John Mayer Pedalboard and Rig Breakdown
Somehow managing to seamlessly bridge the gaps between blues, soul, funk, pop and country while still always sounding distinctly Mayer, John Mayer has a lot of tools in his toolbox to present a varied yet coherent signature sound.
Born and raised in Connecticut, Mayer started playing guitar after seeing Michael J. Fox’s Back to the Future character, Marty McFly, shred onstage at a 50s high school dance. Growing up, Mayer used guitar playing as an escape from his parents’ tumultuous relationship. Now, he’s evolved from a youthful pop sensation to a veritable guitar hero whose live shows have become phenomena.
Like his sound, Mayer’s rig evolves constantly and its complexity is dizzying. He’s known to tour with 40+ guitars! And his pedal configuration is custom built to allow for a complete re-ordering at every song change. There is quite a bit more going on than even a complicated web article to address, but we can (hopefully) get down to the nitty gritty. Let’s start with amps.
For live shows, Mayer has three amps running full-time. The first is a Dumble Steel-String Singer. Very few of these boutique amps have been built and its strength is a big, clean sound—something Mayer has become known for.
Mayer is also known for his sharp, bluesy Fender sound, which he achieves with the help of a Fender Bandmaster. Lastly, Mayer plays through a John Mayer signature model Two-Rock 100w tube amp.
Depending on which of Mayer’s tour you’ve seen, his pedal set-up could be drastically different. By 2013, he has significantly simplified his rig, which you can hear evidence of in his latest record, Paradise Valley. And rather than having an off-stage rack mount unit with drawers full of pedals, Mayer seems to be favoring a corps of pedals at his feet. These include a Boss Chromatic Tuner TU-3, a Keeley Katana boost pedal, a Klon Centaur for overdrive, a Vintage Ibanez TS10 Tube Screamer, an Electro-Harmonix XO Q-Tron Envelop Filter and a Way Huge Aqua-Puss Analog Delay.
In 2010, Mayer’s longtime guitar tech—and former guitar tech for Stevie Ray Vaughan—Rene Martinez gave a tour of Mayer’s rig. In it, he pulled out four drawers of rack-mounted pedals and outlined what happens at Mayer’s feet.
Along with a series of tuners for different guitars, his Katana boost, a REC wah pedal/EQ and an old Uni-Vibe phase shifter, Mayer has what appears to be a custom-built footswitch console with 24 footswitches and digital presets. Each preset corresponds with a song in Mayer’s setlist, activating separate pedal loops offstage and allowing for quick access to a wide range of guitar effects. It appeared to be a display of pedal chain brilliance and it’s likely that no one understood its complexity except Martinez himself.
The pedal board specs from Mayer’s latest tour promoting Paradise Valley are coming in. A tweet from Mayer showing his latest pedal board shows the addition of a Flint Strymon reverb/tremolo pedal. Others are reporting that Mayer has also added a Peter Cornish Tape Echo Simulator and a Ross Phaser/Distortion pedal.
When you think John Mayer, you almost immediately associate him with a Fender Stratocaster. And when it comes to his live electric sets, it’s what he plays almost exclusively. Naturally, Mayer has his own signature line of Strats, his most famous being a heavily worn one he built himself. But he’ll also occasionally play a Stevie Ray Vaughan signature Strat, an SRV Lenny reproduction Strat or a Jimi Hendrix Monterey Pop Strat. Mayer’s been known to break out a La Cabronita Telecaster with filtertron pickups or a classic ’52 Telecaster.
Rarely, Mayer will break out a Gibson ES-335, particularly to play old cover songs with his trio. He might shy away from Fender guitars occasionally in favor of a Duesenberg Double Cat.
Mayer also has a nice repertoire of acoustic songs, for which he almost always plays a John Mayer signature Martin JM or OMJM. However, he has been known to play another of his Martin signature guitars—the 0042-SC Stagecoach.
While we’ve only scratched the surface of Mayer’s extensive guitar rig, this outlines the guitars, pedals and amps Mayer likely wouldn’t leave home without—or not. Who knows? Maybe he’s got a metal album in the works and next year’s tour will be overflowing with compressors and Boss Metal Core Distortion Pedals.