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Posted in: Effects by Ingo on May 31, 2014
From 1980 on, Mark’s guitar effects were mainly integrated into huge rack systems. At the time of Dire Straits, these were designed and built by Pete Cornish, specialist on high-quality racks and effects for numerous big names like Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Lor Reed, …
Pictures of Mark’s racks however are extremely rare, mainly because the rack was often located behind the stage, and at least partly operated by Mark’s guitar technician from there.
Recently Pete Cornish published some unseen pictures of two of Mark’s racks on his Facebook page. One of them shows the rack of the Love over Gold tour (I will cover the other rack in a coming blog post). In fact it is the first time we see this rack at all I think.
In the following, I will try to explain as many details I can make sense of. If you think you can add something, use the comment function at the bottom of thispost (no registration required). So, first of all here is the picture itself.
The Cornish racks follow the same logic that is true for effects used in the studio: most effects sit in a dedicated aux way (send / return), thus the path of the direct guitar signal is kept short and simple. (Note that however, not all effects can be used as aux effects but only those who “add” some effect to the dry signal. Effects that also might “reduce” something of the direct signal must sit in the direct path, e.g. compressor/limiter, EQ, distortion,..)
Cornish uses buffers on many locations within his racks. These can colour the sound is an intended way. The foot remote control is a wooden case of heavy-duty waterproof multiplex wood, all switches are normally military-grade quality products.
The control unit
On top left, we can see the power indicator / power button. I think that those square button-like elements are push switches that glow in different colours when switched on. I am not sure of the five elements we see next to the power button, I cannot read the description properly … does it end with … 15 – 15 V? So we possibly have indicator LEDs here that might show the presence of different voltages to run the rack, or the input or output level of the signal.
On the top right, we have what looks like a rotatory switch labelled with something like “1/P Gain” (or I / P ?). The same description can be found a bit more on the right where other five elements are located, labelled with numbers 1 to 5. I guess the rotary switch has five positions, and the selected one is indicated with an LED. It might be the gain of the first input stage, this would make technically most sense to me. On the other hand, the “P” makes me think of “parallel” so it might also be about gain of the send/return paths. This might go together with the two elements right below this section, which seem to be a control and a jack labelled with “?X 1 / P” and “AUX 1/P”
The serial number of the rack is 078.
Next we have a line with 8 controls and many of those square switches that partly correspond with the controls. The controls seem to read “VOL” , “EQ” “555″ (= Roland Space Echo 555), “REV” (Reverb), “DDL” (I guess Deltalab Delay or digital delay) “FLND” (Flanger DynaFlanger”, and “Wah” (well, Mark used a wah for at least It never rains on that tour).
I suspect these controls to be rather return levels (and thus controlling the actual effect depth of the corresponding effects). The corresponding switches might mute or enable the respective effect path (alternatively, these can be switched with the foot remote control).
Between the VOL and EQ controls, we have a “EFFS” switch, I guess it is a master switch to enable or bypass all effects.
One of the two buttons on the left seems to be an “AMP SELECT”, with two LEDs for amp A and amp B, and the other one is “AMPS OFF” and will mute the signal to the amps.
I am not sure if VOL is simply a master volume control, or if it has to do with the volume pedal. Also is is unusual to have a path for the wah as normally a wah is not used in an aux way.
Below we see the different rack effects. These are partly identical to the ones used on the previous On Location (Making Movies) tour. A description of these effects can be found in the blog post about that effect rack.
The effects are (from top to bottom):
Deltalab Digital Delay DL-4
MicMix Master Room Reverb XL-305
Roland Space Echo SRE-555
Roland Graphic Equalizer
The foot remote control unit
With the foot remote control unit, Mark could enable or bypass the different effects.
We see 15 foot switches. Each one seems to have a corresponding status LED (although we cannot see these for the upper line of switches).
I cannot read most of these, the ones that seem to be clear are (line one) REV (Reverb) and EQ (all others not sure), and (line two): DDL (Digital Delay) – FLND (Flanger) (all others not sure).
The one second to the last has two LEDs. It looks like the A/B amp select, and I guess the last one is “(All) Amps off”.
I cannot tell if any effect programs (e.g. from the Deltalab delay) could be selected from here as well.
