What Guitar Does John Mayer Play?

What Guitar Does John Mayer Play

John Mayer will forever be known for his contribution to bringing blues music back to popularity by catering a refreshingly unique sound to the pop and rap-loving young crowds. He was able to stand out from the rest of his contemporaries through his guitar skills, which have often been compared to those of the all-time greats. However, a musician’s instrument can affect the sound almost as much as their skills, so what guitar does John Mayer play?

John Mayer plays a Fender Stratocaster guitar, also known as Black1. This is a heavily modified guitar that Mayer has used for most of his performances since 2004. Other guitars he uses include PRS Silver Sky, Martin OM-28 JM, Gibson ES-335, Fencer Telecaster, and Gibson Les Paul.

The rest of this article will explore some of Mayer’s most famous instruments one by one and answer some other frequently asked questions on the matter. So, if you’re interested in learning more about the guitars that have helped John Mayer showcase his musical talent, this article is for you. 

John Mayer Guitar: Some Background Information

Before diving into John Mayer’s comprehensive list of favorite guitars, I want to explore some background information on the artist. That way, his choices and preferences will hopefully make a bit more sense, as you’ll get a better glimpse of who he is as a person and a musician.

John Mayer is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Though he started attending the Berklee College of Music in the mid-90s, he promptly dropped out to pursue his music career, so, technically speaking, he has no formal degree in his craft. Luckily for him, his career started to show real promise a few years later when he finally came out with his debut album “Room for Squares.”

For a first debut, this was a smashing success, selling over 4 million copies in the US alone. At that time, blues-inspired music was no longer in fashion, but Mayer’s dashing vocals and impressive guitar-playing skills quickly set him apart from the rest of his contemporaries. 

In fact, he quickly made a name for himself as one of the most talented and versatile guitarists of his generation, often compared to music giants like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, who just happen to be some of Mayer’s biggest inspirations. His combination of impressive technical abilities and soulful performances quickly captured the attention of the masses, promptly shooting Mayer off to stardom.

Throughout this piece, I’ve often referred to Mayer’s style as blues-inspired, as it wouldn’t be quite right to classify it as pure blues, or any other genre, for that matter. The man has done an excellent job of combining elements of blues, rock, and pop into his musing, creating melodies that almost all music fans can appreciate. 

He’s also very willing to experiment with different styles and improvise, qualities that allow him to create unique sounds and textures that are hard to replicate. In fact, you’ll likely be able to witness these qualities for yourself simply by looking through the versatile list of instruments below — Mayer is willing to play (and talented at playing) every type of guitar under the sun.

By now, your curiosity might be getting the best of you, so I’ll wrap up this background information section and jump right into the list you came here for in the first place. Remember, though, that these are just some of Mayer’s favorite guitars, as it’ll be impossible to track down every instrument he’s played throughout his decades-long career. With that being said, let’s get started!

List of Guitars That John Mayer Plays

In this section, you’ll find Mayer’s favorite guitars ranked based on how much he prefers/uses each model. I’ll be starting with his all-time favorite guitar, so let’s dive right into it. 

PRS Silver Sky

After his beloved Stratocaster, PRS Silver Sky might be Mayer’s all-time favorite guitar. You’ll find that most of Mayer’s recent performances feature this particular model, and that’s because the artist started working with Paul Reed Smith once he and Fender parted ways.

It seems like these guitars have been able to accommodate Mayer’s ever-changing sound in a way that many of the other models on this list haven’t been able to, and that’s why he seems to have a particularly special connection with his PRS Silver Sky.

