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John Mayer: “90 per cent of a guitar to me is the slack in the strings”

Blues heartthrob and mastermind behind the PRS Silver Sky John Mayer has outlined what he believes is the key to a good electric guitar in a new video promoting his signature model.

Speaking to Guitar Center, the elusive guitar hero claims it’s all down to the way the strings “hang”.

“Feel-wise, even when a guitar has a 25.5” scale, they’re all different. You put five together in a row and pick one up, you’re gonna find your favourite one, right?” Mayer poses.

“What makes your choice of favourite guitar out of five of the exact same guitars?

Same-gauge strings, same scale length, same specs in every way can make five completely different guitars

“I think, if I’m guessing correctly, it’s something to do with the slack in the strings. That, to me, is what a guitar is. 90 per cent of a guitar to me is the strings. I play the string; the guitar is underneath that. I’m playing the string.

“And if you can get the string right, meaning you hang that thing from point to point and that thing comes back when you want it to, then goes [sings bend at various pitches] when you want to do these real slight pushes and pulls - ’cause I’m playing purposefully out of tune all of the time. So I’m not playing perfect semitone bends.

“And same-gauge strings, same scale length, same specs in every way can make five completely different guitars, and you’ll find the one that does that [bends string] the way you want it to. Well, Paul Reed Smith is a genius, and he figured out how to make all five out of five feel like the one that has what I call the buttery feel.”

For all the controversy surrounding his Strat-style electric, John certainly makes a lot of sense when he talks guitars - his statement is probably the closest you can get to capturing the essence of ‘feel’ with words.

Besides his PRS model, one guitar that also caught the bluesman’s fancy lately is Tosin Abasi’s eight-string Larada, which he recently played on camera.

The guitarist also revealed he’s ditched guitar amps entirely for his recent studio sessions, instead relying on an Akai MPC.

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com (opens in new tab), in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe (opens in new tab).

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