A few remarks on the Tracker film by Henrik Hansen

Posted on 13 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear

The deluxe box set of Mark’s new Tracker album features a short film by the Danish director Henrik Hansen. It is already available on Youtube:

I think it is a nice film which shows Mark at work, developing songs for the new record, and at leisure, walking his dogs. I am sure you will enjoy the film very much.

With this blog post, I want to discuss a few guitar details seen in this film – well, this is a guitar site πŸ™‚ . At the beginning of the film we see Mark in a side house of his home at the English south coast,Β  sitting at a table with a beautiful look on the ocean (which in fact is just 20 meters away). He plays Basil on an acoustic guitar, his vintage Martin D18 (this should be the one pictured in this blog post). On the table we see stuff like a variety of bottlenecks – both brass and glass-, a guitar cable, two books about guitars (Gibson Electrics by A. R. Duchossoir, and the ‘bible’ about National resonator guitars by Bob Brozman), a Mac notebook, and more. I should be a good guess to say that it is here where Mark composes some of his songs.

At 0:37 we see the same place from outside the window. Here we can see the peghead of a Strat, it seems Mark does not only use acoustic guitars at home but also electrics. Apparently it is his white 1964 Strat, the one used on e.g. Sailing to Philadelphia (we can see it at 1:54 or around 2:49, played in the same room). I wondered if he has certain guitars which he always keeps at home, as it seems most of the electrics are located in the room over his British Grove studio in London, a nearly two hours drive away.

Well, we can see him playing the same guitar at British Grove studio, around 2:24. The song seems to be Lights of Taormina. (I say it seems as I have not heard the album yet, although the first download links have apparently appeared in the web – I ordered my copy of the box set so that I have something to look forward to in March πŸ™‚ ). The condition of this vintage guitar is amazing! Note that Mark put strings with a wound g-string on it – it seems to be Mark’s favourite for slide now (he played Gator Blood with bottleneck on it on the last tour).

white-1964-strat
The white 1964 Strat – note the Money for Nothing bottleneck πŸ™‚
white-1964-strat-2
Here you can see the pickups height adjustement nicely – also note wound g-string

 

 

The next guitar that appears in the film is the 1958 Les Paul. Here is a picture that shows some setup details, like the height of the stop tailpiece, the pickups, or strings. Note that the stop tailpiece is very low.

les-paul-58-setup

les-paul-58-head
The head of the 1958 Les Paul, note details like the laquer checking

 

Another interesting detail is the view on the software mixer, at 1:20. Mark’s electric guitar are the purple mixer rails. Here we see that they recorded the guitar to three parallel tracks, probably one for each microphone they used. The tracks are mixed together withΒ  -4.0 dB, -9.8 dB, and -23.5 dB for the three tracks, all panned into the center. The label below says ‘mk-elecgtr_57’ for two of the tracks, and ‘mk-elecgtr_67’Β  for the one in the middle. My guess is that two were recorded with a Shure SM57, and one with a Neumann U67.

tracker-mixer

Like always, use the comment function below to add your comments, or more details that might be worth discussing.

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The hang tag shadow on vintage Les Pauls

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, Vintage guitars

Today’s blog article is just about some little detail you might have noticed on Mark Knopfler’s vintage Les Pauls. I wrote a blog post about the fading red dye on old Les Pauls some time ago, so it is something like common knowledge that the old Les Pauls from the late 50ies came in a colour called cherry sunburst and the red faded when exposed to sunlight, resulting in a lot of colour variations with names like honey burst, tea burst, or “unburst”.

But maybe you have asked yourself why many old Les Pauls – like Mark’s 1958 – have more red left at a particular place , near the pickup selector toggle switch? The reason was the hang tag – a little piece of cardboard listing some features of the Les Paul that was attached to the toggle switch on new guitars. When the guitar was in a shop window or at some other place where it was exposed to sunlight, the hang tag caused a shadow that preserved the red dye under it. On some Les Pauls you can see exactly one position of this hang tag, on others you might have several shadows due to varying angles of the hang tag.

A vintage Les Paul with the hang tag they came with when new
The hang tag with some original Les Paul pics (picture courtesy of Eric Ernest)

The features listed on the hang tag were:

Greater Tonal Range

More Brilliant Performance

Longer Sustaining Quality

Easier Playing Action

The hang tag shadow on Mark’s 1958 Les Paul

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Playing on the Holy Grail of Electric Guitars: 1960 Les Paul Standard

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, Vintage guitars

Some time ago I had the opportunity to play on a real “Burst”, a 1960 Les Paul Standard. You will probably know that Les Paul Standards between 1958 and 1960 are something like the ‘Holy Grai’l for guitar players and collectors, with prices ranging over $ 200,000. (And yes, Mark Knopfler has even two of these!) As you might guess from the surrounding in the video, the guitar belongs to the same collector as Mark Knopfler’s sunburst Schecter Strat, or the blue 1961 Stratocaster I played in one of the last videos. Only about 1,700 of these were made (possibly 434 in 1958, 643 in 1959, and 635 in 1960). After that the model was discontinued because it failed commercially, as it was too conventional looking for Rock’n’Roll players who prefered Fender solid-body guitars, and not conventional enough for jazz players who prefered Gibson arch top guitars. It was some years later when players like Eric Clapton or Peter Green made the model famous and sought-after again when they played these guitars and showed them on their albums (e.g. a probably 1960 Les Paul on the Bluesbrakers album). So these Les Paul became something like the first vintage guitars. Gibson made Les Pauls again starting in 1968 but these had some different specs than the old sunburst Standards.

Early 1960 Les Pauls are almost identical to the 1959 model, however, later in 1960 the neck became flatter, and the red colour that is known to fade when exposed to sunlight was replaced with a more resistant and darker red dye.

What does it sound like?

This is probably the most important question everyone asks himself. Is such a guitar really worth all the money? The answer is surely “no” as it costs more than 50 times as much as a good replica with original features, and the sound cannot be 50 times better. Still, those old guitars have a magic that the new ones don’t have, and the sound also might have some details thatmake it different from newer ones (apart from the simple fact that each guitar is an individual piece and sounds different than any other), so the question is rtaher how much you think these little details are worth for you. And it is all a matter of taste so you might like some new ones really better.

I recorded some minutes of video, and I recorded some sound samples directly into my recorder so that I can compare the guitar to any other later.

This first video has the directly recorded sound which I reamped with a software amp.

In the second video the guitar was played over a Tone King Metropolitan amp and was recorded with the camera mic. Obviously these do not like the volume typically produced by a guitar amp and thus heavily compress dynamics or cause distortion.

And here I finally compared it to my own 1974 Les Paul Custom. I recorded my guitar into the same recorder, and reamped it with the same software amp, all settings 100% identical. The Custom has an ebony fingerboard instead one of Brazilian rosewood, and some other construction details are different so it will never sound the same. My guitar is equipped with Haeussel 1959 pickups so you can listen yourself to how these compare to the original PAF pickups.

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