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    In the following you will find a tab of a lick in the song Bluebird from Mark Knopfler’s last album Privateering. It is the lick the last solo starts with (2:40 – 2:43). I like this lick because I thought it sounds unusual and thus interesting  when I first heard it. While I often immediately know on what scale or idea a MK lick is based when I hear it, I was lost a bit with this one. I was assuming something chromatic and was curious so that I figured it out today. Now looking at it, it does not  really seem unusual anymore, it is based on the same scale as the lick in the break of Calling Elvis, but it is nice anyway.

    The song Bluebird is in the key of Ebm / D#m (both Ebm or D#m have the same number (6)  of sharps or flats,  to my humble knowledge it is a matter of taste which one you prefer). The blues- scheme like chord progression consists of the chords Ebm , Abm, and Gb (or D#m, G#m, and F#). The lick runs over the last chord (Ebm / D#m) of the chord progression.

    The chromatic feel I refered to is on fact only because of just one note, the flattened fifth (b5, here an A) that connects the Bb and the Ab (the blue note in the tab, in fact it is a “blue note” of the scale), all other notes are simply notes of the Ebm / D#M scale. Note how laid-back Mark plays the high Eb (the 11 in magenta)!

    Make sure not to play too loud, play rather very softly but accentuated. I cannot say for sure if there are pull-offs or not (e.g. between the two first notes), when played with such soft attack it makes almost no audible difference. Lay your left hand index finger over  all four strings, just like you do when playing barre chords, and keep it pressed down during the whole first bar. This helps to make the lick sound more legato.

    Have fun!

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    In today’s blog post I want to feature a lick again, one I think that stroke me because of the interesting and logical idea behind it. This idea is: what will it sound like if you steadily repeat the same five sixteenth notes?

    In detail:  On a recording of Telegraph Road from Nimes, France, September 29,  1992 (this is NOT the gig in Nimes that was filmed for the On Every Night video earlier that year but the one that was shown on TV in many European countries), Mark played a lick that consists of the following five repeated notes:

    If each of these notes is played as a sixteenth note, always each fourth of them will fall on the beat. As there are five different notes over a rhythm of four sixteenth notes, the first note of a sixteenth group will always be different, see the following tab.

    After 20 notes, which is on the 2nd beat in the 2nd bar, the notes will repeat, after 80 notes which is after 5 bars, the first c note will be on the “one” again.

    Simple but clever, isn’t it? Often the simple ideas are the best anyway. However, if you try to play the lick, you will find that it is everything but easy to play. Since always the first note of a group of four sixteenth notes is stressed, you have to stress a different note all the time (always the one on your foottap of course). Sometimes you even have to stress the pulled-off note. It is hard not to lose the musical context, in other words not to lose where you are in the chord scheme (which is basically Dm, Dm7, G , D by the way).

    Here is the video that shows what I am talking about. Unfortunately specifying a starting point seems not to work any longer in embedded youtube videos, so you manually need to go to where the lick is, which is ca. between 6:52 and 6:57. I will also try to record a tutorial video on this lick as soon as I will find some time. Happy practicing!

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    A few days ago I jammed a bit with a friend of mine – Thomas Schwarze – in our little home studio. Thomas is a great guitar player and also plays fingerstyle, using a technique similar to the MK style. Our first idea was to play “something” and upload it to youtube. We tried out a few tunes and then attempted to play a rather complex tune – a song I wrote some time ago and recently started to arrange for a proper recording. Unfortunately it did not really happen  with this song this day – too many parts and details to get it done properly in a little jam – so we decided to drop the idea of the youtube upload, and just jammed over some of the chord progressions of this song. For some reason we simply let the camera run, and also the audio recording software.

    When we were watching the result we thought it was not that bad, so we finally uploaded it last week. Most comments on youtube so far were favourable, some people seemed to enjoy the relaxed mood of the tune. For this reason I thought some of you also might want to watch it, so here it is.

    The gear  used

    The red Strat I am playing is a “Parts-o-caster”, it is something like a clone of Mark Knopfler’s red maple-neck Strat of early Dire Straits days, consisting of an old Fender neck with a (non-original) laminated maple board, a Japanese vintage body, and a vintage Squier pickguard loaded with the US vintage replica pick-ups of those first Squiers.

    The amp was a Music Man 212 HD 130, mic’ed with a Shure SM 57. Effects are a Morley volume pedal and the green MXR analog delay.

    Thomas is playing a Fender Telecaster from the early 70ies, a beautiful guitar that always sounds great, also played through a Music Man amp (a 65-112), mic’ed with an Audio Technica AT 4050.

    By the way, the chord progression is

    E D A E (repeat)
    C#m, B, A, G#m, F#m, E, A, E

    Hope you will enjoy :)

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    Sultans of Swing solo

    Posted in: MK guitar style and licks by Ingo on September 22, 2009


    Last weekend we had guests and one of them had this new photo camera – a Panasonic Lumix FX 37 which costs less than 200,- €. Besides taking great photos you can also record videos in HD quality (1280 x 720 pixels). As I was curious what these look like with my stuff I played Sultans for them and we filmed it. The result is really amazing – much better than that old camcorder I normally use – and this from a small, pocket size camera.

    I wanted to check what it looks like on youtube so I uploaded a part of the final Sultans of Swing solo. The audio is of course also recorded with the camera itself (I recorded audio on a special track for the Six Blade Knife cover I did a few days ago).

    A few notes on what I am playing here

    It is just a mixture of different licks from different live versions plus some improvisation here and there. I played some of those staccato things from the Alchemy version  at 0:30  – although it seems noone knows for sure how Knopfler did that exactly. The lick at 0:40 might be similar to one from Wembley 1985, I always liked this one. I am not sure myself about the next one at 0:43 – it was suddenly in my head one day, not sure if I heard it from Knopfler somewhere or not.

    The next lick (0:46) is from one of the 1996 versions if I remember correctly.

    I messed up the part around 0:57 a bit, I never know when the backing track goes for that bass string lick (I need to build in a small drum fill to identify this part for me).

    At 2:00 you will find another example of Knopfler’s 6 chord – a shape he uses quite a lot lately.

    The backing track I used – the only one of the ‘long’ version with the piano part in the middle – is available here.

    "Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)

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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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