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Rusty Cash >> Mark Knopfler Style >>
Lesson Subject: Mark Knopfler Style
What you learn: Lesson 3
Teacher: Rusty Cash

Rusty: Tonight we will look at some of Mark's country licks and recordings. Since the early 90's, Mark has recorded and worked with several country artists. He also has a long list of session recordings that he played on.

Lesson Example

Looping Sound Clip 1

Rusty: Here are a few suggested recordings that may relate to our lesson:

"Walk Of Life - Live" from Dire Straights - On the Night 

"Poor Boy Blues" from Mark Knopfler/ Chet Atkins - Neck and Neck

"Cannibals" from Mark Knofpler "Golden Heart"

Rusty: The rhythm of the example will be closely related to all three songs. The lead work should sound similar to "Poor Boy Blues. I got carried away with the example, so it will probably sound too far on the country side. It's not that Mark couldn't play these licks, but he probably wouldn't over play like the example.

Rusty: The live version of "Walk Of Life - Live" has some good solos at the end. Most of the lead work was played by Paul Franklin on pedal steel but tonight's lesson will show you some of the licks we can play on the guitar to emulate that instrument. Mark's tone on "Neck and Neck" is very clean and colorful. Part of his tone can be contributed to the EMG pickups. They would be the first thing I would invest in if I were going to try and emulate his tone. For this example I used my guitar through a compressor and straight into my computer.


Blocking Video

Rusty: "Blocking" is a technique that pedal steel players use and typically country guitar players. It's not limited to just a country style, but it really stands out in that type of playing. When you "block" a note that means you dampen the note out with a finger minimizing it's sustain. Normally you'll play a note on one string, when you skip to the next string you dampen or block out the note previously played with your thumb or index finger. This will particularly stand out over bends.

Blocking Double Stops

Rusty: The next lick shows you an example of some double stops. As I move through the notes, I block the previous ones out. You don't have to do it everywhere and sometimes you want be able to. I went overboard all through the lesson example so you could hear what I'm talking about.

Blocking Video Ex 2

Rusty: There is no tab symbol to show blocking. It would be too confusing if there were, so pay close attention to my right hand in the videos. Mark will use blocking to some degree. Again, when playing with you fingers it tends to come naturally.


Rusty: All through the song I use regular bends, pre bends, bend and hold, an pre bend and release. Sometimes the tab gets confusing so I made a midi example to show you what I mean by the symbols. You will see these throughout the licks.


Rusty: Our chords are pretty basic. Here are the chord voicings that we will either play at once or play through as a lick. I'm putting these here as a reference for the licks. Most of the time we will not play the root note of these chords.

Rusty: When you get to the licks, you may be curious of how they relate to the backing progression. Most of the licks are country licks, and we either bend or slide into a triad which makes the same notes of the chords we will play against. We will use some scales but I'll post them before the lick.


Rusty: We will break the rhythm up into two parts, the chorus leading (4 bars) and then the verse which repeats twice (8 bars). That will give us 12 bars in all. The progression is tabbed in midi format, but I would use them like a chord chart so you can follow along.

Rhythm Guitar

Rusty: For the rhythm guitar, I used one of Mark's many rhythm progressions. The (*) on the tab indicates playing with thumb. The video is slowed down showing just my right hand.

Rhythm Video

Rusty: The rhythm lick is a shuffle rhythm lick that follows the changes of the chord progression. Count 1 2 & 3 & 4 & letting the first note receive a quarter note. On the & of 3 you will cross over with your thumb. That and a brief sustain on the notes will get close to the feel behind his rhythms. It almost sounds like a delay or "hiccup". Chet Atkins had a lot of rhythms like this.


Rusty: The first 2 licks do not have a video. The example could make it without the licks added. I put them there so you could hear some the chord voicings we will be playing out of.

Rusty: This lick just plays the chords to the chorus and emphasizes the chords over the first part of the verse.

Rusty: Finishes up the verse and plays the chorus once more.


Rusty: This lick falls out of the E Major Pentatonic lick. It uses some blocking over the bends. Think of it as the melody notes the singer might use.


This is another E major lick that will incorporate some blocking through the double stops.


Lick 5 uses some double stops to work down the neck from E to A. Notice the first part of the lick uses some of the D chord at the 7th fret. While that is being played it makes the E chord sound like an E7. You could consider this to be an example of blocking. More characteristic of the way Mark would play. While moving down the neck you should constantly block the notes. That's what makes it sound choppy. There is a lick sort of like this on "Poor Boy Blues". Lick 6 is something I made up that uses blocking over the bends.


Rusty: The tab example doesn't sound that great. I would pay closer attention to the video. Notice the more you block with bends, the  "countrier" it sounds. Lick 7 is a "pedal steel lick". Notice the first part highlights the high E triad at the 16th fret. It also comes in early so that the example would sound like two people playing.


Rusty: The bends will work along with the chord changes. During the lick, look for the notes E, F#, A, and E again. Lick 8 and 9 finger pick through the E, A, and B chords around the 7th - 12th fret. If you forgot what they look like scroll to the top and look at the tab that displays the chords. All along we are suspending the E, A, and B to make a nice finger picking pattern.



Rusty: Again lick 10 follows the chord changes. We bend the third string which is the 2nd tone of the chord up to the major 3rd and then pick the rest of the triad.


Rusty: This lick uses a lot of blocking. It is similar to the first example I gave you explaining blocking. When we get to the B chord, hold the bend the entire time while playing the notes out of that scale. Next we slide from the B up to the E using thirds. Most of the remaining licks will use this E minor blues.

Rusty: Here is the old "Rock 'n Roll" lick. I wanted to put something up like this to show you that rock licks can incorporate some "blocking" if you prefer. Pre-Bend the second bend at the 2nd fret 3rd string while playing the open B and gradually release it. The last part is a hammer on at the 2nd fret 4th string that may be similar to "The Bug".


Rusty: Lick 12 consists of some slides and bends that use blocking over E. Once we are in A and B we use the same pull off lick sort of like Sultans Of Swing but notice I have to make the triads major. Last, a slide into the E triad an the 12th fret.


Rusty: Lick 13 is another E minor blues lick that is very similar to a lick in Calling Elvis but you would need to transpose it to B, add distortion, and pick up the tempo. The lick ends with another bend in E minor.


Rusty: I don't have the last lick I played on the example tabbed out. I was just having fun. If you've heard "Poor Boy Blues", there is a lick in the ending solo that I believe was played by Chet. It's really cool and fast. I was just poking fun at that idea and tried something similar here. That's all for lesson 3. I hope you'll find some of this stuff valuable. I exaggerated on a lot of the licks moving away from Mark's style just to emphasize a few techniques.

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