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Rusty Cash >> Mark Knopfler Style >>
Lesson Subject: Mark Knopfler Style
What you learn: Lesson 4
Teacher: Rusty Cash

Rusty: In this lesson we will explore more ideas based around the chords and key signatures. The lesson example is a ballad. The licks will emphasize the chords all through the song. We will explore some ideas based around thirds, fourths, and fifths. They make nice combinations for songs such as this. Some good Mark Knopfler ballads are "So Far Away", "Romeo and Juliet", and "Why Worry". That's just a few. He really shines on ballads either as a guitar player or a songwriter.

Lesson Example

Looping Jam Track

Rusty: There is no rhythm guitar but this is the chord progression. You can use it as a guide for building your licks or examining the ones provided.

Verse:   E / C#min / A / E
             E / C#min / A / E

Chorus: F#min / A / E / E
F#min / A / E / G#(maj)
            A6 / E / B7 / E

Rusty: First we want to look at our key signature which is E major. The notes that make up E major are:

E - F# - G# -  A - B - C# - D# - E

Rusty: We also have a chord built off of each note:


Rusty: Our rhythm section doesn't play every chord but for the lead we will play a voicing or inversion of each chord passing from one chord to the next, making a lick or melody. Also we play backwards with relation to our scale. I've chose to start with voicings that begin on the 4th and end on the 2nd string. MK plays these voicings on just about every song he writes complimenting the key of the song.

Rusty: We omit playing the root notes by starting with the 4th string. This makes an inversion of the chord but I look at it is if we are playing the full chord and name it that way. So if you get lost on how I call something an E when to you it looks like it should be a B, take a look back at the Chord Diagram for help. Lick 1&2 are variations of each other. They use the inversions tabbed previously tabbed out to make the licks. Notice I'm descending straight through the scale while using the chords.


Rusty: By breaking them up into single notes or double stops we get closer to the way MK plays. The combinations that you can come up with are limitless. When your jamming with the track try other voicings and combinations that I didn't use. Lick 3 & 4 arpeggiate down the F# minor ending over the C# minor voicing which also works over the E chord. On the last part of the licks I start by trying to play soft and then gradually build up for the next change. Playing this gives the example more dynamics.


Rusty: This lick is used twice but once for the first chorus and again on the second chorus.


Rusty: Here we play over the G# min. It's the 3 major chord, which is also used quite often in any genre of music. Throwing in the major 3 chord has many useful properties. One it adds a dynamic twist to the song as in our example. Think of Sultans Of Swing, that song is in F and in the verse you'll find an A major. The same thing happened in the example from lesson 2 over the "Your Latest Trick" example. We can also stick to playing 3rds. This gets it's name from the distance between the two notes played.

Rusty: It is either a major 3rd or a minor 3rd. For this description of 3rds the root notes are on the 1st string and are circled. For lick 6 & 7 I play through the 3rds first descending and then ascending.


Rusty: You can try more slides as well as bends like in Lesson 3. Again you should be able to come up with your own combination of licks by looking back at the Thirds Diagram. This is an example of fifths. They are made of two notes that are 5 tones away from each other.

Rusty: In this example the way you play the two will be the same. The root note is circled on the high E. I left the diminished voicing out. Lick 8 use the fifths just described. Notice how they have an oriental sound when played together like this.


Rusty: You can play 3rd's with the root note on the 2nd string. Here is another example of playing thirds with the root on the 2nd string. I use that over lick 9 and parts in other licks as well. The last lick over the G# major is the same as lick 5.

Rusty: It's any easy lesson and one that you can get really creative with. The material I gave you can cover a large area depending on your taste of music. The thirds are commonly used in country and any type of ballad. The fifths can get you close to some R&B. You have several places where you can add some chromatic notes into the licks. That will lean more towards Blues and Rock. Also, these examples work great on the acoustic. Good luck and have fun!

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