As said, feel free to add your suspects or thoughts on any elements with the help of the comments."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
I am planning various new products and projects for the next weeks or months, and just thought you might be interested in what is coming. I must say I found myself involved in more and more different ideas lately, but as what is basically a “one-man company” it is often difficult for me to keep them all going at the same time. Whenever I dig more intensively into one thing I have to delay other projects but – well, I think this is the way things simply are. So what is going on?
There are probably enough companies who make clones of pre-CBS Fender pickups but I found that the pickups in Mark’s red Fender Strat of the early Dire Straits era had some unique features that I would like to have for my personal guitar as well (to be precise I should say the pickups in Mark’s greenish pickguard – the one with the black volume knob – as he used to swap this pickguard from one of his two Strats to the other frequently). It seems that other fans often like the same stuff as me – no wonder, we all want the same sound – I thought to offer these to everyone. What I am talking about is a Strat pickup that is not only a faithful replica of a 1961 Fender pickup but also has all features that differ from pickup to pickup – like pole pieces height for example – as close as they were in Mark’s guitar. It’s a bit too early to tell what other details I have in mind, but there will be some that make not only an cosmetical difference but also a subtle sound difference. Planned for summer 2014.
Walk of Life Telecaster set
You know that I have the Walk of Life pickups – replicas of the tapped Schecter pickups of the Van Nuys era Dream Machine Teles, and I already offer brass or white aluminium pickguards for such Tele clones. You need two push/pull potis to switch the pickup taps, and do some soldering for these. So I am planning to offer pickups and the metal pickguards as a set including the control plate (of course from brass like Schecters then) with all controls and switches already wired. So it is easy to turn any Tele style guitar into a Dream Machine copy with the sound of these. One set will have the golden brass pickguard and control plate, another one the white aluminium pickguard with a chrome plated brass control plate. Planned for summer 2014.
Walk of Life Telecaster bridges
A major part of the Dream Machine sound comes from the brass bridges that I already offer for the Strat. We still need a brass Tele bridge with the typical brass saddles to get the real Walk of Life sound. These will be available in brass and chrome-plated brass. Coming summer 2014.
Serial number plates
So many of you built yourself Dream Machine clones but a nice little detail to have might be the matching serial number neck plate. Maybe we are moving more into the “mad fans only” area here, but many of you already asked for these so I thought to offer them not only with the different serial numbers of Mark’s most important Dream Machines (of course of brass or chrome-plated brass) but also for the red Fenders of the early Dire Straits days (chrome-plated steel). Also hopefully available in summer 2014.
Van Nuys Dream Machine style bodies
Mark’s Dream Machine Strats all had bodies from rather unusual woods, and not from ash or alder like Fenders. But not only the kind of wood was different. Did you sometimes have the impression that for example the horns on Mark’s guitars were somewhat different, or other contours? In fact the horns, the cutaways, the edges, the forearm and belly contours, even the size was different on the Van Nuys Dream Machines. I am not talking about drastic differences but about many details, some subtle, some rather clear. As it seems bodies with these specs are not available anywhere, I thought to produce some by myself, of course from high quality tone wood. I already have the first prototypes
Probably I will offer them unfinished and finished. With the unfinished bodies you can not only see the wonderful wood, you can also let it be finished by yourself in the quality (nitro, poly,..) you want, or are willing to pay. In fact the original nitro finish is very expensive as it is extremely labour intensive ( I heard Fender estimates nitro finishing costs at about one third of the price of the complete guitar). I might offer them with such a high quality finish neverthelessl. First bodies (unfinished) might be available in summer 2014.
And before you ask for matching necks (birdseye maple): yes, makes sense, we will see ..
Loaded Dream Machine Strat pickguard in chrome finish
In addition to the loaded brass, white and black enamel aluminium loaded pickguards, I will produce some with chrome plating. However, as there seems only little demand for this non-Knopfler related finish, these will be limited, with more in case of a demand for more. Summer 2014…
Guitar tutorial DVD
Many readers asked me for tutorials, e.g. for the MK style right hand techniques. I thought to start with these on a DVD, but still cannot say for sure when this will be available. Possibly autumn 2014."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
What a nice surprise on this year’s Frankfurt Music Fair: Music Man amps are coming back. DV MARK (dvmark.it) displayed reissues of those silver-black Music Man amps that were popular in the seventies and eighties.
