PDA

View Full Version : How does Mark Knopfler get 'his' tone?


wrxplayer
04-15-2012, 03:18 PM
Yes, I know its very much in the fingers, but his tone is so distinct that I am sure amp & pedal use has a real impact on the final product.

Sirloin
04-15-2012, 03:30 PM
What song?

louis
04-15-2012, 03:54 PM
I think the best tone I've heard from him is Brother's in arms!



Very soulful !



Louis

chrisrocksusa
04-15-2012, 04:03 PM
My Favorite guitarist <3

kevin hart
04-15-2012, 04:03 PM
I'm a huge Knopfler fan and have looked in to his gear and I've seen him live at least a dozen times since the mid '90's. Honestly, I think the whole "touch" thing is more valid with some players than others... and I'd say it is quite valid with MK.

Since the mid '90's for live gigs he has used Soldano, Komet, Tone King and Reinhardt amps... and that's just for live stuff. In the studio you can add to that list, Marshall, various Fenders, Divided by 13, LazyJ and others I'm sure.

The same goes for guitars. In his early years he was a Strat guy and then it was Pensa/Suhr custom stuff with EMG's. Over time he added vintage Strats and Telecatsers, his 58' or 59' Les Paul. Then came the Signature Fender Strat which he really does use live and in the studio.

Yes, his tone has changed a bit over the years, but his touch and feel are such that he really does sound pretty much the same.

His long time keyboardist, Guy Fletcher has a great website with diaries from
all of the tours and recording sessions of the past 10 years or so. Google it, lots of info and pics.

wyatt
04-15-2012, 04:06 PM
Yes, I know its very much in the fingers, but his tone is so distinct that I am sure amp & pedal use has a real impact on the final product.

Nope.

I can't think of a greater example of a player who has always maintained a signature sound while workin his way through a series of extremely different amps. Brownface Fenders, MusicMans, Soldano SLO, Komet, Crate VC, Mesa, etc. He always manages that sound that is deceptively clean sounding while actually have a far amount of gain.

There are some stand-ons, like thicker Brothers in Arm tones (originally JTM45, but he would late use SLO, Komet, and others to get a near identical tone in following years).

It is predominantly how you play it.

I can offer two important advice on equipment. 1.) Like most famous guitarists of his era, he rarely ever uses reverb; instead its a short delay for wet sounds, Sultans of Swing uses lots of very short repeats to get it to sound wet and slightly detuned (phase-y). 2.) He's constantly working a volume pedal to control volume and dynamics; playing fingerstyle is often balanced with some compression (Knopfler seems to favor med- to high-gain amps for a natural compression), but with compression dampening dynamics, the volume pedal can put them back in.

bonchie123
04-15-2012, 04:07 PM
Doesn't he play most everything he does fingerstyle?

That's gonna really complicate going after his tone if you are a guy who plays with a pick. For once the "tone is in the fingers" cliche probably holds a lot of truth.

Sirloin
04-15-2012, 05:08 PM
Tone/sound is definitely in he fingers and MK is a great example. But come on guys, Money for Nothing sounds NOTHING like The Waterline for example. Gear has to play a part.

greggorypeccary
04-15-2012, 05:17 PM
Tone/sound is definitely in he fingers and MK is a great example. But come on guys, Money for Nothing sounds NOTHING like The Waterline for example. Gear has to play a part.

Well that sound is obviously a wah + distortion, but in general, Knopfler's tone is a fingerpicked strat into a clean amp.

wyatt
04-15-2012, 05:20 PM
Tone/sound is definitely in he fingers and MK is a great example. But come on guys, Money for Nothing sounds NOTHING like The Waterline for example. Gear has to play a part.

Well, there are always stand-out examples like Money For Nothing (there is always an argument over getting that tone, but it's very easy to cop with a cocked wah pedal). But then, he's able to pull off Money for Nothing, Sultans of Swing, the second-half of Romeo and Juliet, What It Is, Telegraph Road, Brothers at Arms, Going Home, etc., and do them all far more than convincingly, with the same amp live, regardless of whether that amp is an SLO, Komet, Reinhardt, etc...or what amp he used in the studio.

