BLUES

A rock star? Well, yes, but John Mayer is a great singer, com­poser of bril­liant songs and a rather fan­tas­tic blues player too, says Les David­son.

Guitar Techniques - - NEWS - NEXT MONTH: Les ex­am­ines the play­ing of the bril­liant Buddy Guy

Les David­son looks at a player who tops the pop charts and plays killer blues – John Mayer.

John Mayer was born in Bridge­port, Con­necti­cut in the Usa but raised in nearby Fair­field. He at­tended the pres­ti­gious Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic in Bos­ton but didn’t com­plete his course. Along­side Clay Cook, he set­tled in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia and formed a band called The Low-Fi Mas­ters. Although this set-up was short-lived, Mayer soon set about build­ing a name for him­self in the lo­cal area play­ing in clubs and bars.

By 2001 he had a record deal, first with Aware Records then Columbia Records. He re­leased two al­bums, Room For Squares (2001) and Heav­ier Things (203), both of which achieved multi-plat­inum sales and he won a Grammy in 2003 for his vo­cal per­for­mance on the sin­gle Your Body Is A Won­der­land.

Mayer’s orig­i­nal mu­si­cal in­flu­ences in­cluded Ste­vie ray Vaughan, BB King, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hen­drix and Eric Clap­ton, so it came no great sur­prise when dur­ing the mid-noughties he re­leased first a rock-blues live al­bum Try! (2005) with Steve Jor­dan and Pino Pal­ladino (a tip of the hat to­ward Hen­drix’s Band of Gyp­sys), and then Con­tin­uum (2006), an al­bum steeped in the blues.

Since then, Mayer has played along side many of his blues he­roes and has been a guest at Eric Clap­ton’s’ Cross­roads Fes­ti­val, no­tably per­form­ing with Clap­ton Cream’s ver­sion of Robert John­son’s Cross­road Blues (Cross­roads). But it’s clear that while Mayer is a big fan of the blues, he cer­tainly has his own blues guitar voice. Like Hen­drix he’s a master of slip­ping in re­ally cool fills be­tween vo­cal lines – of­ten play­ing com­plex licks while singing; a very tricky feat in­deed!

As al­ways, take time to build up the nec­es­sary stamina and ar­tic­u­la­tion to play these pieces. There are many ways to build up to the re­quired tempo but I’d sug­gest you first at­tempt to play these ideas at full tempo, even if you can only man­age the first cou­ple of bars. Re­duce the speed by all means, and add the next few notes or even a sin­gle note – then take it back up to tempo, be­ing care­ful to play the notes cleanly and ac­cu­rately.

This way you’re mak­ing progress by ex­pand­ing the du­ra­tion of an idea rather than play­ing an en­tire phrase at a frac­tion of the de­sired speed. Pick­ing is ‘down up down up’ un­less oth­er­wise stated but Mayer some­times uses just thumb and first fin­ger.

John Mayer’s orig­i­nal mu­si­cal in­flu­ences in­clude Ste­vie ray Vaughan, BB king, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hen­drix and eric clap­ton.

John Mayer play­ing a beaten up Fen­der Strat

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