I decided to release a video of a song that I recorded 20 years ago. It is less Knopfler-stylish than the guitar videos I normally post here but more in the mood of some Pink Floyd tunes. However, the long outro guitar solo on a Les Paul is of course inspired by Mark’s playing style and technique.
Making the video which is based mostly on a slide show was much fun for me. I hope you will enjoy the result.
Before you ask for the gear: For the last solo I used a 1974 Les Paul Custom through a Fender Princeton tweed amp clone that I built from scratch myself about 30 years ago. No effects besides the usual stuff in the recording software (reverb, delay, compression). Everything was recorded with a system called tripleDAT by CreamWare. I was working for this company back then when I recorded the song.
I made another video some weeks ago where I talked about doubling guitar riffs for a fatter sound. I played a Japanese Erlewine Automatic, a very cool guitar with one humbucker, and dialed in a sound similar to the Dire Straits classic Money for Nothing. I did not try to get as close as possible to the original sound which is very much a typical 80ies sound, bright with some phase cancellation effect. I rather wanted the sound a bit more natural and softer.
This week I recorded some Money for Nothing riffs with this sound, again with two doubled guitar tracks. The video focusses on the guitar riffs and sound so I only programmed some unintrusive drums, and some occasional bass notes but no keyboards, no permanent drum beats, no fancy stuff.
The gear, effects (Hotcake distortion pedal and software effects), and doubling technique are identical to the ones explained in detail in my video about doubling riffs.
In the early 80ies – in the Love over Gold / Local Hero / Infidels era – Mark Knopfler used a metallic blue Japanese Fernandes Strat copy with Seymour Duncan pickups in the studio. John Suhr once told me that in his opinion Mark created some of his best guitar sounds of that time with this guitar.
If you wonder what happened to this guitar or where it is today, the following videos will tell.
It is not finished but assembled for tests of sound, playability, and stability. And I must say, I am very impressed by the warm and clear sound of it. I think it is a winner, and the body / neck combination will remain (if I didn’t like the sound I would try the neck on another body, until I find something I like).
The guitar was recorded directly in a digital Soundcraft UI24R mixing desk. The amp emulation was from this device, and so are the effects which are EQ, compressor, reverb, and delay.
The music is inspired by an instrumental part that Dire Straits added into Tunnel of Love on stage on the Brothers in Arm and On Every Street tours when they introduced all the band members. The instruments are all virtual VST instruments by Native Instruments, recorded into Cubase.
Here is another video, Six Blade Knife. I switched the pickup mini switches to the tapped coil now, in the video before they were switched to full coil (see what is a tapped pickup).
Let me know what you think of the sound of the guitar – comment here (no registration required) or on Youtube.
Here is a video I made to demonstrate the use and the different sound effect of different ‘doubling techniques’. Doubling is nothing too fancy or secret but a common studio recording technique. Still it might be interesting not only for beginners as each of the different approaches leads to different results which are compared in ths video.
To judge the stereo effect it is best to listen to the sounds with headphones!
The guitar sound I dialed in is a bit similar to the Dire Straits classic Money for Nothing. On this song all three of these doubling techniques were actually used I think. The intro was doubled with about 15 ms delay. Note that this delay can be achieved with a delay effect, or with two microphones, one close to the amp and the other some meters away (15 ms delay equals about 5 meters distance). I guess Mark used a delay as with a 2nd microphone at such a distance the sound of that signal will be a bit different due to the higher amount of room sound. Later in the song a second guitar comes in, both being panned to the different stereo channels.
The guitar I am playing here is an Erlewine Automatic from 1983. It is similar to the one that Mark Knopfler played on e.g. Industrial Disease, however this is a cheaper edition that Erlewine had produced to his specifications in Japan. Most of these have only one pot, no tone pot like this one has.
The trick for this sound was rolling back the tone pot completely. Something a reliable source once told me Mark also did for Money for Nothing, the Wah to boost midrange was something he did later I think.
The Hot Cake distortion effect sounds really nice for this sound. Mark uses it as well, however there is no reliable information when he used it for which tracks.
In my last two videos I got some nice guitar sounds out of the integrated amp simulation and effects of my Soundcraft UI24R mixing desk. I was playing the MK61 pickups in the bridge & middle position of my Strat. This week I tried the same with the neck pickup. This is a VFS-1 pickup.
I also worked much more with my ‘virtual studio’ (Steinberg Cubase together with the Soundcraft mixer) lately where I made a setup with various VST instruments that can easily be used to create backing tracks of different styles and chords within a very short time. I put in some chords and sounds of a groove that fits to the guitar sound I had in mind.
I was jamming along for several minutes and filmed a few takes. For the finished video I wanted to cut it down to 2 minutes or so but I could not decide which parts to ‘throw away’ so I left it as it was.
All the gear, all effects and all settings are shown as screenshots in the video in case you wonder how this guitar sound was created. Just like in the last videos, the key was to use a rather bright setup and to roll back both the volume and tone pots to make the sound softer and less harsh.
The guitar sound on the whole Communiqué album is very special to me because it was this one – together with the first album – that turned me to Dire Straits when I was thirteen, and made me start playing guitar.
I could never get really close to this sound in previous attempts but meanwhile I am getting better I think, so I am quite happy with the result. I did not use gear as close as possible to the original stuff that Mark used on the album, in fact I did not use an amp at all, no Morley volume pedal, no fancy other devices but only a digital amp emulation and effects of my digital Soundcraft UI24R mixing desk.
