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    Eastbound Train was one of Dire Straits’ first songs. It was recorded as a demo before the first album was recorded, and it is the song of the earliest Dire Straits live recording that exists (from the Hope & Anchor, London, December 1977). This live version was released as the b-side of the single Sultans of Swing in 1978, but with exception of the demo (that has a totally different groove) it was never recorded in the studio. Eastbound Train was an encore in most Dire Straits concerts between 1977 and 1979, but it was never played again later.

    It is a simple boogie groove in the key of E major, and features not only a cool rhythm guitar riff played by Mark Knopfler, but also a superb solo. The chords are all E in the verses (only in the first verse it changes to D for four bars), and a chorus-like part over four bars A and four bars B.

    The solo is over a standard 12-bars blues scheme (E E E E A A E E B B E E), repeated three times.

    The following video explains basically all different parts and shows some variations for the solo. The way I play it is rather a mix of different live versions, a few details are possibly my own creations. There are enough videos on youtube showing Dire Straits playing the song if you are not familiar with it.

    Since I still experience sound artefacts (a strange wobbling bass sound) in videos at high resolution on youtube (before I upload them they sound alright), I put in the standard video quality version. You can watch a high-resolution version directly at youtube (click here).

    There are two more articles about Eastbound Train in this blog (see the list of related articles below) that analyze the opening chord and the ‘train chord’ in the solo.

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    The last poll about what you would like to read here is still running (so vote if you haven’t yet), but it seems to be clear that many readers want to read about licks (or rather want to see something as video I guess). So here a quick reaction (to be honest, I started to work on this video anyway 😉 )

    This post is about a typical Mark Knopfler lick which is based on the notes of the 7/9 chord, the chord we are talking about is the following one (in this example a E7/9):

    This chord is nothing special, special however is Mark Knopfler’s way to fret it, which is often like this:

    The difference is the bass note, instead of an E (the root note) he plays the B on the low E string (the fifth note o fthe E major scale).

    Now add the following notes which are played before the chord is played. First play the red notes, then the blue notes, then the chord (black notes). The left hand fingers remain the same on all those notes on the low E and D strings, if you want you can slide from one position into the next.

    Watch the following video to see what kind of licks you can do with these notes (excerpts from The Bug / Eastbound Train, Mississippi Blues, Lions).

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    Imitating the sound of a freight train whistle seems to be an obligatory part of all blues players’ vocabulary. For this purpose Mark Knopfler often uses a particular chord, a chord that appears on songs like Eastbound Train or Gravy Train (live), but also on the The Bug.

    The chord in question is often called a 6/#9  chord (sometimes also denoted as 6/10). Remember, the numbers indicate the interval from the root note, so it is a chord with the 6th scale note added, and the sharp 9th note.

    In C the 6th note is an A, the 9th is a D, but here we have a sharp nine, which is a half note higher, a D# (or Eb if you see it as 6/10 chord).

    So our C 6/#9 would be (e.g.): C, E, G, A, D#

    As a guitar player you probably want to leave out one or the other note (we only have 4 left-hand fingers), so we might get e.g. : C, G, A, D#

    The following diagrams shows how to play these notes.

    as tab:

    or as chord chart:

    Move the chord to the 14th fret position, and you will get the E 6/9+ (Eastbound Train) or – one octave lower – to the 2nd fret (The Bug)

    In Gravy Train this chord appears as A 6/9+, which is at the 7th fret posiotion.

    Here is a sound clips with the ‘train excerpt’ from the mentioned songs:

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Keep on whistling :)

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    The song Eastbound Train is a boogie groove in the key of E. It was the b-side of Dire Straits’ first Single Sultans of Swing, and has been played live on most concerts during the first two years of Dire Straits.

    Below you will find an explanation of the opening chord (listen to sample, live at the Hope&Anchor, London, 1977).

    In blues-based tunes – and a boogie is often just an up-tempo version of the good old blues scheme – each cycle of the chord progression pattern can end on the dominant seventh chord. This chord always starts with the 5th note of the given major scale; so in the key of C we have a G7 chord, while in the key of E we would get a B7 chord.

    By the way, ending on this chord is also called turnaround. And often a turnaround is used to open a blues tune – in other words, you start with the dominant seventh chord or with a phrase running over it. This is the case in Eastbound Train. It starts with the same chord that is normally the last chord of the chord pattern.

    A B7 chord can be played like this, using only the four top guitar strings:

    Now, this is not exactly the chord in Eastbound Train, but we only have to change one single note, the f# on the b-string is raised to a g. The resulting chord looks like this:

    Since one note of the B7 chord is raised – this is also called augmented – we have an augmented B7 seventh chord, in short B+7 or Baug7. For more general information on this chord, see the corresponding Wikipedia article.

    Left hand fretting: use the index finger on the d-string, 3rd on the g-string, the pinky on the b-string, and the remaining second finger on the high e-string.

    Unfortunately there are only two videos available (Rockpalast 1979, Paris 1978) which show Mark Knopfler playing Eastbound Train, and both don’t feature close-ups of his left hand when playing this chord, so the following two pics are the best ones we have.

    That’s for today,


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