This particular model was customized for Mayer, and he was actually involved in this manufacturing process, requesting for it to be modeled after his all-time favorite Fender Stratocaster. And though, as you’ll see below, the two models share several similar features, the PRS Silver Sky uniquely boasts a reverse headstock and a 635JM single-coil pickup.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this model’s specs to better compare them to its Stratocaster counterpart:

  • Body shape: Double cutaway solid body
  • Neck pickup: 635JM single-coil pickup, wound to Mayer’s specifications
  • Middle pickup: 635JM single-coil pickup, wound to Mayer’s specifications
  • Bridge pickup: 635JM single-coil pickup, wound to Mayer’s specifications
  • Body wood: Alder
  • Body finish: Gloss nitrocellulose lacquer in various colors
  • Body binding: None
  • Neck wood: Maple
  • Neck shape: “635JM” shape, which is a combination of PRS’s “Pattern” and “Regular” neck shapes
  • Tuning machines: PRS vintage-style locking tuners
  • Control knobs: Clear lampshade knobs
  • Pickguard: Clear or tinted acrylic
  • Fingerboard wood: Rosewood or maple (depending on color)
  • Controls: Master volume, master tone, and a 5-way blade pickup selector switch with a “treble bleed” circuit to maintain high-end clarity when rolling off the volume
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Fret size: Vintage-style fret wire
  • Inlays: “Small Birds” inlay pattern, made of abalone or Paua shell
  • Bridge: PRS Two-Piece bridge, which is a modified version of a traditional tremolo bridge that improves sustain and intonation

It also has a PRS headstock shape but with a reversed shape from the typical PRS design, and it includes PRS low mass locking tuners.

Keep in mind that each of these specifications is subject to slight variations between releases of different years. So, if you’re interested in actually getting your hands on a PRS Silver Sky for yourself, make sure to do some further research on that particular piece.

There’s also a Pau Ferro fretboard option instead of the traditional rosewood; however, that model is only available in some specific markets.

If you’re now wondering whether you’ve ever seen Mayer perform with his custom PRS Silver Sky, chances are you have. His most notable shows with this model include:

  • Jimmy Kimmel (2018): During this performance, Mayer used a PRS Silver Sky to sing “New Light.” That night, the model he had on hand had a rosewood fingerboard and a clear pickguard.
  • “The Search for Everything Tour” (2019): He used his PRS Silver Sky for many of his performances throughout several shows.
  • The Ellen DeGeneres Show (2019): This performance coincided with his solo tour, so he brought his PRS Silver Sky along to perform “I Guess I Just Feel Like.”
  • “iHeartRadio Alter EGO” concert (2020): This virtual concert helped fans all over the globe go through their struggles at the time. For the occasion, Mayer chose his trusty PRS Silver Sky.

You can watch the Singapore performance of Mayer’s “The Search for Everything Tour” below:

Fender Stratocaster 

Fender American Ultra Stratocaster
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John Mayer has never hidden his strong preference for Fender Stratocaster guitars, especially his personalized models named “John Mayer Stratocaster” and “Black1.” One of the most unique qualities about these guitars is that they’re rough recreations of the guitars used by some of Mayer’s idols, including Hendrix’s and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Stratocasters.

As a result, these guitars are not only made to complement Mayer’s personal playing style, but they also hold a lot of sentimental value to him. He started favoring Stratocasters in 2004, but he only started using his personalized pieces more regularly circa 2006.

If you’ve followed John Mayer’s career at all, you know that he had a long-standing relationship with Fender. So, I want to take the opportunity to briefly explain their relationship and how it changed over the years.

The relationship between Fender and Mayer started way back in the early 2000s; however, in 2013, the two parted ways as Mayer began working with PRS guitars (which also explains the timeline of the sections outlined above).

However, since Mayer has gone on record to say that he holds no grudges against Fender and still highly appreciates their instruments, it’s easy to understand why he hasn’t stopped using their guitars, though they’ve taken a back seat to his go-to PRS Silver Sky.

Here’s an interview with Mayer talking about the transition:

The Black1, in particular, was famous for its roadworn finish that allowed for better natural acoustics and greater resonance.