Clapton played Music Man amps, Albert Lee played them, and of course Mark Knopfler. He used 130 watts combos on the Communiqué and Making Movies tours. The complete Music Man amp line was discontinued in the early eighties.
DV MARK presented reissues of three popular amp models and one speaker cabinet: the HD 130 Reverb top (the model Eric Clapton played) with a 4 x 12″ cabinet, the 112 RD 50 (a very popular small combo with an additional tube for the overdrive), and of course the “Mark Knopfler model” 212 HD 130.
Here are some first impressions on the 212 HD 130 combo: The reissue looks similar but not identical to the original. They all have of course the black tolex cover and the silver front grill, also the familiar Music Man logo on the front. The logo is the inverted “silver on black” version of the late Music Man amps (after 1980) instead of the original “black on silver” logo on Mark’s amps. It is also a bit smaller.
All controls were identical but some of the cosmetics were a bit different, e.g. the shape of the bright switches. Unfortunately the reissue is not the version with the tube driver (all Music Man amps had a solid-state pre amp and a tube power amp section, but the amps before 1978 had a tube in the driver stage that sits between pre and power amp). I am not sure if Mark had the version with the tube or not – the change was in 1978, about the time when Mark got his first Music Man amp so both is possible but generally the ones with the tube are regarded as better sounding.
The amp features two speakers with round ceramic magnets. The original amp line came with square alnico magnets up to 1978, when they first got speakers with square ceramic magnets and about 1980 with round ceramic magnets. I know that Mark had square speakers but not for sure if these were the ceramic or the alnico ones. I personally would have prefered to see the alnico speakers in a reissue.
Another difference became obvious when I wanted to play the amp. Just like the original it has a power switch on the front (with a high and low swtting for reduced output power), but when I reached for the back of the amp to switch on the standby switch I had to find out that there was no switch. I cannot tell if the amp I played was a prototype with non final specs, at least it had no standby switch at all. Judging on the sound is difficult as a music fair is not the ideal situation to check out an amp with all its tonal capabilities. At least it did not seem to sound completely different.
I learned that these amps are produced in Italy by DV Mark licenced by Ernie Ball who also still produce the Music Man basses and hold the right for the Music man label. The amps should be available in September 2014, I have no info yet on the price."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
Posted in: Guitars by Ingo on February 10, 2014
When Mark Knopfler started with Dire Straits in 1977, he played two different Stratocasters. One of these had a laminated maple fingerboard and some other modifications, including one of the strap buttons at the back side of the guitar. Unfortunately photos that show the exact location of this button – is it near the neck plate or is the button held by one of the four neck screws – do not exist. With this blog post I will try to locate the button as close as possible with the help of the pictures and video we have.
I have two Strats with a strap button on the back. On one it is held buy one of the neck screws, on the other it is screwed to the body wood near the neck plate, see the following pictures.
Let’s now have a look at the first picture of Mark’s guitar now. It is from early 1978 and shows the guitar with the narrow brown leather strap Mark used back then.
We can see that the strap runs along the inner side of the cutaway. I then tried to place my two guitars into a similar view angle as in the picture with Mark’s guitar.
So by now we can be almost sure that the strap button on Mark’s guitar was not held with one of the neck screws (with the inner screws the result would even be worse as you could not see the strap at all then).
Theoretically the button can still be located near the neck plate as on mine guitar, or further down on the same line, e.g. just in the middle of the neck plate. To find out more, I will compare pictures with the wide Music Man strap next. The Music Man logo on the strap can partly be seen behind Mark’s guitar on several pictures. As I have an identical strap, I might place the strap similar and check where the hole at the end of the strap sits.
Here is a picture of Mark’s guitar again.
A similar angle view on my guitars:
Finally I move the Music Man strap around a bit to find even better alternatives.
It turns out that in fact the most accurte placement seems to be as it is on this guitar. The real position can only differ about some millimeters or 1 – 2 centimeters at the maximum (+/- ca. 0.5 “).
Why the strap at the back?
Mounting the strap button at the back of the guitar has in fact some advantages. Even with a wide strap like the Music Man strap, the strap lies flat to your body which feels (and looks) a bit different, maybe better. And we must not forget that the guitar that Mark Knopfler mainly played before getting his first Strat in 1977 was a 1959 Les Paul Special. On this the strap button is located at the neck heel (see picture) so this is what Mark was used to, and it makes sense that he asked the luthier who did the modifications on that guitar to mount it there as well.
