John Mayer: Three Things Amp Modelers Haven't Nailed Down Yet

Mayer shares his views on amp modelers - where they excel and where they come up short.
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John Mayer and Bill Kreutzmann of Dead and Company perform during the Band Together Bay Area Benefit Concert at AT&T Park on November 9, 2017 in San Francisco, California.

John Mayer and Bill Kreutzmann of Dead and Company perform during the Band Together Bay Area Benefit Concert at AT&T Park on November 9, 2017 in San Francisco, California.

Love his music or hate it, it's impossible to deny that John Mayer knows his way around a six-string.

Despite the controversy that surrounded its initial announcement, the PRS Silver Sky -Mayer's signature guitar - has proven to be popular among those who get their hands on one. Mayer's work with Dead & Company has also done much to win over those who never warmed to his solo output.

With that all in mind, Mayer's thoughts on gear tend to carry a significant amount of weight in the guitar community. So when the guitar great recently took to Instagram to share his thoughts on amp modelers - while jamming on some Spotify blues jam tracks - people took notice.

“I’m playing through a Fractal, which I finally got to squeal the way I want an amp to squeal, which is cool, because it means that amp modeling is getting close,” Mayer says in the video.

“One thing it doesn’t respond to well is the change in guitar volume. Because it’s an amp modeler, it doesn’t quite understand gain structure. It doesn’t quite get it. 

"Amp modelers don’t quite understand two [other] things: they don’t understand the impulse of the note, so they don’t quite get the contact with the string correct - the way a tube goes ‘whoosh’; what I call the ‘wapoosh’ of the note. Amp modelers don’t yet know how to take a note and squeeze it the right way and send it out.

“Second thing is, there’s a lot of harmonic artefacting taking place if you play more than one string at the same time.

“Like if you do one of those bends where you’re playing three notes at once - you’re holding two, you’re bending the third one - it just goes [makes digital noise] on top of it because it doesn’t quite understand how to translate all that: three different notes of harmonic information, it just freaks out. But it’s pretty close - it’s not bad!”

It's worth noting that Mayer is speaking from experience, having occasionally employed a Fractal Axe-Fx III in his live rig.

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