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    This week I was playing around a bit with the combination of the fat-sounding DiMarzio FS-1 (FS in fact stands for ‘fat Strat’) plus a ‘normal’ vintage-sound pickup.  I have the DiMarzio in the middle and a MK61  – a reproduction of a 1961 Strat pickup, becoming available exclusively on soon – in the bridge position of one of my guitars. For more background information on what this has to do with the early Dire Straits sound see this blog post.

    I am sure that Mark had this combo in one of his two red Fender Strats until October 1978 when he moved the DiMarzio to the neck position. You can hear the typical sound on many live bootleg recordings from that time (e.g. Chester 1978, Live at the BBC 1978, live at the Whistle Test, Revolver TV, or Barbarellas/Birmingham).   However, he probably had two ‘normal’ pickups in his other Strat which makes it difficult to tell exactly if something we hear e.g. on album one is this combination or not.

    The FS-1 is a hot pickup, with a DC of about 13 kOhms. When it is played together with a normal 6k-pickup, the resulting sound has more midrange but still clear treble, and is less ‘quacky’ than the middle & bridge combo normally is. Another nice feature: hum is reduced as the FS-1 has the opposite magnet polarity compared to a 60ies Fender pickup.

    The guitar in the following video is ‘nothing special’ – a Part-o-caster with mainly Japanese Squier parts. I recorded directly into the mixing desk, and added an amp simulation plus some basic effects (reverb, some very subtle delay, and a limiter) in the recording software.

    I recorded two versions of ‘Down to the Waterline’ (a song where I was wondering if it is with the FS-1 or not… ): one with the tone pot fully up, and another one where it is rolled back to about 7. Maybe I should use an amp to add that slight distortion, and spend more time with a/b comparing to find the ideal EQ and effects settings, this time it was just a quick shot.

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    For better hum shielding, the strings on electric guitars are normally grounded, which means they are connected  internally to the ground of the guitar. For this purpose, usually a ground wire is connected somewhere to the guitar bridge, in the case of a Stratocaster with tremolo this is normally a wire from the case of the volume pot to the ‘claw’ that helds the tremolo springs. As the springs are – like the whole bridge – made of steel, the bridge is grounded via the tremolo springs, and the strings via the bridge.

    Many guitarists, even the guitar freaks, are not  aware that there are two different ways how this was done on the classic (= vintage) Strat. And I have never seen this issue discussed in any guitar book or website, so let’s cover it with this blog post.

    The ‘normal’ way (as it is on most Strats and copies) with a wire from the volume pot to the tremolo claw was  not the original way how  Fender did it but was introduced about 1964/65. In all the years before, the wire went from the tremolo claw to the ground lug of the output jack! Electrically it does not matter whether it runs to the volume pot or the output jack (except some  theoretical arguments that might cause a very small and usually negligible difference) but to build a ‘vintage correct’ Strat (or Schecter Dream Machine) it is of course important to know.

    The wire runs (see picture below) from the tremolo claw through a drill hole into the electronics cavity, from where it directly runs through the drill hole to the output jack cavity where it is connected to the jack.


    Original Fender style (before 1965): ground wire from tremolo claw directly to output jack

    The ground wire on the Schecter Dream Machines and on the pickguard replicas

    On their Dream Machines, Schecter used the original style that Fender used from 1954 to 1964, the wire from the tremolo claw to the output jack. The pickguard is  connected with only two wires, the hot (yellow) and the ground (black) wire. It is a bit different on my replica pickguards which feature the post-1964 style. They come with a third wire, that is soldered to the ground plate of the pickguard (where also the ground wires from the pickups are soldered) and must be connected to the tremolo claw. I did it this  non-original way because it is the most common way on a Strat. If I delivered these without this ground wire, you need to connect the existing ground wire from the tremolo claw on your guitar to the output jack. If you have bad luck, the wire will be not long enough to reach the output jack, or the drill hole between the electronics cavity and the output jack is not wide enough for three wires instead of two.


    Remove (unsolder or clip) this ground wire (the one to the tremolo claw) for the original wiring style

    If you build your own Dream Machine and want to do it the vintage-correct style, you can unsolder the ground wire on the replica pickguard (or simply cut it close to the solder point) and run a wire from the tremolo claw to the output jack. I could have shipped the pickguards without this ground wire, and instruct you to solder the one on your guitar yourself to the ground plate of the pickguard but this requires a strong soldering iron as the shielding plate and the whole metal pickguard absorb a lot of heat so that the solder does not flow very well, an effect that is by the way much stronger with the brass or chrome pickguards compared to the white aluminium pickguard.

