Many write him off as a flash in the pan pop artist, but the truth is, John Mayer is a guitar player through and through. He may divide opinion with some of his antics but let’s face it, he’s a great player with a fantastic tone.
John’s tone is expensive. Really, really expensive. Known for his affiliation with Dumble amplifiers (You can easily expect to pay over £80,000 for one!), vintage guitars and high end pedals, he’s not a cheap player to tone chase.
In this article we are going to look at one of John’s more stripped back rigs. The rig he used in 2005 with the John Mayer Trio.
Although he was receiving mammoth success as a solo artist, John had a desire to play the clubs again as a trio, playing a more earthy and bluesy style. He enlisted bass player Pino Pallidino and drummer Steve Jordan and with a stripped back guitar rig, he let the music do the talking.
- RMC3 Wah
- Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner
- Keeley Katana Boost
- Boss BD-2 Blues Driver (Keeley Modded)
- Ibanez TS808 Tubescreamer
- Way Huge Aqua Puss Delay
- T-Rex Replica Delay
While not many detailed photos of his pedalboard from this era exist, it is believe the wah he used on the JM3 tour and album was the RMC3. RMC Wah pedals are fully tuneable and have a range of internal trim pots and dip switches to allow the user to tune the wah’s voice to their own needs. There is no information to how John would have set his up.
Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner
Not really an effect but this is the tuner that John was using on the Trio era of his career. This pre-dates the TU-3 being available. He now uses the TU-3 on his live boards.
Keeley Katana Boost
The Katana is a clean boost that offers a large volume lift. John would kick this on for solos. Clean boosts are often situated at the end of a signal chain so that it just takes the guitar signal as you hear it and lift it in volume. John would run this before his overdrive pedals so that it hits the overdrive stage harder. Not only does this allow a volume boost, but also a gain boost.
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver (Keeley Modded)
The BD-2 that appeared on John’s pedalboard in 2005 was modded by pedal guru Robert Keeley. The modification changes the tone of the pedal slightly from the stock version. It adds an additional switch called the “Phat mod” which boosts the low frequencies that the pedal has available. This was a common mod that many professional players had done to their BD-2 pedals.
Ibanez TS808 Tubescreamer
The Ibanez Tubescreamer has always found its way onto one of John Mayer’s pedalboards at most stages of his professional career. In recent years he has favoured the TS-10 but at this point in time he was still using the tried and tested TS808 pedal. John would use the TS808 or the BD-2 as his main overdrive and would stack them together when extra gain is needed.
Way Huge Aqua Puss Delay
This has been John’s delay of choice since 2004 and has been seen on most pedalboards through his whole career. The version used on the Trio era pedalboard is the Mk1 pedal before Dunlop took over manufacturing for Way Huge effects. Images shared on John’s social media pages show markings on the pedal with the feedback set to max and the delay time set to minimal. This would point at the pedal being used as more of a slapback style pedal to create some reverb style sounds.
T-Rex Replica Delay
This appeared on the JM3 era pedalboard but there is no reference anywhere to what this might have been used for. There is no definitive delay moments audible on the John Mayer Trio album so it is suspected that the Replica was used in a similar way to the Aqua Puss to create additional ambient space or to thicken certain guitar parts live.
In 2005, the majority of the guitar’s John used were Fender Stratocasters but he also used a Gibson ES-335 for some select tracks on the Trio tour. Here are the main guitars he used at that time.
- Fender Stratocaster “Crashocaster” Custom
- 2005 Fender Custom Shop “Try” Stratocaster
- Fender Custom Shop 1962 Style Stratocaster
- 2005 Gibson ES-335 Eric Clapton Crossroads Model
- 1980 Fender Reverse Proto Stratocaster
Fender Stratocaster “Crashocaster” Custom
This guitar made a few appearances on the Trio tour. It is a 2004 Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster with custom artwork from graffiti artist John Crash Matos. John was commissioned in 2004 to paint 50 guitars with unique designs. This one was made for John Mayer. Matos also painted 3 guitars in the same batch for Eric Clapton.
2005 Fender Custom Shop “Try” Stratocaster
This Custom Shop guitar is rumoured to be the same spec as the 2004 John Mayer Signature Stratocaster but with custom “Try” artwork and a reverse headstock in homage to Jimi Hendrix.
Fender Custom Shop 1962 Style Stratocaster
This Sonic Blue Stratocaster was one of 100 built by Fender Master Builder John Cruz. It is modelled on a 1962 Strat but with updated John Cruz designed pickups. This was used live for the song Gravity.
2005 Gibson ES-335 Eric Clapton Crossroads Model
John used the ES-335 live for a few Trio songs including Try, Out of My Mind and Come When I Call. It is a 2005 Gibson Custom Shop model based closely on the ES-335 that Eric Clapton used in his time in Cream. The original was sold at auction in 2004 f0r $847,500 but not before Gibson closely examined it and created a small run of 250 replicas from the Custom Shop.
1980 Fender Reverse Proto Stratocaster
This reverse headstock Strat was desigend in 1980 as part of a planned Jimi Hendrix Artist Model range. The one John played live with the Trio is actually one of the original prototypes Fender created so this was not a public available guitar. John is rumoured to have bought this off eBay for $15,000.
Amplifiers and Cabinets
John Mayer has always used multiple amps to acheive his tone. There is very little information out there regarding how he uses each of these amps, but it is to be assumed that he is running all the amps all the time and his tone is a blend of them together, this is also thought because he has no visible amp switching pedals on the floor at anytime. He runs all the amps clean and gets all his overdrive tones from his pedals.
- Two Rock Custom Reverb Signature
- Fender Vibroverb
- Dumble Overdrive Special
Two Rock Custom Reverb Signature
This amp is a single channel amp that makes a great pedal platform. John would have most likely opted for the 100w version as he is a big fan of high headroom. He runs the amps totally clean. This amp is a Dumble style amp created by Two Rock and while the amp does have an overdrive voice of it’s own John would not have used that on this particular tour.
In the center of his Trio rig, John had a Fender Vibroverb. Little is known about how this amp was used but it is assumed it was run clean and blended with his other amps.
Dumble Overdrive Special
John is a long time Dumble user and has had one present in most of his live rigs. On the Trio tour he was using the Overdrive Special which was run clean and blended with the other amps behind him.