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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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    J.J. Cale – who sadly died last year – has been a huge influences for Mark Knopfler.  Especially for the early Dire Straits sound, J.J. Cale was probably the biggest influence at all. So it is no wonder that Mark appears on the tribute album The Breeze that was released on July 25. The project was organized by Eric Clapton, so the official artist is “Eric Clapton & Friends”. Mark sang and played guitar on two tracks, Someday and Train to Nowhere. These were recorded at Mark’s British Grove studio in London.

    While the other “friends” – illustre names like Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, and more – all covered some of J.J. Cale’s best-known ‘hits’ , Mark decided two cover two rare and unknown songs, which in fact only exist as unreleased demos.


    J.J. Cale and Mark Knopfler on a J.J. Cale gig in San Francisco in 1985


    Someday is a very typical J.J. Cale song but it is really astonishing how much Mark can make it sound like J.J. Cale, not only the guitar sound but especially the vocal style on this song is so close that I can easily imagine to hear J.J. Cale himself. Mark seems to play one of his Strats with a clean sound, played very ‘laid-back’  – the ‘official’  term to describe J.J. Cale’s  cool and relaxed playing, where the notes are played almost ‘behind the beat’.

    The chords (one verse / solo) of Someday are:

    Dm  Dm  Dm  Dm G  G  Dm Dm

    C  G  Dm Dm

    G  Bb (1/2) C (1/2) Dm Dm …


    Train to Nowhere is a typical ‘one-chord groove song’ – the one and only chord being C. Mark plays a rhythm riff and sings the vocals except on one of verses which features Don White. Between the verses Mark plays a few solos and licks, also with a clean guitar sound. Also a nice one.

    You can buy the album and listen to a preview of all songs here on Amazon.

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    I am an official Kluson dealer now, so you can get the correct Kluson guitar tuners for a Schecter Dream Machine replica now in the online shop of my site.

    During the Van Nuys era, Schecter used Kluson guitar tuners for their guitars ans basses. I have seen a lot of Schecters from this time with Schaller tuners but I guess that these were not factory-original. Remember that authorized Schecter dealers could assemble guitars from Schecter parts, and if the customer wanted Schallers, I guess the dealers put them in (Schaller tuners were common because they were considered as the best guitar tuners at that time).

    It seems Mark’s Schecters all had Kluson tuners (it is sure for the Strats but I cannot say with 100% certainty for the red and black Teles as we don’t have enough high-resolution pictures of these). I personally like the Klusons better than Schallers, mainly as I love that the string ends disappear in a hole in the split shaft of the tuner.

    Kluson double-line tuners on a 1980 Schecter Dream Machine

    Klusons were also the tuners on all vintage Fender guitars, before they were replaced with the Fender keys (labelled with a “F”) that were in fact manufactured by Schaller in Germany. The earliest Fenders had Kluson tuners with no label, from 1957 to 1964 Fenders had the so-called single-line Klusons, from late 1964 on double-line Klusons. The terms single-line and double-line refer to the “Kluson Deluxe” label on each tuner: both words in one line in the centre of the tuner are single line, while double line means one line for “Kluson” (left) and one for “Deluxe” (right). To my knowledge all Schecter Dream Machines had the double-line Klusons.

    These tuners are still manufacturerd today.

    Get them here in silver (nickel) or gold.

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    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.


    Click on picture to enlarge, picture courtesy Pete Cornish

    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.

    The effects

    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):
    MicMix DynaFlanger
    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.

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