    The original wiring has the advantage that it is a bit more comfortable to work on the  electronics of the opened guitar, as only two wires instead of three connect the pickguard to the guitar. One thing however is important NOT to do as this causes a danger of hum due to a ground loop: never use both ground wires (from the pickguard to the tremolo claw + from the tremolo claw to the output jack).

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    This was a nice surprise: someone posted a link to a youtube video in the A Mark in Time forum showing Mark recording The Last Post for a tribute project to soldiers who died in World War I. More information about this project here:

    Mark plays the tune on his ‘Blue Ice metallic’  Pensa. It is the guitar we could already see in the BBC Guitar Stories video from 2012. It has two Lindy Fralin soapbar pickups, a Hipshot tremolo and Hipshot locking tuners, 22 frets, swamp ash body.

    Mark uses the bridge pickup. In the background we see a Komet amp played into what looks like a vintage Marshal cabinet.

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    This  blog post was written by Jean-François. Thank you J.F. ! :) [some comments by Ingo in brackets]


    Mark Knopfler has always been associated with fingerpicking. His totally unique right hand technique has become his landmark since the first Dire Straits album in 1978. However, Mark also sometimes plays with a guitar pick – not only but mostly during his solo career.

    Among his childhood guitar heroes, Chet Atkins and Hank Marvin were probably the most important for him. From Chet he learned the fingerpicking style. Hank started the desire to get a red Strat, but also to play the twang style i.e using the tremolo arm at the end of each lick instead of using the left hand vibrato. That’s a style he used to play more and more during late years, trying to reproduce that Hank style, most of the time with his ’54 Fender sunburst Stratocaster aka “the Jurassic strat”.

    Twang! The combination of a pick and whammy bar on the ’54 Strat

    It’s interesting to notice that there are also songs with that “twang-vibrato” touch but played with fingers : I’m the fool, So far away (except in 2006 and 2008 when he used a pick for this song), and in a certain way why worry or nobody’s got the gun… A liitle bit like Mike Oldfield who played on many songs in a certain Marvin-style with a clean-reverbed tone and the whammy bar, but with fingers instead of pick.

    Besides this Hank style, Mark played with a pick on many songs during DS and solo days, mainly in studio, rarely live. It was mostly for strummed acoustic guitars or rhythm parts.
    Sometimes, he makes a “virtual” pick with his nails. He does this very often when he wants more power, e.g. at the end of Money for nothing (see Live Aid 85 at 6:50) , or even Private investigations on nylon acoustic (see WEMBLEY 85 at 6:26)

    He does it also during the firts part of Tunnel of love (and especially during the break) and for the intro on So far away (except in 2006 and 2008 when he used a pick for this song).

    If Mark uses a pick live he kept it during the whole song (expresso love, our shangri-la, fizzy and the still, So far away in 2006 and 2008, let it all go, True love will never fade, The man’s too strong…)

    I never saw him alternate pick and fingers in the same song, EXCEPT for news/Private Investigations final in 1980-81, he took the pick just for outro (at 4:18)
    [Ingo: I think he changes from pick to fingers on Tunnel of Love where he played the first two or so verses with a pick and then changed to a semi-lead/riff style played with the fingers]


    List of songs  played with a pick

    Below is an attempt to list all songs from DS/solo/NHB on which he uses a pick. Question marks stand for not 100% sure.

    1976 Pre-Dire Straits

    He used a pick with the Café Racers because “it was a combination of rhythm and lead playing “as he explains in the Oldfield book. “I used more the pick at the time”

    So we can assume that most of covers performed with Café Racers were played with a pick, on the Gibson LP special
    [Mark said he played with a pick in the Mick Green style then]


    1978 Dire Straits

    southbound again : accent chords
    [Ingo: not sure]

    1979 Communique

    where do you think you’re going : acoustic part ?
    Live he played it with fingers, but the acoustic part on studio version sounds like being strummed ?


