Neon Guitar Lesson

Neon by John Mayer (Live Version) Full Guitar Lesson with TABS

Neon was written in the mid to late '90s and first appeared on John Mayer's 1999 EP 'Inside Wants Out'. However, the song first became well-known on his hugely successful album 'Room for Squares' (2001). 

In this lesson we're going to be looking at the live version of the Neon, taken from his 2007 live album 'Where The Light Is'.

This is not a song for beginners by any means - there's a huge amount to learn and so many techniques you need to know. So buckle up and prepare yourself for a little frustration as you learn to master this brilliant, but very complicated, song.

Neon Song Details: 

  • Key - C minor
  • Tempo - roughly 106 bpm
  • Tuning - drop C (C, A, D, G, B, E)
  • Difficulty - advanced

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The Intro

Let's start off with the jaw dropping intro John Mayer does on the live recording of Neon.

If you're up for a guitar challenge then this is it, it really is very hard and will require a lot of practise and technical ability. There's so much great stuff to learn here that you can rob and put in your own playing.

Intro (part 2):

It doesn't get much easier here I'm afraid.

The Riff:

The majority of the song is played between the thumb and first finger. You will likely find this a very bizarre technique if you've not done it before.

Enough exercises to last a lifetime!

An almost endless supply of fingerpicking patterns, strengthening your skills day-by-day.

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Don't feel as though you have to play this note-for-note, as I'm sure John Mayer mixes things up every time he plays Neon. 


Some pretty awkward chords for the chorus here. Find which fingerings work best for you and watch your timing as you work your way through the progression. 

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Finally we have the bridge to look at. Watch out for the crazy triplet runs at the end!

If you want to make sure that you're really on the right track with fingerpicking, then try one of my fingerstyle guitar courses - find out more here.

If you have any questions or want to share anything at all, then please leave a comment below.

I hope you've found this lesson useful and thank you for reading.

Recent Song Lessons

  1. Charlie left a comment on 15th November 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Hey dude!

    Thank you so much for this lesson and especially for the intro & bridge parts from the live version. Your lessons are the best out of the lessons I’ve seen so far for this song. I’ve managed to get the main riff, pre-chorus and chorus down ages ago allready and hats off to you for making the lessons on the most difficult parts.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 15th November 2018 at 2:26 pm

      Hey thanks Charlie, really happy that you like the lesson. I’m glad I put the extra effort in to do the intro/bridge, was bloody hard! Enjoy.

  2. Charlie left a comment on 27th November 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Hey Chris

    Thought I’d ask how are we suppose to reach up to the 17th fret on an acoustic without a cutaway as an attempt to do that would be tough to do?

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 27th November 2018 at 6:41 pm

      Hey Charlie,

      The honest answer is ‘with great difficulty’. You’re going to have to take you’re hand virtually right off from the fretboard, up from underneath the neck and reach across.

      It’s bloody hard but you can do it! If you watch John Mayer play it you can see he’s not using a cutaway.

  3. Imtesal left a comment on 22nd January 2019 at 2:05 pm

    A great tutorial it is wanted to know is the right hand pattern on the main riff exactly the way john does? Does it include the slap notes on the e string (c string)?

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 24th January 2019 at 12:09 pm

      As far as my ears tell me it’s really very close. But really you need to decide for yourself using your ears.

  4. Aleksa left a comment on 31st March 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Best tutorial!!!
    I start learning and its so hard but i van do it!
    Thanks for tutorial.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 3rd April 2019 at 10:14 am

      Thank you! Just keep going and you’ll get it.

  5. Daniel left a comment on 21st April 2019 at 4:32 am


    Great tutorial, and so awesome that you just put it out there… Can I make a contribution to your site?


    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 23rd April 2019 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks Daniel, glad you like the lessons.

      I don’t have a donation offering I’m afraid but thank you so much for wanting to, it’s very kind and I truly appreciate you appreciating my work.

  6. Dante left a comment on 16th June 2019 at 2:33 am

    Awesome tutorial, best I’ve found. Same feeling towards your top 60 list. For the chorus part, what should I do with the 5th and 1st string? When I’m strumming with the chords given in the tab, hitting either of those two open strings just kills the sound.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 25th June 2019 at 6:27 pm

      Hey Dante, really happy you like the lesson, it’s such a great song! You have to mute those two strings out with your fretting hand or yes, it will sound horrendous.

  7. Don left a comment on 21st June 2019 at 4:46 pm

    When I sign up for the course is there downloadable PDFs of these songs that will be available?


  8. Hayley left a comment on 11th July 2019 at 12:22 pm

    You’re absolutely right that you need to get into Mayer’s technique to make this work. Otherwise, it’s a lost cause. Thanks for the amazing lesson.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 16th July 2019 at 11:09 am

      Yeah, I find it really helps me to get the groove right. Some people do it well using three or four fingers but often times it’s just not quite right.

  9. Matt S left a comment on 28th July 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Fantastic lesson. Thank you for putting all of this together and making it so easily available. It’s much appreciated!

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 29th July 2019 at 6:37 pm

      It’s a real pleasure Matt.

  10. ChiemP left a comment on 3rd August 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you so much for the videos!! They are really helping so much. They are easy and understandable and well put together. Thank You!!