There is nothing you can buy that will make you sound like Knopfler, he can pull that off whether into a Fender or JCM800 (which is what his first Reinhardts were based on). If you want to soumd like him, keep your current gear and study his phrasing, there is no shortcut.

weshunter
04-15-2012, 05:24 PM
yeah, when people ask about knopfler tone, they generally aren't asking about money for nothing.

i get closest to it with a compressor and some power amp dirt but using finger touch to make it sound clean. the closest i've ever gotten to it has been with EMG's on a strat but I feel like I can get close with my tele or my SG.

it's really a touch thing, IMO. and you need some volume to make it work.

Simon
04-15-2012, 05:39 PM
My memory is not the greatest, but I recall reading that the first album (sultans and all those cool songs) were recorded without an amp, direct Strat to the board.

And no doubt one of the coolest examples of the Stat ever! If your a younger guitarist and have never heard the first record, its to die for!

SReynolds
04-15-2012, 05:45 PM
Sultans of swing was done on a 64 Brownface Vibrolux. He first album on a Twin Reverb. Brothers in arms on a JTM45. Shangri-la he used a Komet 60 on several cuts, and some fenders and a tone king. First thing in order is throw your pick away, and don't pick it back up. It has its benifits I haven't lost one pick in quite some time.

Earplayer
04-16-2012, 09:11 AM
like mentioned before it is all in his hands/fingers...

ps
imho the best tone he ever had was on sailing to philadelphia and shangri-la. especially on shangri-la where he used his les pauls a lot. the les paul with the old tweed is just to die for... :drool

FenderBigot
04-16-2012, 09:37 AM
Well that sound is obviously a wah + distortion.
Actually, the original recording had no wah in it. It was about the amp location in the recording room and where they put the mics. I read that when they hit the road to tour in support of BIA, they couldn't reproduce the sound for Money for Nothing, so they went the way of a cocked wah.

I think the song BIA is the signature sound most identify with when it comes to MK. Yeah, he's played a ton of stuff through the years... but when I want to emulate MK, I hunt down the haunting tone of BIA and I have gotten close a few times.

FWIW... someone above asks if he finger picks "most of the time"? Well he finger picks ALL of the time. Amazing.

Check out this BIA version... using HOT ROD amps no less! 3:14... short solo is amazing LP tone.

IQ_HlIlGyT0&feature=related

Oh yeah... he's using the lowly EB volume pedal that TGP'ers call out for "tone suck". I hear zero tone suck!

Timbre Wolf
04-16-2012, 09:38 AM
Being a Strat player, primarily, I never was drawn to MK's position 2 Strat sounds. Les Pauls haven't held much appeal to me, either. But several years back, I had the opportunity to check Mark's show out, after performing my Fire Marshal inspections of the venue...

Holy cow!! :omg He did things with an LP that I've never heard from anyone before or since. There was this deep, sinus-ey thock to the notes he pulled from that guitar (through a Reinhardt stack) that just floored me. I'll never forget the intense beauty of that moment. Almost makes me want to pick up an LP myself.

I absolutely love MK's tasteful touch!!

- Thom

big mike
04-16-2012, 09:42 AM
Mark's touch is phenominal.

He also has phase options on the LP that can assist in some of those tones.

But it's really his touch. amazing player.

Timbre Wolf
04-16-2012, 09:46 AM
He also has phase options on the LP that can assist in some of those tones.
Hmm... we'll have to talk.

Yes - touch is essential. And behind the touch: taste.

- T

teemuk
04-16-2012, 09:58 AM
But come on guys, Money for Nothing sounds NOTHING like The Waterline for example.

Somewhere in youtube there's a clip where Andrés Segovia demonstrates a handful of entirely different kinds of tones you can generate with the guitar only.... an acoustic "classic" guitar that is. Naturally. No pickup changes, phase switches, etc. just picking the guitar differently.

