Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms – Cover by Ingo Raven

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in MK guitar style and licks, Recording

This week-end I found time again to record another cover version – Brothers in Arms. After Six Blade Knife and Wild West End, this is the third video I put some additional effort into, which means I did not record the  audio with the microphone of the camcorder but with the gear in our homerecording studio. Nevertheless it should be considered rather as “live video” and not as studio recording because I played the  guitar plus the vocals in one complete live take – without any overdubs and without correcting little mistakes to leave it in a more authentic state.

This time I recorded four takes all in all and then decided which one to take. The backing tracks were done some time ago – regular readers might remember the blog article about recording the acoustic guitar (my Gibson MK-81) and another one where I jammed to it and played a few solos.

The backing track is available here.

Recording gear

I recorded all audio with Cubase and a Creamware Scope system (now by Sonic Core) with which I also mixed the final tracks. The Hammond B3 emulation is also from the Scope system, and so is the reverb and all other effects (except a bit spring reverb from the guitar amp, and a sleight delay from the MXR analog delay). The drums are from Native Instrument’s Battery, a VST plug-in in Cubase.

Maybe you are wondering how I synced the Cubase audio to the digital video file: in fact I did not sync them at all. Instead I recorded the audio in Cubase,  and filmed myself while playing the guitar plus vocals. I later imported the video file and the mixed audio track into a friend’s Adobe Premiere. Here I visually aligned both tracks so that the waveform of the master audio track and the audio of the video file start simultaneously – at high zoom this is pretty easy to achieve. I found that for some reason both tracks do hardly drift apart over a time of just a few minutes. Then I simply muted the audio of the video file so that you hear the master audio only – that’s it. The same I did with the second video file.

Gear used here – signal chain

Gibson Les Paul Custom ’74 (10s strings)
Morley Volume pedal
MXR Analog Delay
Music Man HD 130 212
Shure SM 57

Some notes on how to play it and how to get the sound – dynamics are the key

I guess there are a zillion tabs around that tell you which notes to play (I myself never play or learn anything from using tabs, by the way), so I am not going to talk about this stuff here again. Besides I improvise a lot here: I found that as long as you stay in the G#m scale you can play more or less what you feel to and it sounds alright, the rest are all those licks I remember hearing in one of the many version Mark Knopfler did of this song. Each time I play it, I play it totally different, I never stick to a particular version.

What however seems important to me is the use of dynamics. What I mean is to remember that good music consists of loud notes which are contrasted with low, subtle notes. Many players I see on youtube seem to play everything rather loud. The problem is that when you start a song like Brothers in Arms and hit all those first notes at – let’s say – 80% percent of maximum strength, you cannot go really higher to highlight other notes. If you however start at rather 20% – which I am doing here – you have more to add later. Besides, the sound will be completely different. Be aware that Youtube also compresses the dynamics, so in the room I played with even more contrast between loud and quiet notes than you are hearing here. Similarly, something like the original Sultans of Swing is played with a huge dynamics range (which is later reduced technically for some other reasons) and this causes a huge sound difference compared with playing with a small dynmaics range. I guess I might come back to this topic with a dedicated future blog article.

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Soundcheck Brothers in Arms – the Music Man 212 HD 130 for distortion

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Amps, Mark Knopfler gear, MK guitar style and licks, Recording

Normally I use my Music Man 212 HD 130 amp for clean guitar sounds, but the other day I was tinkering around with the Les Paul jamming to Brothers in Arms. The Music Man has a solid state pre-amp section which is not ideal for distorted sounds. Yet, I was surprised to get some really nice, fat and warm sounds out of this combination.

Knopfler uses Marshall cabinets which allow a very deep bass sound, but I was pleased with the rich bass response from the Music Man, not bad for an open back combo amp.

I feel that it is important for that Brothers in Arms tone to play really softly and gently, don’t bash the strings or tear them. This way you get a great dynamic range.

And before I forget to mention: I rolled back the tone control on the guitar to 2.5 !

Unfortunately the sound on my youtube videos is not as good as it is before uploading a video. I don’t know what exactly it is, seems like a built-in denoiser or something, which produces a wobbling sound and other artefacts. Any help how to eliminate this is really welcome.

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Mark Knopfler’s JTM 45 Marshall amp of Money for Nothing and Brothers in Arms

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Amps, Mark Knopfler gear

In Guy Fletcher’s last recording diary he had a photo of Mark Knopfler’s old Marshall amp with the matching cabinet. This seems to be the same amp that was used on the original recording of both Money for Nothing and Brothers in Arms.

Marshall’s first amps were basically copies of the tweed Fender Bassman. They had the same circuit and consequently the same controls, although they looked completely different. The Fender Bassman was a combo amp with four 10″ speakers, while the Marshall was just a head that was set on a cabinet with four 12″ speakers which Marshall originall intended to be used for bass.

This first model was the JTM 45. JTM is said to stand for Jim + Terry Marshall (I have sources that say Terry was Jim’s wife and another that says it was his son), while 45 stands for 45 watts. This power came from two 5881 tubes (a military version of the 6L6 used in most Fender amps) , which was later replaced with the KT66, and again with the EL34. Generally these first amps went through many minor changes, it seems Marshall bought parts in small supplies, and when the next time a component was not available at the same value, they simply took a similar one. The first amps had a rectangle metall or plastic plate with the Marshall logo, as Knopfler’s amp has the later white plastic Marshall script, it seems to be from not before 1965.

The controls were (from left to right): presence, bass middle, treble, volume bright channel, volume normal channel.

The cabinet might be from the same period.  On stage Knopfler often used Electro Voice 12L speakers in his 4×12″ cabinets, and Guy Fletcher added in his forum that he believes that there are also EVs in this cabinet (he seems not to be 100% sure). On the other hand, it might be possible that Knopfler left the original Celestion 20w speakers in this vintage cabinet, at least this is what I would have done. The EV12L has more treble than the Celestions, however, the Celestion are softer but have a distinctive presence peak. And the EVs weigh a lot more, a roady’s nightmare.

The combination of Marshall amps and 4×12″ cabinets with Celestions is what made the British rock sound famous, a warm and soft distortion with natural compression from the amp.

Note the little patch cable that connects the second input of the right channel with the input of the left channel. This trick allows you to use both channels at the same time which results in a fatter sound.

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