Skip to main content

John Mayer teaches you how to play Crossroads in this classic GW lesson

John Mayer
(Image credit: Future)

By the time 2009’s Battle Studies came around, John Mayer was no stranger to covers of his heroes, but his version of Crossroads - as made famous by Robert Johnson and Cream - is an especially incendiary take.

Around the album’s release, Mayer swung by the Guitar World studio to share the story behind the song and how he came up with its red-hot leads, as well as open up a grab bag of six-string japes.

We’ve dug out this classic video lesson from that era, which kicks off with a bevy of Mayer zingers - including a 'Shreds'-worthy tapping performance and a shambolic Sweet Child O’ Mine - before he dons his wizened guitar sage hat to dish the dirt on the tune itself.

Speaking of dirt, it was a Pete Cornish NG-2 fuzz pedal that fueled the tones on this classic cut, and inspired Mayer to lay down the licks he teaches you in this lesson.

You’ll need dextrous fingerpicking skills to nail the syncopation of the main riff, while rhythm plays a crucial role in the solo section, too, as Mayer shoots for the offbeat to lay down his Clapton-inspired leads.

Finally, the guitar hero reflects on how a little arrogance can actually benefit your style.

“The great thing about being a guitar player is that we’re all really cocky,” Mayer observes. “We all think that we can pick up someone’s style and be just like it. So then we think we’re just like it, but we’re not. We’re our own little bad imitation of it that might become something really cool.

“You’re not good enough to sound like Jeff Beck, but you’re good enough to sound like you with a little bit of that flavor in it.”

Oh, and if you’re looking to nail Mayer’s latest lustrous tones before you tackle this tune, boy, do we have the guide for you.

Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Digital Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World, having spent nine storied years contributing to guitar journalism and a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). He has written and edited for MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, and makes prog-ish instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.