Here are some of the most notable specs of this piece:

  • Body: Alder
  • Frets: 21 Dunlop 6105 jumbo frets
  • Tuning Machines: Fender/Gotoh vintage-style tuning machines
  • Hardware: Chrome
  • Neck: Maple, thick C-shape profile, satin urethane finish on the back, gloss urethane finish on the front
  • Pickguard: 3-ply black/white/black
  • Case: Vintage-style tweed case with red plush interior
  • Controls: One volume, two tone controls, and a 5-way pickup selector switch
  • Bridge: American Vintage Synchronized Tremolo
  • Pickups: Three Big Dipper single-coil pickups, wound to John Mayer’s specifications
  • Fingerboard: African rosewood, 9.5″ radius

Keep in mind that some of these specifications are subject to change in certain renditions of the guitar, as Mayer has had several made to his liking throughout the years.

  • “Crossroads Guitar Festival” (2004): The first time Mayer ever performed with his Black One on a big stage was during the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2004, so this is a particularly special performance.
  • “Where the Light Is” concert (2008): This concert was filmed in LA, just like many of Mayer’s other major performances. During this show, he played three different sets; however, he stuck to his Black1 the whole time. His fans particularly enjoyed his rendition of his hit song “Gravity” during this performance.
  • “Late Night with David Letterman” (2013): John Mayer went on David Letterman to promote his then-new album “Paradise Valley” and performed the song “Paper Doll.” 
  • “The Search for Everything Tour” (2017): This tour was one of Mayer’s biggest and most successful to date. Though at this time, he had explored dozens of guitars throughout his ever-changing musical career, he decided to stick to his trusty Stratocaster for (arguably) some of the biggest performances of his life, and that says a lot.

Below, you can find Mayer’s “Paperdoll” performance on David Letterman:

Martin OM-28 JM

When it comes to acoustic guitars, John Mayer never seems to be able to replace his Martin OM-28 JM, so if you’re ever lucky enough to catch one of his acoustic performances, that’s what you’ll likely see him playing. 

Though Mayer has shown a preference for Martin Acoustic Guitars for years now, this particular model (OM-28 JM) holds a dear place in his heart, as it’s a special John Mayer edition (hence the JM at the end of the model name), meaning he was able to give his input and tailor the instrument to his preferences. 

In this particular release, only 404 units were produced, meaning this is quite a rare instrument that not all will have a chance to hold in their lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about the specifications that make this model so unique, here’s what you need to know:

  • Body size: 000-14 Fret
  • Number of frets: 20
  • Fingerboard inlays: Abalone Style 42 Snowflakes
  • Bracing pattern: Standard “X” Scalloped
  • Neck taper: High-Performance Taper
  • Bridge material: Ebony
  • Bridge style: Modern Belly – Drop in Saddle
  • Saddle material: Compensated Bone
  • Fingerboard material: Ebony
  • Brace material: Sitka Spruce
  • Top material: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Strings: Martin SP Lifespan Phosphor Bronze Light Gauge (MSP7100)
  • Case: Hardshell case included
  • Tuning machines: Nickel Open Gear
  • Neck shape: Modified Low Oval with High-Performance Taper
  • Finish: Gloss

Seeing this type of instrument in action can often feel like an otherworldly experience. If you’re not able to do so live, though, don’t worry. You can look back at some of these performances to witness the high-quality sound and raw emotion that these guitars produce:

  • The Ellen Degeneres Show (2017): He performed a great rendition of his song “Love on the Weekend” on this appearance.
  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2017): This time, he decided to perform the acoustic version of his hit “Moving on and Getting Over.”
  • The O2 Arena, London (2017): Considering that this was a concert set, the fact that he decided to go with an acoustic guitar was a risk that luckily paid off.
  • iHeart Radio Theater (2018): This was an intimate acoustic set that Mayer performed for iHeart Radio.
  • Crossroads Guitar Festival (2019): A Crossroad Guitar Festival veteran at this point, Mayer returned to perform both a solo piece and a set with the Dead & Company, during both of which he used his Martin OM-28 JM.

