Suhr Custom MK-1 and Pensa Custom MK-1

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, MK guitar style and licks

This time I am checking two great guitars, a Suhr MK-1 and a Pensa MK-1. The Suhr is the one that you could already see in this video. Both belong to the same person, a collector from Germany.

Some background on the first MK1

The Pensa-Suhr MK1 was built in 1988 by luthier John Suhr  at Rudy Pensa’s guitar shop in Manhattan. Suhr worked there before he built amps with Bob Bradshaw and became master builder at Fender’s Custom Shop. Later he started his own company – Suhr guitars. For this reason the first guitars were called Pensa-Suhr, and  after John  left simply Pensa. John Suhr also builds guitars similar to the MK-1 (although for legal issues he has to change some details) – if you want a MK-1 you basically have to decide if you want it from the same place or from the same builder.

Pensa Custom MK-1

This guitar is from 1993 and differs in some details from the original MK-1. The body top is not maple but koa, while the body itself is still from mahogany. The shape of the upper body horn is different – the horn is thinner and longer. It has a SPC mid boost but it is not activated with a push-pull poti. Instead, a third poti gradually blends between the normal and the boosted sound. See the pictures for more details:

Two EMG SA and one EMG 85 pick-ups


Suhr Custom Carve Top (MK-1)

This wonderful guitar is from 2006. Note that apparently for legal reasons the official name of this guitar is not MK-1 – only Pensa are allowed to use this model name. It has a mahogany body with a 3/4″ quilted maple top, a maple neck with Indian rosewood fingerboard, Floyd Rose tremolo, abalone dots, EMG pick-ups etc. The top of the guitar is really astonishing – almost three dimensional. We found it sounds darker and warmer than the Pensa.


In this youtube video you can see me playing both of them – including riffs from Money for Nothing, Heavy Fuel, No can do, …. The guitar goes directly into the amp, the distortion is from the amp – a Music Man RP112 65. The SPC mid-boost is enabled on both guitars.

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Money for Nothing on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in MK guitar style and licks

The new Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock features Dire Straits – Money for Nothing from the Brothers In Arms CD (1985).

We had a lot of fun and many valuable insights with Sultans of Swing from this game some months ago. This one is also a great listen for all of us MK-style guitar players since hearing the guitar(s) alone lets you hear so many details that are lost behind the other instruments in the mix. I especially love that rhythm riff Mark plays only in the verses, but also all those licks in the refrain are great. So buy yourself a game console like Playstation 3, Wii or Xbox, and this great new game.

Here – as an appetizer – some short extracts from the the two riff guitars.

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Simply click on the blue progress bar to make the player play a different part of the song.

Note that in the intro and the first verse there is only one guitar that is doubled with some delay. From the first refrain on, we have two separate guitar tracks. As these are panned left and right, you just need to set your monitors so that only one channel is played to hear these alone.

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Mark Knopfler chord shape of Vic and Ray and for a lick in Money for Nothing live intro

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in MK guitar style and licks, Understanding music

In this article I will cover a little chord progression that Mark Knopfler apparently discovered some day and – as he sees himself mainly as a songwriter – directly translated into a song. He often learned such little patterns and licks by accident – finding something when playing for hours – or learned them from one of his mates, people like the great Chet Atkins, pedal-steel player Paul Franklin, or Richard Bennet.

Here is a little audio clip where Knopfler plays the particular riff I am going to talk about. Here he plays it in the key of G, one full note lower than in the Vic and Ray example below.

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This pattern appears in the song Vic and Ray from Knopfler’s first solo album Golden Heart (1996). It starts with an A7 chord fragment, followed by a G chord with the B in the bass, and finally another A chord, with the C# in ths bass.

First as a tab:

vic and ray tab

Here as pictures, showing each of the three shapes you have to play in red:

Vic and Ray 2



Note that from shape one to two, one note (the g on the d-string) remains the same and can be sustained, and that the third shape is the same as the second, just two frets higher which means you simply need to slide two frets higher. Check out my video below for left hand fingering (I found there are two ways that work for me).

Adding a chromatic transition chord for Money for Nothing lick

It was only recently when I realized that the funny chromatic licks that Knopfler played at the beginning of Money for nothing in Nimes on the On Every Street tour (1992) make use of the same pattern, you only have to add another shape – the chord between shape two and three in the pictured above:


Then move it to the key of G (two frets lower), followed by the same pattern in C, next in D, and you have those chords for Money for nothing (see my video, at 5:10 it also contains a link that takes you directly to a clip showing Knopfler playing that thing in Money for Nothing).

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