I dialed in a rather trebly sound, and I did two things to make it softer: I turned down the volume pot to 8 to reduce some of the harshness of a normal Fender Strat pickup (the effect is similar to what Mark’s Morley volume pedal did to the sound), and I rolled back the tone pot. For the fingerpicking guitar to ‘7’, and to ‘3’ for the solo. The tone cap in my guitar is a bit smaller than in vintage Strats, I think it is 0.033 uF instead of the 0.1 uF (I admit I need to check to be certain as I am pulling stuff in and out too often…).
I had the 5-way switch to the 1&2 position. The guitar is one of my two part-o-casters, with two MK61 pickups and a VFS-1 pickup in the neck position. The effects and settings were similar to the ones I described in the post for my previous video.
I recorded the backing track in Cubase. Both the drums and the bass were programmed to feed VST instruments, and I recorded three guitar tracks, the picking part, the lead, and the ‘chick’-sound rhythm guitar on the right stereo channel (this guitar is my self-built bubinga body dream machine Strat).
For my latest Youtube video I recorded three different lead guitars over a self-produced backing track with the chords and groove of the Dire Straits classic Once Upon a Time in the West.
The three guitars – a ‘normal’ Strat, a Schecter Dream Machine replica, and a Suhr – are similar to what Mark Knopfler played in the 70ies, 80ies, and in the 90ies. I tried to create a sound similar to his, not trying to replicate 1:1 a particular recording but the typical sound from these periods.
The red one is a real ‘part-o-caster’. The neck is Fender, a Japanese body from the 70ies, and the other hardware mostly from a vintage 80ies Squier. I replaced the zinc tremolo block with a steel block, and I put two MK61 pickups plus a VFS-1 pickup into it.
The second guitar is one I built myself. The mahogani body and birds-eye maple neck are shaped with templates from a Schecter Van Nuys era Dream Machine Strat. The hardware is a brass Dream Machine tremolo, and a loaded ‘Alchemy’ pickguard with Seymour Duncan SSL1 pickups. It is not finished yet but in an ‘experimental’ status. This is why it appears so rough, it is not even fully sanded. Something hopefully coming soon…
The Suhr is one with the EMG pickups (85, SA, SA). It has a neck made of maple like Knopfler’s Pensa Suhr MK1. It does not have bindings but the ‘scraped binding’ on the body which looks similar.
Amp and Effects
I did not use a real amp for this video. Instead I directly plugged the guitars into a Soundcraft UI24R didgital mixing desk, and I used the Digitech amp simulation and all effects from this device. For clean sounds this is much easier than messing around with microphones on an amp.
I used EQ, compression, reverb, and delay on all three guitars. Check out the screenshots that show the setting of these.
I also built a Telecaster with a mahogani body some time ago – unlike the Strat this Tele was not built entirely by me but was assembled from existing parts, besides the mahogani body (manufacturer unknown) it has an original Schecter neck from the 80ies, plus my ‘Walk of Life’ brass bridge and pickups, and a brass pickguard.
The track I use to jam to in this video is called ‘Bleeker Street Blues’ by Chris Haugen. It is available in the Youtube audio library of ‘free’ music to be used in Youtube videos.
The song is in the key of C sharp, and with the F sharp chord there are only two chords. I have a capo at the 4th fret. I am playing some Knopfler-style chord stuff, some licks and short solo phrases.
Just like on my other latest videos, I used the amps and effects of my Soundcraft UI24R digital mixing desk. The amp emulation is the ‘Blackface Fender Twin Reverb’ with the matching 2×12 speakers emulation. Effects are EQ, reverb, delay and some compression. Fender black or silver face amps have a dip in the 500 Hz range. I reduced this frequency range for this reason which makes it sound much more like a Fender for my ears. The setting is rather trebly but I rolled down the tone pot on the guitar for a warmer sound. In many situations I like this better than the tone pot fully up with less treble from the amp.
I switched to the middle position of the 3-way switch, so bridge and neck pickups. Both are in the tapped position (push/pull pots are pulled, the pickups have an alternative fatter sound when you push in the pots, see more on tapped pickups here). The volume pot is set to about 80-90%.
There is a slight distortion. Here I used an analog device, a Hotcake distortion pedal. See the pictures for the settings of the amp, EQ and on the Hotcake.
The guitar is still in a rough state so ‘unfinished’ does not only mean no red finish yet but also a lot of other final work missing, like sanding, more leveling and polishing on the frets, and so on. I simply like to assemble a body and a neck of my projects at an early stage to see what it will sound like. If I do not like the sound the body might go to another neck or get different hardware to find another combination that works better. In fact the neck has been on another mahogani body before but that combo did not convince me. This one however seems to be nice.
Like on my last two videos I simply plugged the guitar into my Soundcraft ui24R mixing desk and used the guitar amp emulation and effects from it. The amp module is the Twin Reverb with the matching 2 x 12 speaker emulation. Effects are some more EQ, reverb, delay, and a compressor. The sound setting is rather trebly. The slightly piercing sound comes from the 500k pots on the pickguard I guess, like on those old Schecter pickguards. I think I’ll go for the softer sound of 250k pots instead next time. There is no reason to exchange the pots as all you need to do is adding a little resistor somewhere in the circuit to achieve exactly that. More on this later…