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Rusty Cash >> Mark Knopfler Style >>
Lesson Subject: Mark Knopfler Style
What you learn: Lesson 5
Teacher: Rusty Cash

Rusty: This will be the final lesson for the Mark Knopfler series. It is another example of a ballad. This example leans towards the blues / rock genre that may be typical of some of Marks moodier songs.

Lesson Example

Looping Jam Track


Rusty: We will be in the key of B (B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#). However; we never play the B chord or 1 chord. This is our progression:

/ G#min - E / G#min - E / G#min - E / G#min - E / (2X)

/ G#min - E / C#min - E - F# / G#min - E / C#min - E - F# / (4X)

Rusty: Mark uses this type of progression over and over. I mentioned some songs in the first lesson. What's cool about this progression is that you can stay in B major by playing it's major scale and still come out with some minor or blues licks. With the addition of the B major blues you get some extra qualities but notice I never switch to B minor blues. If you'd rather think of minor blues, then think of G# minor blues. G# minor is the relative minor of B major therefore G# minor blues and B major blues are made of the same notes. These are the 3 scale forms that I stuck to throughout the example. I also used some of the B major blues.

Rusty: These scales will come in handy when you come back to jam with the song. There are four things to emphasize that will help you sound closer to the way Mark plays.

Four Techniques To Remember

          1) Volume Swells

          2) Vibrato

          3) 1/2 step bends

          4) Finger Dynamics

Volume Swell

Rusty: There is an example of a Volume Swell. You can see how I roll the volume to make a swell. Mark uses a volume pedal. Ernie Ball makes a good volume pedal if your interested in trying one. If you have one, great. I don't and had to use my volume control on my guitar. It will work but it's also a little noisier especially if you have a dirty volume pot like I do. Volume swells add a nice affect to any song and they can be a signature part of your sound. They tend to work really nice over bends. I used a few in the example. I used the bridge pickup and rolled of the tone a little. With the addition of light distortion I've tried to get close to the tone Mark might use on a song such as this.


Rusty: On slow songs such as the example Vibrato can add a big effect to your licks. This can be achieved by playing a note and rapidly moving your wrist at a desired rate of speed. Again, you can exaggerate a lot with the vibrato on songs like this, by using a slow or fast vibrato. 3) 1/2 step bends - Because we are playing a full major scale we have a couple of places that we can use 1/2 step bends. Due to the minor quality and nature of our chord progression the notes that we bend into are important to the minor chord. They tend to stand out better over a minor progression rather than major. Add these in with vibrato and volume swells and you can come up with some different stuff.

Rusty: 4) Finger Dynamics. All throughout the series, I stressed the importance of this. You can get several different effects from just the touch of your fingers. By playing loud, soft, popping, brushing, or alternating between your thumb and index will definitely add character to songs like the lesson example. Those are four things that you can apply over the scales at the beginning. I suggest experimenting with them. They are just as important to Mark's style. The following licks will touch on those four suggestions.


Lick 1

Rusty: This lick may sound similar to some stuff off of "Brother's In Arms". This lick highlights the G# minor chord and comes out of the B major scale form 1.

Lick 2

Rusty: This lick features a volume swell. Also notice the slow vibratos over the bends. This lick also comes out of B major form 1.

Lick 3

Rusty: You may get a message for lick 3. Tab File is corrupt. It still works ok, but I'll have to change it later. Lick 3 combines the B major scale with the B minor blues.

Rusty: If you don't want to get confused thinking of two scales then just remember the only addition note from the B major blues is the minor 3rd. Just add it to your major scale and you have both scales together.


Rusty: This lick highlights the E major triad and the D# minor triad. This lick also comes out of B major form 1. The E major triad is important to the melody but can get lost within the solo. It's really the way you phrase your licks. Once you get in the groove of the song, you tend to forget your chords and go on your ear and basically jam. At least I do. The E triad is something you may want to remember to play or add in every so often.

Lick 5

Rusty: Lick 5 is basic rock lick but at the end it has some 1/2 step bends. This lick comes out of B major form 3.

Rusty: Lick 6 is an example of some more volume swells. In the example I dubbed these two bends on top of each other. One is supposed to fade out while the other one fades in. On some MK tunes you can here two instruments do this sometimes. Probably a guitar and pedal steel.

Lick 7

Rusty: This lick uses some (hammer on - pull off - slides) that works its way down the B major scale on the high E string.

Lick 8

Rusty: Lick 8 is another B major scale run that emphasizes the 1/2 step bends. This lick comes out of B major form 3.

Lick 9

 Lick 9 starts with a 1/2 bend and then moves to a unison lick. The last part of the lick your bending up on the 3rd string to the same note being played on the 2nd string. You can hold that bend throughout. This lick comes out of B major form 3.

Lick 10

Rusty: This lick moves back to our original position, B major form 1. Here you may want to experiment with your vibrato and finger dynamics.

Lick 11

Rusty: The same thing goes for lick 11 as in lick 10. That concludes our lesson. I would concentrate on the four techniques I went over at the beginning and use the licks as examples. Those four things don't require a lot of playing but you may need to spend some time to get them down pat. Once you do, they'll become natural to your playing and your ear will take over from there. This last lesson sums up quite a lot of Mark's style of playing. I hope you enjoy this CD and series. Please stay in touch and visit me in future lessons. - Rusty Cash

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