How To – John Mayer Tone

Many people adore the tone of the modern blues man, John Mayer. In order to truly master the Mayer tone, you must look deep into his origins and idols. But this article is a short-cut to help you dial in that sound you’ve always wanted

First off, the guitar. Fender Strat. You have to have a Strat-style guitar to get the creamy single-coil tone in all of his blues recordings. There are many great alternatives to Fender for a great Stratocaster. If I was personally looking into what strat to buy under $800 I would have to go with a used Mexican Strat. There are great deals all over and Ebay for under that price point.

Next, the amp. What really matter for most of his tone. If someone was to ask me what would you rather have? A nice guitar or nice amp? Easily I would go with a nice tube amp. It is a must-have to achieve any quality tone. John’s tone is based off of clean fender amps. Through his latest years he has been known to explore boutique amps, but if you dont have $4000 to let go just for an amplifier then the smart choice here is an Vox AC15. You can find these used for around $500 and it is an absolute deal for the amount of money. Now earlier I said he mostly uses fender amps to get that tone. This is why i chose an AC15 over a blues junior for example. The Vox is a great palette to build your own sound on. It features them, reverb, and a top boost circuit which is sought after by many blues artists.

Lastly, pedals. John is a pedal collector just as I am aspiring to be. His board features around 20 pedals. If you look at it alone and try to replicate it you will end up spending thousands and possibly even a thousand for the highly sought after Klon. A big part of his sound is the reverb. The amp takes care of this perfectly. Next is the drive section. If you read my other posts, I wrote about the new TS Mini. It is a fantastic deal for the price you can get it for. The Tube Screamer gives you the creamy overdriven tone that John achieves on many of his hit records. If you want an alternative to the TS, a Klon clone is a great choice. John uses an original Klon Centaur which may run you around $1400 these days. But thankfully many engineers have released highly accurate clones that are just as good, if not better. If you’re looking to save money the EHX Soul Food is a wonderful choice. For those into more of a boutique sound, the Klon KTR is the choice of the pros. It is a faithful clone to the original. He also uses a delay to really fatten his tone for the neck pickup. Almost any slight delay will do the trick.


Mr. Black – Supermoon

Mr. Black pedals from the lovely Portland, Oregon has created a reverb out of this world. I mean seriously out of this m************* world.

The pedal is a reverb you truly can’t find in any spring tank. It offers no boundaries. The Supermoon features true bypass switching, 9volt battery, and is hand built right here in the USA. Immediately after plugging this in I knew I was in for a ride. The Supermoon sparked creative ideas almost instantly after messing with the controls. It has a total of three knobs like many of our favorite pedals.

Reverb – the amount of reverb added

Sway – the modulation

Decay – how much the reverb hangs around

After playing around I really felt the need to just max everything out. In most pedals or amps turning everything all the way up tends to usually be way too much for the player and the audience. But here was not the case. The pedal could still be used in a very musical way. Also, I wouldn’t say this is just a one trick pony for all your space reverb needs. You can dial in some nice subtle reverb without making it sound like your drowning in wetness. It offers the option to effect 100% of the signal. This really comes into play when you’re just trying to achieve a nice pad or ambience to the mix. Lots of reverbs these days tend to go too far and make the pedal unplayable past a certain point if you know what I mean. They tend to wash everything out. With the Supermoon you can get those first notes to stick out while you have a little trail behind them without ruining the sound.

The sway knob offers a ton of fun to those whose creative minds need something constantly new. It adds a chorus like feel to the reverb. This was especially enjoyable when playing on the smoother neck pickup of my start with the tone around 7.

I’d consider this pedal if your going for ambience and endless reverb. It would work great in a worship type scenario or some experimental music. This pedal also comes in a very limited chrome edition which has some added features, but they are very hard to get a hold of and I myself have not yet got my hands on one. This reverb won’t replace your simple go-to reverb setting. At least for me it didn’t, but it is definitely something to add to your board if you’re in need of inspiration. Overall the build quality is very high. The boys over at Mr. Black pedals keep putting on new and amazing things.

The Holy Grail – Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

Wow another tube screamer? It seems like everyone and his brother are trying to create the best new overdrive modeled after the truly best drive in my opinion, the TS808. The tube screamer has been one of the most respected and used pedals since it was released. Almost all of your famous artists have used a version of the tube screamer at one point.

At first thought you must think this pedal is just a mini TS808. And to a point you are correct. Through my days of playing guitar I have tried and sought after tons of overdrive tone. This little pedal is not much different than the hundreds of other overdrives, but listed at about $80 and a quarter of the size as your Big Muff, I can see why this has made it onto my board and maybe your board too.

The Tube Screamer Mini has three controls just like its predecessors.

Tone – The amount of treble

Level – Volume

Overdrive – Well… the drive

Other than giving you the sought after tones of famous blues players and rock artists, the mini pedal can offer a great boost to your signal without driving it too much. Personally my favorite setting is placing the drive around 3 o’clock, tone at around 12, and level at a very modest 2 o’clock. This setting gives me the creamy sound that the 808 has, but at a a very dynamic way. Roll back the volume on your guitar a little, and you can achieve a beautiful clean tone without disengaging the pedal.

The pedal is made in Japan. Solidly built in a rugged casing. All analog. Features the same famous chip as the early TS808s. Has a nine-volt adapter for power. And true-bypass switching.

So is it worth to check out? For sure. Especially since I found mine for $45 on It possibly might replace your current drive. It now sits on my board and beautifully compliments my strat. Put it behind a nice tube amp with a little reverb and drive and there you go. A great tone.

Old Blood Noise Endeavors – Black Fountain Delay

Remember the times before everything was digital? Well this little white box can bring us all back to the time where everything seemed analog and oily. The OBNE Black Fountain Delay resembles the famous sounds of “oil can delays” , originating from oil can units. The delay features four knobs and three different modes to emulate unique, lush sounds.

Starting off, the modern mode explains exactly what it is. A mode for the modern guitar player who needs a tad bit of delay in their life. This mode is modeled off of the famed Fender Echo Reverb and the Tel-Ray Model 10. In order to precisely get the tone and sound of those units, OBNE has added the “Fluid” knob. This adds a little bit of wetness to the aftermath of the note. Some would describe it as “wobbly” or as I simply like to put it, “oily”. To those who need a little more description as to what this knob truly does, it is the modulation knob of the pedal. It adds a depth and a chorus like feel to the notes. The modern mode of the Black Fountain features a delay time of 800 milliseconds.

Next up we have the organ tone. This is more of a simple and conventional type of delay. I would describe it as shorter delay than the modern and vintage modes. This delay goes far and beyond the dreams of the original oil can delays it is designed after. With this mode enabled, a reverb effect can be created. A fever effect much better than your simple reverb in my opinion. The organ tone has a delay time of 211 milliseconds.

Before I explain the vintage mode, I will give you a little insight into the other three controls.

Time: How long until the delay is initiated

Feedback: The amount of time the delay is being played. More simply put.. how long it lasts

Mix: How much of the signal is being effected

Now to the vintage mode. My favorite. The vintage mode produces a much more dirty and nasty effect to the delay. The delays seem meaner and grittier giving it more of a human touch. Similar to many of the famous analog delays that have been produced in the past. The vintage mode also has a delay time of 800 milliseconds.

And that’s that. Check out the guys at . They are some really cool guys and have some even cooler pedals.