    A pick jammed behind the pickguard in late 1979

    1979 tour

    Bernadette ?
    In my car ?
    Twisting by the pool

    –>  Blog post about pick in 1979


    1980 Making movies

    Tunnel of love : acoustic and electric rhythm parts
    Expresso love : rhythm parts and solo
    Hand in hand : riff ?

    1980-1981 tour

    News outro (which became later the Private Investigations outro) DORTMUND 1980
    Expresso love


    1982 Love over gold

    Private investigations : electric part VIDEO CLIP


    Playing the solo in Espresso Love with a pick on 1983

    1983 ExtendedPlay (EP)

    Twisting by the pool VIDEO CLIP
    If I had you : acoustic (played by Mark or Hal ?)   [I guess the electric guitar that opens the song with that E chord is played with a pick, too]

    1982-1983 tour

    Expresso love ALCHEMY
    Twisting by the pool

    1985 Brothers in arms

    So far away : rhythm part (or played by Jack Sonni ?)
    The man’s too strong : acoustic part (Ovation)

    1985-1986 tour

    Expresso love WEMBLEY 85
    The man’s too strong : acoustic part (Ovation) WEMBLEY 85
    Note : So far away was played with fingers during 1985 tour WEMBLEY 85

    1990 Notting Hillbillies

    Will you miss me : lead part VIDEO CLIP
    acoustic parts on several songs

    1991 On every street

    On every street : lick at the end of each verse (just after “on every street”)
    Ticket to heaven : electric chords, acoustic rhythm (or played by phil Palmer ?)

    1996 Golden heart

    Nobody’s got the gun : acoustic rhythm part
    What have I got to do : acoustic rhythm part

    2000 Sailing to Philapdelphia

    What it is : acoustic rhythm
    Who s’ your baby now : acoustic rhythm
    Camerado : lead part

    2001 tour

    Who s’ your baby now TORONTO 2001

    Note : So far away was played with fingers during 2001 tour LYON, PHILADELPHIA

    2002 The ragpicker’s dream

    Why aye man : accent chords on the chorus (played live by Guy Fletcher on the 68 sunburst Telecaster)
    You don’t know you’re born : end solo
    Dady’s gone to knoxwille : acoustic rhythm

    2004 Shangri-la

    Our Shangri-la : lead part
    Everybody pays : lead part
    Don’t crash the ambulance : lead part
    Summer of love : rhythm

    Note : Our Shangri-la was played with fingers during 2005 tour HANNOVER, ERFURT
    Note : So far away was played with fingers during 2005 tour MILAN, LONDON

    2006 All the roadrunning

    Rollin on : lead part
    Beyond my wildest dreams : acoustic rhythm and tremolo chords (or played by Richard ?)
    All the roadrunning: acoustic rhythm (or played by Richard ?)

    2006 tour

    Born to run VERONA
    Our Shangri-la VERONA, BRUSSELS

    2007 Kill to get crimson

    True love will never fade : lead
    The scaffolder’s wife : acoustic rhythm part ?
    The fizzy and the still : lead part for sure, but rhythm part ?
    A heart full of holes : electric licks
    We can get wild: lead and rhythm parts
    Punish the monkey : lead and rhythm parts
    Let it all go : lead and rhythm parts
    The fish and the bird : electric chords
    In the sky : electric chords

    2007 promo tour

    True love will never fade BERLIN
    The fizzy and the still BASEL_
    Let it all go BERLIN, BASEL
    Our Shangri-la BASEL

    2008 tour

    True love will never fade PARIS
    Our Shangri-la ATARFE
    So far away PARIS

    2009 Get lucky

    Border reiver : acoustic rhythm part and accent chords on the blonde telecaster
    Hard shoulder : lead part and acoustic rhythm part
    The car was the one : lead part and mandolin
    Remembrance day : mini martin
    So far from the clyde : acoustic rhythm part and accent chords on the blonde telecaster
    Piper to the end : acoustic rhythm part
    Early bird : wah-wah licks
    Time in the sun : acoustic rhythm part

    2010 tour

    Our Shangri-la ? (no video found)

    Note : So far away was played with fingers during 2010 tour CORDOBA

    2011 tour

    Our Shangri-la ? (no video found)
    Note : So far away was played with fingers during 2011 tour ROMA

    2012 tour

    Our Shangri-la ? (no video found)

