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.
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!
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.