John Mayer has an extensive guitar collection, it’s true, but his main guitar for years has been the Fender Stratocaster, in one variety or another. In fact, his first main guitar was a used SRV Signature Stratocaster that he purchased after saving enough money working at a gas station. That particular guitar went on to see many of his live performances, and was also the basis of his signature “Big Dipper” pickups (more on this in a minute). In 2005, Fender introduced the John Mayer Signature Stratocaster, which is now apparently being pulled from production, according to John’s tweet from October, 2014: @JohnMayer: Heads up to anyone thinking about owning my signature @Fender Stratocaster, they’re no longer being made and I’m no longer a Fender artist.
But in any case, it is still one of the pillars of his tone up until now. We’ll see what the future brings, but on to the John Mayer Stratocasters:
Fender John Mayer Stratocaster in 3-Tone Sunburst
Fender John Mayer Stratocaster in 3-Tone Olympic White
It was widely available in 3-Tone Sunburst and Olympic White, although in smaller runs it has also been offered in Cypress Mica, Charcoal Frost Metallic, Shoreline Gold, and Piano Black. All of the latter colors were done as limited run production models, usually 100 to 500 in number. The most valuable of these standard issue signature models is the Piano Black model, more commonly referred to as “the Black One”, “the BLK1”, or simply “TBO”. It has long since sold out, but you can find them used on Reverb.com quite often.
Fender John Mayer Stratocaster Black 1
In addition to the BLK1 produced by Fender’s American production line, in 2010 the Fender Custom Shop produced a limited run of 83 TBO’s that were made to look identical to John’s main stage guitar, scratches and all, which he helped build himself a few years prior. They were all built by master builder John Cruz.
Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition John Mayer Stratocaster Black 1
The John Mayer Signature Strats all have a 9.5″ rosewood radius fretboard, the standard 25.5″ scale length, and the six-screw vintage style bridge. And while those features are found on many other strats, the signature guitars do have some important differences. The neck is a more chunky “C” shape that most, which helps to give the guitar a fatter tone and better sustain. The guitars also boast John Mayer’s custom-spec “Big Dipper” pickups – which are exclusive to his guitar. The story goes that on his original SRV signature Strat, the pickups had been would incorrectly, resulting in a “scooped” (or lower) mid-range output. On an EQ curve, this would look like an inverted bell shape, where the mid-range frequencies dip down, hence the name “Big Dipper”. Though the pickups are not available separately from Fender, you can usually find them second-hand on the internet.
There was quite a bit of controversy in 2010 as the Custom Shop worked on the 83 TBO models, as people wondered what kind of pickups were in THAT particular guitar. The spec sheet that came out only said “special pickups”, but after much pressure, Custom Shop marketing director Mike Eldred divulged that it too had Big Dipper spec pickups, only that they were wound by the Custom Shop.
There are a plethora of other John Mayer electric guitars out there – but his two other most popular strats are the Monterey Pop Strat and his new all-rosewood strat, “Rosie”. The Monterey Pop is rumored to hold Custom Shop ’65 pickups, and it is not known what is in the all-rosewood strat.
John Mayer playing his Monterey Pop and Rosewood Strats
The bottom line is, if you are looking to nab the John Mayer tone, you’ll want to start with a strat style guitar with single coil pickups. The John Mayer Signature Stratocaster is the easiest way to get in the ballpark, however if budget dictates, don’t overlook an American Standard Stratocaster, or even a good Mexican-made strat such as the Classic Player 60’s Strat. As for the Big Dipper pickups, if you don’t want to get a loaded pickguard setup, you can usually find sets on Reverb.com starting at around $400. They can be identified by the “JM” initials written on the back by the factory.
Fender Big Dipper Pickups
Now that you’re well read on Mayer guitars, it’s time to check out some amps on the Amps page…