Dire Straits Water of Love guitar tutorial

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in MK guitar style and licks, Understanding music

In this blog post you will find another guitar tutorial video, this time not about a certain aspect of Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing but one that explains how to play a particular song again, similar to the ones I did about Down to the Waterline some time ago. As Down to the Waterline is the first song of Dire Straits’ first album, I thought why not go on with the second song, Water of Love (there might be another on on Setting me up – the third song –  in the future). Again my intention is not simply to demonstrate you which notes to play but also to explain what might be interesting or special about particular licks, or how things go together etc. And my intention is neither to show a particular version with 100% accuracy but a mix of licks he played on different versions, or the scales he used to build his licks.

I do not refer to the studio version but to live versions from 1978-79.The studio version was played on two different guitars, a National Tricone and a standard acoustic guitar, and Mark did not play his usual mix of rhythm and lead as he did on stage. Live Mark played the black Fender Telecaster Thinline (the f holes were closed by his friend Steve Phillips), which was tuned to open A)low to high: a – e- a- e- c# -e), capo’ed at the 5th fret to open D  (while the National was probably open G, capo’ed at the 7th fret).

The chords of Water of Love are like this:


D – D – C – C – G – G – Am – C
D – D – C – C – G – G – D – D


D- D – D – D – D – D – D – D
Am – Am – Am – Am – D – D – D – D


Am – Am – G – D
Am – Am – G – D

So, here is the video. You will find links to two different live version from 1978 in the video itself (at 1:17)

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Mark Knopfler Signature Strat with lipstick pickups played on Forever Young (duet with Bob Dylan)

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Vintage guitars

The recent Mark Knopfler & Bob Dylan tour ended with the show at the Hammersmith Apollo in London on November 21, 2011. The last encore played that day was a duet of both masters – the song ‘Forever Young’ (from Dylan’s 1974 album Planet Waves). A new guitar appeared on this song – a Mark Knopfler Signature Strat with lipstick pickups.

The original lipstick pickup

The lipstick pickup was the pickup on vintage Danelectro and many  Silvertone guitars – like the one that Mark plays on Donegan’s Gone. It is called lipstick pickup because those silver tubes that house the coil look like a lipstick  – in fact they originally were surplus lipstick tubes! Inside, a lipstick pickup does not have individual pole pieces like a standard Stratocaster pickup but one alnico 6 bar magnet instead, and the coil is simply wound around the bar (see picture).

The interior of a lipstick pickup


The sound of the lipstick pickup is rather different than the stock Stratocaster pickup. Generally pickups without single pole pieces have a less dominant resonance peak (more information on the resonance peak in this blog post)  and thus softer treble end, plus the metall lipstick tube dampens that resonance peak even more (like the cover on a Telecaster neck pickup does). The sound can for this reason be described with warm, jangly,  silky, transparent, but less harsh than a normal Strat, less bite, less high end.


Mark Knopfler with his Danelectro

In Danelectro and Slivertone guitars both lipstick pickups were normally wired in series instead of the parallel. This also causes a drastic sound change.

Lipstick pickups for the Stratocaster

Mark Knopfler was probably enthused for these pickups by Mike Henderson, who was Mark’s third guitarist on the 2001 tour. Mike favours Danelectro guitars for slide. The original lipstick pickup is too long to fit into a Stratocaster pickguard but many manufacturers offer replacements that fit into the  Stratocaster. In fact the pickups in Mark’s guitar are Seymour Duncans  SLS-1. As his guitar  does not look modified otherwise (normal 5-way switch) the pickups are probably wired in parallel, like in a standard Stratocaster. Mark played the 2&3 position (neck and middle) on Forever Young.

Seymour Duncan SLS-1


Here finally is a video showing Mark and Bob Dylan playing Forever Young:

Update: Simon was so nice to let us know through his comment that there is video on the official Seymour Duncan channel that shows Seymour Duncan himself with the loaded pickguard he made for Mark Knopfler. One detail he mentions is that it is a RWRP pickup (reverse wound/reverse polarity) in the middle position to cancel hum.

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