One song sounding different doesn't neccessarily mean it had different gear in it. The musician may have just played it with a different style alltogether. Needless to say, "Money For Nothing" as a song is also of entirely different style than "Down to the Waterline" so it's no wonder if Knopfler used a different style in playing it.

Pat Healy
04-16-2012, 09:59 AM
I can't think of a greater example of a player who has always maintained a signature sound while workin his way through a series of extremely different amps. Brownface Fenders, MusicMans, Soldano SLO, Komet, Crate VC, Mesa, etc. He always manages that sound that is deceptively clean sounding while actually have a far amount of gain.


I always hate the "tone is in the fingers," "you won't sound like him anyway" responses to these threads, but unfortunately with MK those responses are true, perhaps more than with any other player. We decided to learn "Telegraph Road" in my band some time ago, so I did a good bit of study into Mark's gear and playing style in the hopes of nailing the part, particularly the outro solo. He's been a top 3 favorite player of mine for years anyway. Unfortunately my efforts were in vain....I'm a better than average player, and the notes to "Telegraph Road" are easy, but capturing that feel and tone would be the work of years. I can play it, but I never go, "Wow, I nailed that!" after. Always something missing.

Gear-wise, the closest I was able to get was my Tom Anderson superstrat into the Trainwreck sim on my Axe-FX, moderate gain with a little bit of Tube Screamer type drive in front of it. Fingerstyle is a must, don't bother trying to use a pick for most MK stuff. Good luck...

Earplayer
04-16-2012, 10:02 AM
yeah his touch is amazing... he sounds great with the reissue les pauls and from what i know he uses the reissues too in the studio and i think that tells a LOT.
i was told from a vintage dealer that he had picked his 58 burst out of some of the best bursts so his main 58 burst is really in a league of its own... a stradivari out of the best bursts... in the hands of this master it doesn´t get any better than this imho.

gabijaja
04-16-2012, 10:09 AM
Funny that alot of the Money for nothing talk mentions recreating that sound with a wah... that tone is easily achievable with a high gain amp, lp and fingers.. no wah needed, you just need that sweet spot on the amp with the neck pup and tone rolled off... the gain on the amp is the key to that tone.. and his fingers of course... such awsome toal variations from Mark using only his fingers .. I used a Crate VC, Marshalll plexi and even a Bassman 50 with an OD pedal and got very identical tones for this song.. have to tweak away a bit but well worth the effort

big mike
04-16-2012, 10:15 AM
Hmm... we'll have to talk.

Yes - touch is essential. And behind the touch: taste.

- T

Sorta the peter green thing, but he's got push pulls to phase reverse. Maybe split as well I can't remember.

Had my #1 thorn built around the peter green out of phase tone...

teemuk
04-16-2012, 10:17 AM
Neither is Knopfler but I think this clip says a lot about the "tone is in the fingers" thing...

Same song, plain acoustic guitar used by both great players, yet one of them really nails that "Knopfler thing" while the other one sort of fails.

OcdrVidwmPY

8KsVtD01cgw

You can't really put the blame on gear or chops on either. Style / touch is everything.

guitarcapo
04-16-2012, 10:30 AM
He fingerpicks but also uses a pick. That's a lot of his style.

vibrostrat43
04-16-2012, 12:28 PM
I think you'd be surprised at how similar a lot of those amps can sound when set up differently.

That said your picking dynamics and SOME left hand techniques play a large role in how a person sounds. For example my friend plays really hard all the time, I olay pretty softly usually and pick harder to accent notes...we sound completely different going into the same rig with the same settings. However we both also sound from how we sounded once we change the settings or use another amp.

Is tone in the fingers? Yes to some degree, but another important part is how you set up your amp. I'd say using a low-medium gain amp and playing softly with your fingers is the basic building block for his tone, the rest comes from setting up the amp to accentuate the right frequencies and to keep it below the break up point when playing softer (which means it can be turned up louder than you might normally have for the same amount of clean).

