Mark Knopfler licks using the Memphis scale

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in MK guitar style and licks

This article is about a “two-strings scale” sometimes called Memphis Scale. Normally these two strings are not adjacent strings, instead you skip one string and play licks e.g. on the D- and B-string (as in the video examples below), or on the G- and high E-string.

With the help of these licks you will increase your vocabulary on the guitar. Whenever you are in danger of running out of ideas or feel chained to a standard (e.g. the pentatonic) scale, these melodic, two-voiced licks guarantee a sudden change and a new colour in your way of playing.

Examples of these licks can be found in a great number of  Mark Knopfler / Dire Straits  tunes, surely to many to name them all. Some nice examples are:

The intro of In the Gallery
Sultans of Swing
Down to the Waterline
Wild West End
Single Handed Sailor
So Far Away
Precious Angel (Bob Dylan featuring Mark Knopfler)

How do these licks work?

First, have a look at the following chord, in this example a G major chord at the 7th fret (the video examples  start with a C chord in the open position). We will build licks that are played on the D and B strings. The notes of this G major chord on these strings are coloured red (the note B on the D string, and a G on the B string).

Below you can see a second way to play a G major chord, it is at the 10th fret position. Again, the notes on the D and B strings (this time a D and a B) are coloured in red.

These four notes on the fingerboard:

The next logical step is to add certain “connecting” notes to create smooth transitions from the first position of the lick (8 and 9th fret) into the second position at the 12th fret. These notes are the C (D-string 10th fret) and the A (B-string 10th fret) – on the picture these notes are green.

This is a typical pattern (here for G major) and many licks in the video are based on it.

Which Fingers of the Left hand?

As a rule, always use the second (middle) finger of the left hand for the notes on the D string, and the first or third finger for the notes on the B string here: use the first finger if the B string note is on a lower fret than the D string note, the third if it is on the same fret. Both fingers stay in touch with the strings whenever possible.


If your connection is too slow to watch this video in high quality, go to youtube and watch it in normal quality.

Tabs for some licks from the video

Intro of In the Gallery

Chicken picking (from a live version of Skateaway)

Notting Hillbillies – That’s where I belong

Bob Dylan – Precious Angel

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Some Mark Knopfler licks using double-string bends

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Easy stuff for beginners, MK guitar style and licks, Understanding music

What I mean with double-string bends are licks that are played on two or more strings and one or more of these are bent. Such licks appear in countless Mark Knopfler or Dire Straits songs.

The following video clip demonstrates how to use such licks, and their relation to the chords they are based upon. Note that the last licks (Once Upon a time and Sultans of Swing) were covered in one of my former articles.

Most stuff in this video should be self-explaining, so here it is.

This video is in high quality. If your connection speed is too low, click here to watch it on youtube in normal quality.

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Mark Knopfler licks on an acoustic – How to practice electric guitar on your acoustic

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Easy stuff for beginners, Guitar in general, MK guitar style and licks

(At the end of this article you will find a matching video for all who prefer watching to reading)

An acoustic guitar has normally heavier strings than an electric guitar because you want a loud and rich sound. With an electric guitar you don’t need that much volume because you can adjust the sound easily with the amp. Consequently playing the acoustic requires more strength and finger pressure, and some techniques like string bending are much more difficult or – e.g. on the wound g string – not really possible.

At home I normally play acoustic guitars the way they are supposed to, fingerpicking or strumming with heavy string. For that lead stuff I take an electric guitar which I often play without amp at home. While this is loud enough for practicing in most situations , it surely wouldn’t hurt if it was louder, like an ‘acoustic’ electric guitar so to say (I have friends who favour semi-acoustics like the Gibson 335 for this reason).

One day I found another, even better solution: I took an acoustic and simply put really light strings on it. This way I can play it like an electric guitar. One the other hand, the warm sound of a an acoustic has also to do with the different kind of strings used on them – normally bronze or phosphor wound. And these are not available in thin, electric-guitar like gauges of course. No problem, I take a normal set for acoustic guitar (like a 012 – 056) but I use a thin 09 string for the high e-string (the unwound strings are the same material for electric and acoustic guitars anyway). Then I use the e-string of that set for the b-string, the b-strings for the g-string, and so on. The low e-string is left over. So, if your set is e.g. 12, 16, 22w, 32, 42, 56, this will result in 09, 012, 16, 22w, 32, 42 – pretty much a standard gauge for electric guitars but in bronze or phosphor-bronze.

I recommend to relief the truss-rod of that guitar a bit to match the lower string tension. The Martin DXK2 I use for this purpose (a rather cheap Martin model) sounds of course different than it did before but still sounds great for all kind of stuff and plays like an electric, great for practicing. Something to try out – I love it.

Here is the video for this article:

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