Here’s a performance of John’s performance at iHeart Radio theater:

Gibson ES-335

Gibson ES-335
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Though this certainly isn’t Mayer’s first pick, it has made a few appearances here and there during his live performances. Generally speaking, this was the guitar he turned to in his earlier days, mainly when he was singing as part of the John Mayer trio. Still, considering that the artist links so many fond memories of his earlier work with this guitar, it still holds a very valuable place in his collection.

Mayer’s Gibson ES-335 made its first appearance in the mid-2000s and has been taken out every once in a while since then for his live performances. This model is known for its bright unplugged tone and clear ring. Here are some of its specifications: 

  • Neck pickup: Burstbucker 1 humbucker
  • Bridge pickup: Burstbucker 2 humbucker
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Fret size: Medium Jumbo
  • Nut material: GraphTech
  • Body shape: Double cutaway semi-hollow body
  • Top: 3-ply Maple/Poplar/Maple
  • Back and sides: 3-ply Maple/Poplar/Maple
  • Center block: Solid Maple
  • Body binding: Cream
  • Neck material: Mahogany
  • Neck profile: Rounded “C”
  • Finish: Gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish in various colors

If you want to catch Mayer actually playing one of these legendary guitars, search for one of these performances:

  1. Beacon Theatre, New York City (2005) 
  2. Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles (2007) 
  3. Today Show (2010) 
  4. Austin City Limits (2016)
  5. 3Arena, Dublin (2019)

Here’s a video of Mayer playing his Gibson ES-335 live on the Today Show:

Paul Reed Smith DGT 

Silver Sky isn’t the only Paul Reed Smith guitar Mayer has grown fond of. He certainly has a strong attachment to the Maryland-based brand and continues to choose its models from time to time — yes, even those that aren’t specifically made for him.

For example, PRS DGT and PRS Hollowbody II are commonly used by Mayer for many of his live performances, especially more intimate ones. Here are some you might want to watch:

  • United Center, Chicago (2017) 
  • The Ellen DeGeneres Show (2018)
  • Crossroads Guitar Festival (2019) 

If you want to see the Paul Reed Smith DGT guitar in action, check out this fan video of him at the United Center in Chicago in 2017:

Gibson Les Paul 

Gibson Les Paul Classic
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Gibson Les Paul is undoubtedly one of the most iconic guitars ever created, and even John Mayer can’t help but experience their full potential from time to time. Though this currently isn’t the most used model in Mayer’s collection, it has made quite a few appearances throughout the years.

However, most of Mayer’s televised performances with a Gibson Les Paul are a bit older, with one of the most famous ones being his “Good Morning America” appearance in 2007 (which you’ll find below):

If you’re not already familiar with what is considered to be one of Gibson’s best releases, here’s everything you should know: 

  • Body shape: Single cutaway solid body
  • Top: 2-piece maple
  • Neck pickup: Burstbucker 1 or 2 humbucker (depending on year/model)
  • Bridge pickup: Burstbucker 1 or 2 humbucker (depending on year/model)
  • Controls: 2-volume, 2-tone, 3-way pickup selector switch
  • Fret size: Medium Jumbo
  • Nut material: GraphTech
  • Neck material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard material: Rosewood
  • Bridge: ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic with aluminum stopbar
  • Tuning machines: Grover Locking Rotomatics
  • Control knobs: Amber top hats with silver reflectors
  • Neck profile: Rounded or slim taper (depending on year/model)
  • Back: 2-piece mahogany
  • Body binding: Cream
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Pickguard: Cream
  • Finish: Gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish in various colors

Fender Telecaster

It’s clear that Fender guitars hold a lot of practical and sentimental value for Mayer. During his long-standing collaboration with the company, his custom Stratocaster wasn’t the only model he was drawn to. He also performed with a Telecaster on several occasions, such as:

  • Born and Raised Tour (2013)
  • “Guitar Center Sessions” (2013) 
  • “Bud Light Dive Bar Tour” (2018) 

