John Mayer Amp Settings – Here’s How to Sound Like Him!

Author: Dedrich Schafer | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

John Mayer has cemented himself as one of the best modern blues guitarists. He is inspired by other blues greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan.

But he wasn’t just inspired by their playing. The impact that guitarists like SRV had on Mayer goes all the way to the gear that he uses.

Mayer’s Guitars

Not too surprisingly for someone with a jazzy, bluesy sound, Mayer plays Fender guitars. His Fender of choice is a Stratocaster, with his first one actually being a Stevie Ray Vaughan signature.

The American Professional II is perhaps the best modern Strat and is perfect for the John Mayer sound. Alternatively, the Player Stratocaster is a great budget version of Strat.

Fenders aren’t the only guitars played by Mayer. He also plays PRS guitars. The Silver Sky is his PRS of choice.

PRS guitars are a bit more rounded and smooth sounding than Fenders. They are great for a more mellow, jazzy sound. There is also a more affordable version with the SE Silver Sky.

Both Fender and PRS guitars are great for sounding like John Mayer. It just depends on which you prefer or the specific sound you are going for.

Mayer’s Amps

John Mayer has used a few different amps over the years. Perhaps his most famous amp was his Dumble Steel String Singer.

Dumble amps were handcrafted in California. They were highly regarded for their incredible range and many consider them to be the best amps ever made.

Among the most notable Dumble players are Stevie Ray Vaughan and Carlos Santana. So, it is no wonder that Mayer also played Dumble like the guitarists that inspired him.

Dumble amps no longer exist and finding a Dumble amp is nearly impossible. Even if you manage to track one down, they sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, there are amps designed, with Mayer’s help, to sound like the old Dumble’s, the biggest brand being PRS. Mayer and PRS went through several different designs until finally settling on the J-MOD100.

Mayer has also played Fender Deluxe Reverbs on several occasions. He still plays with a set of three from time to time to this day.

Mayer has also collaborated with a few boutique amp companies over the years, the most notable being Two-Rock and Milkman.

The Two-Rock amps were also designed to be Dumble clones. The Milkman amps, however, were not designed to be clones of any amps, but rather their own unique vintage-sounding amps.

All of these amps can be a bit prohibitively expensive for a lot of guitarists, especially the boutique ones. The best affordable options would have to be the Fender Blues Junior or the Pro Junior. The Princeton Reverb is also a great option in the mid-budget range.

Mayer’s Effects

His guitars and amps aren’t the only places where John Mayer took inspiration from Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was also inspired by Vaughan’s pedalboard.

Just like SRV, Mayer uses pedals to boost his amp into a warm breakup. And while Mayer has used a wide variety of different pedals, there are a few key parts to his pedalboard.

Boost Pedals

The main part of Mayer’s pedalboard is his boost pedals. Boost pedals are great for pushing the clean tone of your amp without changing it too much.

The two boost pedals used by Mayer are the Keeley Katana and the Strymon OB1. The Strymon has been discontinued, unfortunately, and the Keeley Katana is also a bit pricey.

The Xotic EP is a great alternative to the Keeley Katana that is perfect for sounding like John Mayer. Since the Strymon also doubles as a compressor, you can also use something like the MXR M102 to help tighten up your sound.

Overdrive Pedals

Just as important as his boost pedals are Mayer’s overdrive pedals. He doesn’t use any amp gain, but rather adds gain with pedals.

Overdrive pedals can often have a better gain tone than amps. Having a dedicated overdrive pedal also makes it easier to switch between your clean tone and your drive tone.

The most famous overdrive pedal in Mayer’s rig is the Klon Centaur. The Klon Centaur is known as a ‘transparent’ overdrive.

Like a boost pedal, a transparent overdrive doesn’t color the tone of your amp or guitar. Rather, it just pushes the sound, and in the case of an overdrive pedal, adds gain to the sound.

The Klon Centaur has sadly been discontinued. They are also highly valued on the second-hand market, making them very expensive if you manage to find one.

Luckily, plenty of companies have made transparent overdrive pedals specifically in an attempt to recreate the Centaur’s sound.

The Wampler Tumnus is perhaps the closest recreation of the Centaur’s sound. It is also just a fantastic-sounding transparent overdrive in its own right.