    Note : So far away was played with fingers during 2012 tour BERKELEY

    2012 Privateering

    Redbud tree : acoustic rhythm part and accent chords (left channel)
    Yon two crows : electric chords (left and right channel)
    Seattle : lead part and acoustic rhythm part

    2013 tour

    Our Shangri-la RAH
    Seattle PARIS, RAH

    Note : So far away was played with fingers during 2013 tour RAH29/05, RAH30/05


    Click here for all guitar parts on all songs on all albums :

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    It is a while ago that I started my Tele Dream Machine project. The project advanced and got to a stage where I had a playable fine instrument some months ago (which can be seen e.g. here when I was demoing the Walk  of Life pickups with this guitar). However, various parts were not finished yet, mainly as I was missing some of the required brass parts. Meanwhile I have (almost) all I need to finish the project.

    Let’s start with the control plate. The one you can see in the demo video was a gold-plated one, bought rather cheap on ebay. Unfortunately it did not fit properly into the contour of the pickguard but even overlapped the pickguard (see picture).


    The no-name control plate was too wide to fit into the contour of the pickguard


    The one on top is not only too wide, also the positions of the pots and the size of the switch slot are different to mine – needless to say which one is the correct way.

    Was my brass Tele pickguard wrong or the plate too wide? Of course it was the plate, what shows us that you can never trust no-name products to be compatible to the standard specs. Besides, the gold-plated steel looks a bit different than the polished brass on Van Nuy era Schecter Dream Machines. Well, if I can produce brass pickguards I should be able to produce brass control plates I thought, and this is what I did. I made a few more, and chrome-plated some of them to go along with my white aluminium Tele pickguards for a real “Walk of Life red Tele clone” set (with pickups, pickguard and wired controls, coming very soon, I basically only have to take some pictures  to put it into the online shop). By the way, it is not that you cannot get chrome-plated ones everywhere, but try to find one of chrome-plated brass instead of steel …  – and it has to be brass for an “authentic” Dream Machine clone!


    Here it is, fitting properly now, and with the right switch button


    So here is the picture with my brass control plate. I also added the switch tip button (which was missing on the video): Schecter had these round black Tele buttons, but occasionally also Strat-style tips of brass.

    While doing the brass plates, I also made the serial number plates, of chrome-plated brass and – brandnew – polished brass, vintage-correct clear laquer coated, with the S8001 serial number. I replaced the gold-plated steel plate I had on the guitar (without any number) with this one for the vintage-correct look, with an S serial number of the correct size, font, and at the correct position.

    Please note that I only made these with three serial numbers of Mark’s most famous Dream Machines (red Strat, red Tele, sunburst Strat, plus the two red Dire Straits Fender Strats ), no other numbers are available, or will be. The idea here is to have the right-looking part without a danger of misuse,  not providing the possibility to fake a Dream Machine and sell it as original. I mean faking one and insstalling one of  the most famous serial numbers is like faking a pre-CBS Strat and give it the 0001 serial number of David Gilmour’s famous blonde Strat – cannot fool anyone.


    An S8-serial number – without danger of misuse

    The next thing I did was to replace the original vintage NOS Schecter bridge that I bought for a fortune a while ago with one of “my” new Dream Machine style bridges. As I copied all important Dream Machine specs and made sure to have it milled from best quality solid brass (nothing die cast), the sound will be identical but the look fits better to the other parts – the Schecter bridge has darkened with age, being about 35 years old (see one of the pictures above).


    The Walk of Life brass bridge

    Last not least a few words on the three (!) strap buttons of the Dream Machines (most of them had three but there were also some with two, even in the 1980 Schecter catalogue). My mahogany body already had two holes at the usual positions, so I had to drill two new holes. I used a piece of tape and drilled through it to avoid crackling of wood or finish, something very important when drilling into a laquered body! The distance of these is about 9.5 cm (3  3/4 “) on my guitar. Only thing left to do: filling the unused hole. I used normal gold-plated strap buttons for now. Unfortunately these look rather different to the original ones which were made of raw brass, without laquer and rather dull looking for this reason. Thinking about it, it should not be impossible to make these from raw brass myself …  Well,  let’s leave something for the future :)


    Only some very last details missing…

    Watch out for the the next blog post in this Building a Telecaster Dream Machine series with the full photo album of the final guitar.

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