John Mayer: why amp modelling "doesn't quite get it"

(Image credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

John Mayer was doing what he does in his spare time, engaging with fans on Instagram, jamming improv' blues on his signature PRS Silver Sky over a bunch of Spotify tracks, talking electric guitar, when he offered up some interesting thoughts on amp modelling tech.

Now, Mayer is a proponent of amp modellers, and was using a Fractal Audio Axe-Fx unit as he played, but said that, while these are great, and now they had the all-important squeal, there were areas that needed a little improvement – perhaps chief among these issues being modellers' failure to fully understand gain structure.

“One thing it doesn’t respond to well is the change in guitar volume," he said. "Because it’s an amp modeller, it doesn’t quite understand gain structure – it doesn’t quite get it."

Because it’s an amp modeller, it doesn’t quite understand gain structure – it doesn’t quite get it

John Mayer

Amp modellers also "don't quite understand the impulse of the note," continued Mayer. "So they don't quite get the contact with the string correct, like the way a tube goes woosh, what I call the whapoosh of a note. Amp modellers don't yet know how to take a note and kind of squeeze it the right way and send it out.

"Second thing is: there is a lot of harmonic artefacting taking place if you play more than one note at a time. Like if you play, I dunno, you do one of those bends where you are playing three notes at once, holding two and bending one, it just goes vzwhee-vzwhee because it doesn't quite understand how to translate all that, like three notes of different harmonic information; it just freaks out. But! [pauses] It's pretty close. It's not bad."

In the meantime, Mayer has plenty of analogue kit to keep his tone strong. He's got an amazing pedalboard featuring such goodies as a Klon Centaur, Strymon Volante magnetic echo, an Xotic Wah XW-1 . . . Oh, and a channel switcher for his Dumble Overdrive Special, too. That's not bad either. Not bad at all.

Check out his improv session below.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.

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