If you want to place the strap button on the back of your guitar, you might nevertheless do it as I did with the other guitar. You only have to widen the hole in the strap button (I used a drill) and use the same screw to hold it. From my experience the neck will sit firmly enough with one screw not in completely. You can undo this mod any time.
If you decide to screw the button into the wood, you might use a piece of clear masking tape and drill through it. This should prevent from cracking the finish around the hole while drilling. Remove the tape after the job is done.
"Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
Posted in: Vintage guitars by Ingo on January 31, 2014
I was involved in a few discussions about the possibility of buying guitars with Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) from the US – e.g. Fender Strats from the early 60ies – on the Strat-Talk Forum. After talking with two officials from Germany’s authorities / customs I got some new information which I want to present with this blog post.
|In Short – Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia Nigra)Brazilian rosewood is the wood of fingerboards on many vintage guitars like Fenders or Gibsons from the 50ies or 60ies. Due to its endangered status, it was CITES-listed on Nov. 6 1992 in Appendix I (the most protected, same status as ivory or some turtle shells), and illegal to trade. Guitar manufacturers replaced it with other sorts of rosewood, e.g. Indian or African rosewoods which are similar but not identical in look and sound.Although all these vintage guitars were built before the date Brazilian rosewood was protected, many restrictions apply to these as well, making it difficult (or even impossible) to sell or buy such guitars.|
Still possible: importing a vintage guitar for private purpose
Selling guitars with parts of Brazilian rosewood – both commercially and private – requires a special permission within the EU. Importing (or exporting) these into (or from) the EU commercially is in most cases not possible!
Brazilian rosewood on a ’62 Stratocaster
However, for private purpose it is still possible to get export and import permission for pre-convention instruments, in other words guitars built before 1992 . Buying a Strat from someone in the US is not commercial automatically. If you don’t buy the guitar to resell it (or to make money from it in any other way, e.g. to sell photos of it), it is for private purpose.
It does not matter here if you buy the guitar from a shop or a private person.
****Now the bad thing: you can never ever sell the guitar again, not to anyone, no exception.****
[Regarding the five digits prices for e.g. vintage Strats from the early 60ies, buying such a guitar becomes econmically difficult: it is still true that it will keep its value, or the value will even increase further, but you are not allowed to sell it!!?? ]
You are allowed to perform with the guitar in public (seems ridiculous, but this was not sure some months ago) . This is because in such a situation you don’t primarily display your guitar commercially but your music. However, if you plan to display the guitar on e.g. a guitar show, or print pictures of it e.g. in a book you are going to sell, it is considered commercial.
Importing the guitar commercially - e.g. to resell it – is usually not possible. The only two exceptions are :
- the guitar was made before 1947 ,
- or if the guitar has once been imported into the EU before 1992, and you are going to re-import it.
How to do import a vintage guitar from the US into the EU
If you buy a Strat on e.g. ebay, the first thing that is required is an export permission from the US. To get this is the seller’s job! The permission can be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website (application form here) , it costs USD 75, and processing time can be up to 60 days (or even longer) !!
The seller then needs to send a copy of the form (a scan via email will do, the original will travel with the guitar) to the buyer. With this export permission, the buyer can then get an import permission from his country’s authorities (in case of Germany, it is the Bundesamt fuer Naturschutz). The import permission will cost 20 Euros (price for Germany).
Prices and authorities might vary from country to country, but the same should be true for any EU country as these laws are EU-wide laws.
One thing that is very important: On the export permission from the US, field #15 must be stamped by the export customs office. For this reason, the seller must take the instrument to one of the export customs offices in the US to get it stamped there!
If this is missing – which seems to be often the case when just leaving this job to the post service – the guitar cannot be imported into the EU, in other words will not pass the border to the EU. The missing stamp cannot be received afterwards.
The guitar will then be confiscated and will remain in the possession of the government forever (but can e.g. be given as a permanent loan to a public music school etc.). The buyer’s money is lost then, no compensation.
I wrote a few blog posts about selling vintage guitars within the EU before, see the list with links to related blog posts below (in very short: it is possible to sell a guitar with Brazilian rosewood within the EU with a special paper that is available if the guitar is proved to be built before 1992 and was imported into the EU before this date. If it was imported after, you cannot sell it!)"Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
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