with chords or single notes!

Playing double-stops enhances your guitar melody as it makes it sound sweeter, richer, boldens your riffs. John Mayer has a tendency to apply this technique between two notes with a sixth interval, which can be heard in his guitar solo of “Your Body Is A Wonderland”.

5. The slap strum

This percussion technique is a common fingerstyle technique, but it grew increasingly popular when John Mayer released “Neon”. The reason behind the popularity of this technique is because when you’re dealing with an acoustic guitar, the absence of rhythm backing can make the music sound flat.

The addition of this technique in your guitar-playing session adds a touch of percussion, instantly adding depth and vibrance to the melody. To achieve this, slap the side of your playing thumb against the strings.


If you are keen to sign up for a music course, you should know that what matters most is the feeling conveyed through your performance. So, even though the technique is important, keep in mind not to overthink and let yourself be carried away by the music when performing.

Now that you know some of John Mayer’s favourite techniques, it’s time to try them out! It’d be good to do so under the supervision of a professional guitarist who’d be able to guide you properly. So, don’t hesitate to sign up for the best guitar classes with us at Studio72!

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