Mark Knopfler

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.

Guitar Techniques - - Lesson: Acoustic -

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

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