Here’s a full show of his 2018 tour:

If you were wondering, here are some of Telecaster’s most notable specs: 

  • Bridge pickup: Single-coil pickup
  • Controls: Master volume, master tone, and a 3-way pickup selector switch
  • Body shape: Single cutaway solid body
  • Control knobs: Knurled flat-top
  • Pickguard: 1-ply or 3-ply pickguard (depending on year/model)
  • Neck pickup: Single-coil pickup
  • Fret size: Medium Jumbo or Vintage (depending on year/model)
  • Inlays: Dot or Vintage Clay (depending on year/model)
  • Fingerboard wood: Maple or rosewood (depending on year/model)
  • Bridge: Fixed bridge with 3 or 6 saddles (depending on year/model)
  • Tuning machines: Fender Standard Cast/Sealed or Vintage-style (depending on year/model)
  • Number of frets: 21 or 22 (depending on year/model)
  • Body wood: Alder or ash (depending on year/model)
  • Neck wood: Maple
  • Neck shape: Modern C or U-shaped (depending on year/model)

Guild Starfire

Guild Starfire is one of the models Mayer most gravitated toward during his earlier work, especially while playing in the John Mayer Trio. You’ll notice a Guild Starfire right away thanks to its dark sunburst finish, and if you’re curious about seeing Mayer play it live, I highly recommend checking you the “Where the Light Is” live album. 

There, Mayer uses a Starfire to play his hit song “Come When I Call.” I’ll make your work easier and fish it out for you — you can find it at Apple Music here and the live performance here:

Here are some of this model’s most notable specs:

  • Neck wood: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard wood: Rosewood
  • Body wood: Laminated maple back, sides, and top
  • Neck shape: Vintage soft “U” profile
  • Bridge: Guild Adjusto-Matic with a trapeze tailpiece
  • Tuning machines: Grover Sta-Tite
  • Body shape: Double cutaway semi-Hollowbody
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Fret size: Medium jumbo
  • Inlays: Pearloid block
  • Control knobs: Black top hat knobs
  • Pickguard: Tortoiseshell
  • Neck pickup: Guild LB-1 humbucker
  • Bridge pickup: Guild LB-1 humbucker
  • Body binding: Multiple-ply binding on top and back
  • Controls: Individual volume and tone controls for each pickup and a 3-way toggle switch
  • Body finish: Gloss polyurethane in various colors

Again, as with all other models mentioned above (apart from the one-time releases), it’s important to note that there might be some variations between different Guild Starfire releases, so if you’re interested in getting a particular piece, make sure to research it individually.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of your most commonly-asked questions on the topic:

What Guitar Does John Mayer Use Now?

John Mayer currently uses either his Fender Stratocaster or his PRS Silver Sky. For acoustic performances, though, he relies on his Martin OM-28 JM. Each of these guitars has been custom-made to fit Mayer’s preferences and playing style, which is why they share some similarities.

What Acoustic Guitar Does John Mayer Play?

The acoustic guitar that John Mayer plates the most is the Martin OM-28 JM. Mayer has heavily preferred Martin OM-28 guitars for his acoustic performances all throughout his career, and since he finally got the JM variation that he helped create, he has brought it out in every intimate performance.

Does John Mayer Still Use Fender?

John Mayer still uses Fender guitars from time to time, though not as often as he did when he was actively working with the company. In fact, he has gone on record to showcase his appreciation for all Fender models, though he and the company don’t share the same vision.


Remember that this is by no means the full list of every guitar John Mayer has played — the man isn’t afraid of experimenting with new makes and models every now and again. However, the guitars listed above are undoubtedly the ones that have made the most impact on Mayer’s career as a musician and the ones you’ll likely spot most often when watching one of his performances.

While it’s safe to say that John Mayer heavily prefers his custom Fender Stratocaster (Black1), it seems like all models mentioned on this list hold a dear place in his heart. 

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