Most people regard Mark Knopfler as an electric guitarist but Stuart Ryan shows there is also an acoustic side to the Dire Straits and solo legend.
have also been prominent over the years. Like Jeff Beck, Mark is a player who favours fingerpicking on his electric guitar. Also, as his career progressed from Dire Straits to later solo material, the acoustic guitar increasingly came to the fore. A masterful fingerpicker, Knopfler’s unique style is partly characterised by the interplay between picking hand thumb and first finger, and his picking hand groove will form the subject of this lesson. What’s more, you don’t record an album with Chet Atkins (Neck And Neck) unless your fingerstyle chops are up to par!
Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1949, Knopfler’s early influences were boogie-woogie piano players and as a child his burgeoning passion for guitar was only strengthened by seeing Hank Marvin and his famous red Fender Stratocaster. His early guitar influences came from several musical backgrounds – the country of Chet Atkins and Scotty Moore, the blues of BB King and the Gypsy Jazz of Django Reinhardt. Indeed, you can hear elements of these disparate influences in much of his playing, with a particularly strong pull to the country side of things (remember those famous Sultans Of Swing solos and their distinct country twang).
Knopfler started his working life as a journalist in the late 60s but by the 70s he was playing in a variety of bands which eventually culminated in him focusing his energies on Dire Straits, the band he formed with his brother David around that time. Even in this electric context he used a variety of acoustic instruments – think of the famous and beautiful Dobro fingerpicking in Romeo And Juliet for example. However, the development of his solo career from the mid-90s saw the acoustic really come to the fore and his writing and playing took on a distinctly traditional, folk tinged sound which had been hinted at many years earlier in his work on the Local Hero soundtrack.
In this lesson we’ll see how Knopfler’s percussive picking approach can take a standard rhythm and blues riff and turn it into something else altogether more lively. This is due in large part to how the picking hand attacks the strings – instead of employing the standard ‘pima’ patterns you are using the nail of the second finger (marked ‘m’ on the tab) or if you prefer the nails of the i, m and a fingers together to strike the strings and produce the percussive, muted ‘thwack’ against them. This is then combined with a focused fretting hand that quickly releases the notes to create a muted, driving sound.
Mark Knopfler prefers small bodied guitars for fingerpicking