John Mayer’s Commonly Used Techniques

It may be tempting to think that all it takes to sound like John Mayer is to get the right guitar, amp, and pedal combination. If only it were that easy! While gear does play a significant role in a guitarist’s sound and playing style, what plays an even bigger role is technique. A cheap, broken guitar will still sound amazing in the hands of a master guitarist. There’s a saying amongst musicians, dancers, artists, and athletes — “Technique is everything!” Technique determines what you can play, how fast you can play it, and how consistently you can play it. … Read more

Discovering Keys: Part 2

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys Part II In Part I of this article series, we illustrated how some of the most basic tools in our musical tool-box could be employed to achieve a functional, foundational understanding of the the concept of ‘keys’ in music. By reinforcing our knowledge of scales and chords and then distilling that knowledge for the purpose of understanding keys, we were able to able to reveal the infrastructure behind keys as a product of the common musical devices we know and use everyday. To further summarize: At the core of all keys … Read more

Discovering Keys: Part 1

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys From the beginning of this series, we set out to achieve a succinct but comprehensive understanding of what keys are and how they can help us in our musical pursuits. We started by presenting a common musical scenario heavily dependent on keys for its construction and learning potential (in this case, a snippet from Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545). We then highlighted some of the most basic infrastructural components we find in music (chords and scales) for the sake of reinforcing the knowledge base we’ll need to … Read more

John Mayer’s Influences: How They Shaped His Playing Style, and How They May Shape Yours Too

Every guitarist experiences a common barrier at a certain point in their musical journey — we get paralyzed by the sheer number of things there are to learn on the guitar. This roadblock can leave you aimlessly practicing things that you will never put to use, zapping your motivation to play. This usually occurs when you’ve learned all your open chords, your barre chords, and a couple of solos. The question, “what next?” inevitably pops up. One great way of overcoming this hurdle is to find an artist that you look up to and model your playing after him/her. Finding … Read more

No Need to Give Up! Special Tips for Small-Handed Pianists [Part I]

“How can you play the piano with such tiny hands?!” I have been asked this many times in my life. Yes, I do have small hands; my maximum reach is just an octave. It’s not even a comfortable reach – I barely reach one octave. After years and years of trying different methods and techniques to reach more notes comfortably, I have come to the conclusion – I have to adjust the techniques according to my hand size. I have to find what works for ME, not simply following what is “believed” to be a good technique. The more challenging … Read more

Guitar Chords: How to Progress from Beginner to Advanced Chord Shapes

One of the most common barriers that beginners face when they first pick up the guitar is the overwhelming number of chords to learn. Many will attempt to learn as many as possible without trying to master or memorize their shapes. Some may even jump into barre chords, which are notoriously difficult for beginners, before developing sufficient finger strength and dexterity. These are all recipes for disappointment and I’ve seen it happen time and time again. The truth is, when learning how to play acoustic rhythm guitar, you want to start with songs that only have three or four open … Read more

The Guitar Effects Pedals Behind John Mayer’s Wide Ranging Sound Palette

Every guitar player has a unique preference in tone, genre, brand of guitar, and even guitar picks. Other than being guitar players, you’d be hard pressed to find many similarities in our setups. However, there is one thing that binds us all together, and that is our love for guitar pedals. Regardless if you’re a bedroom guitarist or a headliner for a major festival, you likely have a decent collection of pedals, and if you don’t, you’re probably working your way towards it. So it comes as no surprise that a guitar player like John Mayer would have a very … Read more

What are Keys: Learning About Chords

What are Chords and How Can They Help Us Learn About Keys? It starts off by being just a thing you do, and why wouldn’t you? For piano or guitar—for pretty much any instrument on which you can easily play lots of notes at the same time, really. Whether you see it in the music you’re learning or try it out of pure curiosity, at some point you’re going to do it…. You’re going to play a chord. Chords have been a staple device in the music of the Western world for, well, a long time. Prior to the Baroque … Read more

What are Keys: Learning about Scales

What are Scales and How Can They Help Us Learn About Keys? Have you ever had conversation with someone about their bygone days of learning a musical instrument? Often the story goes: “You’re taking music lessons?” Nice. Yeah, I took some piano lessons when I was younger. I really liked it, but I really wasn’t any good. Think I learned Fur Elise and some Mozart and, you know, did scales and stuff…” It seems we’ve all heard of–or practiced–scales at some point. In terms of learning our instruments, practicing scales serves as an accessible method for improving our technique and … Read more

What are Keys and Why Should We Know About Them?

In the Key of… “In the key of…” — we rarely get far into our musical endeavors before we find ourselves faced with this phrase. Minuets in the key of G, Sonatas in the key of A, Nocturnes in the key of E minor, Fugues in the key of F#, and so on. But what does being “in the key of ” something really mean? As beginners, we learn that it in some way refers to the number of sharps or flats (generally referred to as accidentals) we encounter at the beginning of a piece. We learn that this key … Read more