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 5th August 2019 at 11:16 am

      Thank you, I’m really happy you like the lessons

  11. Steve left a comment on 26th September 2019 at 1:21 am

    What happened to the inline tab? They are all getting locked up and it seems to have coincided to be the same time I signed up for your newsletter. Before I could watch the videos and look at the tab for each section.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 26th September 2019 at 11:40 am

      Yeah, the tabs are all transitioning into being legally published. If I don’t do it the site could get shut down and I’d probably have a big fine to pay. I’m not willing to take that risk, and it’s only right to respect artists’ work.

      • Steve left a comment on 27th September 2019 at 2:38 am

        That makes sense, the timing was really suspicious but it seems purely coincidental. Your site has great content, you deserve to get paid for all this work! I have to say $8 seems a bit high for a single song tab. That works out to $480 for your top 60. Is there a subscription that gets me all songs? I’m more interested in the songs with the awesome videos than the lessons at this point.

        Either way, I wish you the best. Also, I have to say your guitar and playing sound amazing. If you had solo guitar up on Spotify I would totally listen to you!

        • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 28th September 2019 at 2:12 pm

          Yeah, the timing there is just a coincidence. The tabs are expensive I agree, I wish I could make them cheaper but the pricing has nothing at all to do with me, it’s all up to the publishers, I guess their margins are high. If it were up to me they’d be around $3 each but I can’t legally sell them on my own. Currently you can’t bulk buy them but if you sign up to Music Notes they do offer some discounts on their sheet music.

          It’s all annoying I know, but I want to stay within the law.

          Thanks a lot Steve, all the best.

  12. Sofia left a comment on 28th November 2019 at 1:14 am

    First of all, thank you so much for these videos, your Neon tutorial is really the best out there! regardless the Pre-Chorus I have a doubt, after he plays those three positions there is a move before going back to the riff, the hand kinda slides down, then up, and then back again to the riff position, and while that happens there is still a sound, so I would like to know what is happening with the right and left hand at that moment. I would highly appreciate it!!!!!

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 29th November 2019 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks Sofia, can you tell me the exact minute/second in the song that you’re talking about?

  13. Brandon left a comment on 15th April 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Best fingerstyle instructor on youtube!

    Found your fingerstyle covers only about 2 months ago and this your channel is my go to for any fingerstyle arrangements I want to learn.
    I love the fact you teach the entire song, takes some talent to be able to play these songs, let alone teach!
    The only other instructor on youtube that is on par with your standard is Gareth Evans and he no longer uploads.

    So keep up the great work, give it time and be consistent and your channel will blow up big time!

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 17th April 2020 at 11:03 am

      Thanks a lot Brandon, that means a lot to me. I’ll keep working to make my lesson better and to bring you new content each week. Thanks again.

  14. Shaunak left a comment on 22nd June 2020 at 9:53 am

    Hi Chris, for that one C minor 7 chord in the chorus with the hammer-ons, which strings are muted and rung out by the first finger (index finger)? Is it the A and E muted by index and the D, G and B held down?

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 25th June 2020 at 9:11 pm

      Hi Shaunak, yes that’s pretty much it. Mute the E, A and high e strings.

  15. Zwag left a comment on 26th August 2020 at 8:48 pm

    Dude… Dude… WTF! Lov u.

  16. Ken left a comment on 21st December 2020 at 1:50 pm

    Hey thank you so much for this! This is the best neon tutorial on the internet! I’ve been learning this song throughout quarantine from your videos and it’s all very helpful but I’ve still got a lot to do! WISH ME LUCK AND THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 25th December 2020 at 6:34 pm

      The very best of luck with it Ken, it’s very hard indeed. Just stick with it!

  17. Eben left a comment on 13th February 2021 at 4:19 pm

    Hey Chris!

    I’ve just recently started watching your videos and I think your amazing!!! Thank you so much for making this song actually achievable! Your awesome with the guitar and give such spot on lessons! Thank you so much for pulling through and giving us the whole song, especially the bridge, no other video of neon I’ve seen puts that in, if you have time later on I’d love to hear an edge of desire tutorial aswell! Thank you so much for making this an easy-to-learn video, I’ve only been playing for about a year and a half but fell in love with this song and have leaned it in just a few weeks thanks to you! Thanks again! I’d love it if you could email me and give me a few tips! I’m 15 and just starting to master the guitar! I’ve already learned so many other songs from your help, like stop this train, love that song! Anyway, if you could make an edge of desire tutorial and shoot me an email, that would be awesome!

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 14th February 2021 at 5:27 pm

      Hey Eben! Thanks, really glad you like it. I’m impressed you’re tackling this one when you’ve not been playing too long – nice work! I can’t make any promises on doing any song requests as I already have a long list of songs to get through but I’m sure I’ll be doing some more John Mayer stuff at some point. Keep up the practice! All the best, Chris

      • Eben left a comment on 14th February 2021 at 5:58 pm

        I play in the band for my church and the leader of worship who’s been playing a long time is impressed too! Just a few months ago I was struggling in strumming chords with the right pattern, and switching chords accurately and smoothly, but now I’m playing this! All with your help to, thanks again Chris! Could you personally email me at [hidden], I’d really want to talk to you more and learn some stuff!

        • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 21st February 2021 at 7:29 pm

          Hey Eben! Sounds like you’re making some incredible progress – glad I could help you out. I’m really sorry but I’m not able to do any one-to-one lessons or email you directly but feel free to join the mailing list for the weekly song lessons and extra exclusive content.

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