Mark Knopfler Style
|What you learn:
Rusty: Hello, and welcome to our
first lesson in this series.
Sound Clip 1
Rusty: I wont be able to say enough about Mark.
The impression he has made on the music industry goes way beyond his guitar
playing and just one style of music. As we go along and move through the
years I'll highlight some interesting facts that may contribute to our lesson,
the guitar player, and music in general. Hopefully this lesson and example will sound like some of his earlier
recordings. Some of his main guitars back then were a red 60's era Fender
Stratocaster, a Shecter Tele, and Shecter Strat. On his earlier recordings he played through different Fender amps like a
Vibrolux, Twin, and Super Reverb. Many things make up Mark's style. The
most important is that he plays with his fingers and doesn't use a pick. Above
all, this will be the biggest thing you will want to work on.
The chord progression is - Dm Bb / C Csus4 - repeating until the end of the
On the tab you will see this symbol (*). It is used to designate when I play
with my thumb. For the rest of the chord I use my index finger and middle
Rusty: Hold the chords while you play the notes
out of that chord. Let me send you a midi tab that better
explains this. It may help some of you.
Rusty: Notice I
keep my thumb mainly on the 5th and 4th string playing the bass notes and let my
fingers strike the rest of the chord. The progression is similar to some of
the Dire Strait songs "Sultans Of Swing" and "Lady Writer". The beat is a
regular rock beat with a pattern similar to something like "Expresso Love". This type of progression is used in several of his rock songs. One of the latest
ones was "What It Is - Sailing To Philadelphia". The cool thing is, you can learn the licks from these different songs and easily
interchange them with one another. I'll show you more about this when we cover
some licks. We are in the key of F major/D minor.
Rusty: Most of the licks come out of these two
D minor pentatonic scales. They will make a great exercise for
warming up your fingers.Practice these scales alternating
between your thumb and index finger. The same way you would with a pick.
Pentatonic Example 2
Rusty: This video is a lick out of the 2nd
pentatonic scale. It will give you an idea of the sound made when playing with
your fingers at a faster tempo. Two things to
1) I used my thumb and index finger to
play all of the licks. That doesn't mean you have to play them this way, but
it's less confusing wondering which fingers to use.
2) On the tab you will see this symbol (*). It is used to designate when I play
with my thumb. The blank will mean my index finger. The videos will also help
with the fingerings.
Rusty: This first lick is something like an
intro. We add an extra note to the D minor pentatonic scale that helps emphasize
the D minor chord. Let your fingers have a soft touch on
Rusty: Lick 2 is a rake down the D minor triad
which again emphasizes that minor quality. You can achieve the rake by letting
your thumb brush across the strings while holding the D minor triad. Here you can start to dig in to the strings a little by "popping" the notes with
your index finger.
Video Lick 2
Rusty: With those two licks you should be able
to hear the difference your thumb makes versus your fingers. I would use your
thumb for soft subtle touches and your index finger to pop the strings. Lick 3 is a long bend that
adds a nice effect. You will hear Mark play licks like this along with volume
swells to add to a verse etc. By brushing your thumb down the muted strings you
can pick up some extra sounds that make the lick dirtier. And when you bend that note it will sometimes sound similar to a volume swell.
The dirtier the tone is the more harmonics and feedback. For an idea of that
listen to some of his latest songs like Calling Elvis and Heavy Fuel. He does
use a volume pedal. That will make these types of licks more interesting.
Rusty: Mark has played and several
different guitars. He use to use Strats and Teles. Then he switched to a custom
shop guitar called a Pensa Surh. It's basically a supped up strat style
guitar with EMG pickup's. You can also find him playing a Les Paul and several
kinds of acoustics. As I
stated earlier, he use to use Fender amps pretty regularly. Then he switched to
Mesa Boogie and more recently to Soldano.
Rusty: Lick 4 is a common rock lick, but when
you add in the pickup notes and play with your fingers it becomes a little
difficult but symbolic of his style. On lick 4 the X'd out numbers mean to
mute those notes at the 12th fret. Just lift your finger up above the
string. So that note mutes out.
Video Lick 4
Rusty: On the last part of the lick keep your
first finger anchored across the 1st and 2nd string at the 8th
Rusty: Lick 6 should be the hardest of all.
Refer to the tab to see which finger I used to pick the string. Once you get the
rhythm in your fingers at a slow tempo start speeding it up and it will
naturally start sounding like Mark.
Rusty: You will want to play Lick 6b twice.
This is probably his signature lick that everyone is familiar with from the
Sultans Of Swing solo. It is also a lick that you can use over
and over. The lick is made of three notes called
triads. The same notes in the triads are also
the same notes that make up the chord which they are being played against. If you look at the tab, I put the names of the chord just before each triad.
You can use the first triad over any minor chord as long as you know where the
root note is. The root note is the second note played
at the 10th fret. That note is a D which follows along
with our D minor chord. The second and third triad are major and
they will work over any major chord. The root note for them falls on the last
note played in the triad. For C it would be the 11th fret of the
2nd string. Say you wanted to use the same lick over
a chord progression that had an F#m / D / E. You would use the same patterns for major and minor triads but move them
according to where the root notes are.
Rusty: Here is an
Video Lick 7
Rusty: Lick 7 is more of an R&B lick that
helps unwind the solo like and outro or ending. Those first 3 licks are not that
difficult. Mark often refers to his guitar as another "voice" rather than an
instrument that has to play certain notes at a certain time. Take some time making up licks such as these.
Let the touch of your fingers be just as important as the notes your playing. In
short be "Soulful"! My main concern is that you realize how
many different sounds you can create with just your fingers. The tone I used to record was fairly simple, clean.
You can experiment with volume swells, wah pedal, and different distortions to
add character to the licks. Mark does and we'll talk about it more later.