Rob s
04-16-2012, 12:47 PM
I always felt he kinda ripped off richard thompson to a certain degree.
He is still a great player though.

Rambergwest
04-16-2012, 02:23 PM
Slides and finger plucked (not picked) single and gangs of notes are to me the defining parts of Marks style. I have been playing Sultans of Swing for years and it just never felt right until I threw the pick away so that I can get the plucked pairs of notes he uses.
A an aside, I saw him in the 80's as the second guitarist to Eric Clapton in Sacramento CA and it was almost impossible for him to completely loose his own style as a player. Two great artists in their own right but as a sideman Mark has just so much style in his approach that it makes it actually hard for him to be an accompanist.

Rambergwest
04-16-2012, 02:25 PM
I always felt he kinda ripped off richard thompson to a certain degree.
He is still a great player though.

I don't see the relationship to Richard Thompson but agree that Richard is another incredible artist. To me a lot more "out there" melodic variation in Richards music, Mark is pretty orchestrated

19181911
04-16-2012, 03:16 PM
Doesn't he play most everything he does fingerstyle?

That's gonna really complicate going after his tone if you are a guy who plays with a pick. For once the "tone is in the fingers" cliche probably holds a lot of truth.

Exactly, finger/fingernails can be very, very versatile on the right hands.

The Ratchet
04-16-2012, 03:24 PM
I think his album tones have been great, but in all live vids I've seen I always thought his live tone was lacking.

Also, on those albums, in particular Brothers In Arms, a lot of the tone was a very unique combination of the studio and gear and specific room and mic placement, and a bit of luck. In a very detailed interview with him and the producer in I think it was 'Sound on Sound' magazine, they talked about how the tone for Money for Nothin was impossible to duplicate. They took copious notes about every aspect and when they went back to do some fixes/overdubs they couldn't duplicate it, not even close they said.

petergreeny
04-16-2012, 03:26 PM
I always felt he kinda ripped off richard thompson to a certain degree.
He is still a great player though.

Indeed, Knopfler's debt to Richard Thompson's tone and style often gets overlooked, no doubt due to the far greater fame achieved by the former. Though I absolutely love Mark's playing and music, I'm a Thompson fanatic and regard him as perhaps the most original and compelling electric player on the planet. Combine his picking with his incredible songwriting prowess, and it's a wondrous musical package. Could I be more effusive?

Chas
04-16-2012, 04:19 PM
His hands

Earplayer
04-17-2012, 07:35 AM
yes that is right his live tone is great but no where near his studio tones - which are one of the best tones ever recorded imho.... on the shangri-la record you really can hear the unique tone of a great vintage burst trough great amps (old tweed, komet).

Timbre Wolf
04-17-2012, 08:12 AM
yes that is right his live tone is great but no where near his studio tones
This has not been my experience... nothing has topped what I heard from him live. I must have got lucky.

- T

Pat Healy
04-17-2012, 08:17 AM
This has not been my experience... nothing has topped what I heard from him live. I must have got lucky.

- T

Same here. I saw him at Red Rocks on the Shangri-la tour. At that time he was playing through two Komets. It sounded amazing. Could be partly to do with the venue....most things sound pretty great at Red Rocks.

telest
04-17-2012, 08:29 AM
To put it in technical terms...he's a bad mofo. :)

Earplayer
04-17-2012, 08:54 AM
i´ve seen him several times - like i said his tone is great... only one time the pa sound wasn´t right but overall it was ok. but come on - his recorded tone is out of this world you can hear the wood of his old les paul and it makes you think you can bite into that soundwaves and eat a junk of that les paul... you can´t reproduce that live.

Simon
03-31-2014, 01:14 PM
You can hear the Richard Thompson influence eswpecially in the first couple of albums.

I also thought the first album was gtr direct to the board.