Electro-Harmonix has the excellently named Soul Food. This pedal is great for getting that transparent overdrive sound, but can also go into aggressive distortion when you need it. Rockett Audio Designs’ Archer sits at the higher end of the price range but can be used as either an overdrive or just a clean boost. Effectively giving you two pedals for the price of one.

Since Fenders and Strat-style guitars generally have a thinner midrange than other guitars, they have a slightly scooped sound. To compensate for this, Mayer uses the famous Ibanez Tube Screamer.

This pedal really beefs up the mids of a guitar. This gives you a thick, warm, and crunchy tone.

The Tube Screamer comes in a few different varieties, the TS9 and TS808 being the most well-known. The TS9 has a more modern sound, while the TS808 uses the same circuitry as the original for a more vintage sound.

Delay

An effect that is often overlooked by many blues guitarists is the delay. Mayer, however, has realized that it can be used to greatly enhance your tone.

Even just a touch of delay can add some nice warmth and weight to your sound. Delay makes notes fade out rather than stop suddenly. This gives your sound a bit more depth and makes it more vibrant overall.

Mayer’s delay pedal of choice is the Way Huge Aqua Puss. The MXR Carbon Copy is also a great analog delay used by many professional guitarists.

Reverb

The final important piece of Mayer’s pedal puzzle is his reverb.

Mayer generally just uses the built-in reverb on his amps. As long as your amps’ reverb is good enough, then you can also simply use that.

But if you have an amp without built-in reverb or the amp’s reverb doesn’t sound too great, or you just prefer being able to easily turn the reverb off and on, then a reverb pedal is a great option.

The Fender Marine Layer and the Elctro-Harmonix Holy Grail are both excellent vintage-voiced reverb pedals. The Keeley Caverns V2 is also a great reverb pedal that doubles as a delay. It offers two pedals for the price of one with a bunch of great and useful features.

Mayer’s Amp Settings

As for the actual settings that Mayer uses, they aren’t anything too crazy. He has a bluesy tone which means that you want to set your amps’ bass a bit higher.

The treble is set to match the bass, usually, only one higher or lower than the bass, and sometimes set equal. His tone is also slightly scooped. That means that the mids are set lower than both the bass and the treble.

His clean tone has a little bit of gain to it and is set on the amp. Overdriven parts are set on his pedals and can vary depending on the song, but are usually not set very high.

When playing with Dead & Company, Mayer’s gain settings are set a bit higher on his Tube Screamer, usually around 6 or 7, with the tone on 1 and the level on 6.

But the three key things to remember are high bass, low mids, and light distortion and reverb. With this, you should be able to get fairly close to Mayer’s sound. A good starting point should look something like this:

  • Bass – 6
  • Mids – 3
  • Treble – 5
  • Gain (clean) – 2
  • Gain (drive) – 3/4
  • Reverb – 2

To help you along and give you an idea of the settings used by Mayer, here are a few of his most well-known songs and their settings.

New Light (solo)

  • Bass – 6
  • Mids – 3
  • Treble – 5
  • Gain – 2
  • Reverb – 2

Your Body is a Wonderland

  • Bass – 6
  • Mids – 3
  • Treble – 7
  • Gain – 2
  • Reverb – 2

Slow Dancing in a Burning Room

  • Bass – 6
  • Mids – 3
  • Treble – 7
  • Gain – 3
  • Reverb – 2

Gravity

  • Bass – 6
  • Mids – 3
  • Treble – 5
  • Gain – 2
  • Reverb – 2

Waiting on the World to Change

  • Bass – 6
  • Mids – 4
  • Treble – 7
  • Gain – 2
  • Reverb – 2

Who Did You Think I Was

  • Bass – 6
  • Mids – 5
  • Treble – 7
  • Gain – 4
  • Reverb – 2

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has given you a deeper insight into John Mayer’s sound and gear. With this, you should be able to recreate his sound as accurately as possible, but more importantly, discover your own unique blues sound.

About Dedrich Schafer

Dedrich is a guitar player, songwriter and sound engineer with extensive music production and studio experience. He mostly listens to classic rock and punk bands, but sometimes also likes listening to rap and acoustic songs.

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