When doing $ for nothing he wanted more of a ZZ Top sound and consulted Billy Gibbons.

Like someone else said if you've never heard the first album do your self a favor.

Also check out the Richard Thompson album rumor and sigh, there's an acoustic song on there call Vincent Black Lightning that will amaze you to know it's only one guitar.

Bandalero
03-31-2014, 08:47 PM
I too am an avid, life-long MK fan, and I fully agree with a comment someone else made here earlier in this thread about how he (MK) has managed to sound the same regardless of the gear he's using at any one moment in time, but there's no real way to make meaningful comparisons of his earliest (Dire Straits) years (with Strats and a MusicMan 212-HD130) to his later years with '58/'59 Les Pauls and an SLO or Komet. You can't compare Sultans or Down to the Waterline with Brothers In Arms or Calling Elvis. Those are two entirely different worlds.

sfarnell
03-31-2014, 08:55 PM
My favorite guitarist. Early on his strat tone was his signature, out of phase. Since Dire Straits it seems like he uses his LPs as much as his strats. His LP tone on Brothers in Arms is my favorite LP tone by far, and it it's caused me to spend a ridiculous amount of money on Les Pauls. :beer

tiktok
03-31-2014, 08:55 PM
My memory is not the greatest, but I recall reading that the first album (sultans and all those cool songs) were recorded without an amp, direct Strat to the board.

And no doubt one of the coolest examples of the Stat ever! If your a younger guitarist and have never heard the first record, its to die for!

Sultans was three amps--two Fenders and a JC. I've never heard of MK doing much DI electric work.

sfarnell
03-31-2014, 08:56 PM
I too am an avid, life-long MK fan, and I fully agree with a comment someone else made here earlier in this thread about how he (MK) has managed to sound the same regardless of the gear he's using at any one moment in time, but there's no real way to make meaningful comparisons of his earliest (Dire Straits) years (with Strats and a MusicMan 212-HD130) to his later years with '58/'59 Les Pauls and an SLO or Komet. You can't compare Sultans or Down to the Waterline with Brothers In Arms or Calling Elvis. Those are two entirely different worlds.

I agree, even though Brothers in Arms was done by Dire Straits.

Bandalero
03-31-2014, 09:11 PM
Here's a couple of side-by-side examples of his snappy, ultra-compressed, single-coil tone vs. his later LP sound . . .

'Nobody's Here Anymore' (with Strat ala John Fogerty):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_hfSEuaP64

versus

'Don't You Get It' (one of his many great solos with LP from Golden Heart):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJSoRMTgjCk

Honestly, how can you possibly compare those two?

sfarnell
03-31-2014, 09:15 PM
Here's a couple of side-by-side examples of his snappy, ultra-compressed, single-coil tone vs. his later LP sound . . .

'Nobody's Here Anymore' (with Strat ala John Fogerty):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_hfSEuaP64

versus

'Don't You Get It' (one of his many great solos with LP from Golden Heart):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJSoRMTgjCk

Honestly, how can you possibly compare those two?

It's not a competition. Knopfler is one of the best whether he uses his strat or LP. I prefer his LP tone, but there are some really great songs with the strat.

Another thing I like about Knopfler is his story telling. He gets better and better and seems to know more about American history than do most Americans. A brilliant artist, I can't describe how much I love his work.

GreatSatan
03-31-2014, 09:19 PM
turn it up so its distorting (preferably the power tubes) on clean channel,
play with the volume knob & forgo the use of a pick.

alexanderplatz
03-31-2014, 09:27 PM
Love MK's playing, singing, songwriting and storytelling but the guitar sound on the song "Money For Nothing" does nothing for me.

Bandalero
03-31-2014, 09:35 PM
It's not a competition.

???????

Correction. Nobody said anything about it being a "competition". I used the word "comparison" (not competition), and I used it because others had expressed some confusion about why his 'Down to the Waterline' sounds were different than his LP sounds, but thanks nonetheless for your observations! ;)