Mark Knopfler’s Guitar Style: 5 Essential Licks You Need to Master (One Might Surprise You!)

When it comes to iconic guitarists, Mark Knopfler is undoubtedly a name that tops the list. Known for his distinctive fingerstyle playing and melodic solos, Knopfler’s guitar style has left an indelible mark on the world of rock music. In this blog post, we’ll explore five essential guitar licks from Knopfler’s repertoire that every aspiring guitarist should learn. And, as a bonus, we’ll reveal one surprising technique that sets him apart.

  1. “Single-Handed Sailor” Intro Lick

One of Knopfler’s signature licks can be found in the intro to “Single-Handed Sailor” from the “Communique” album. This lick is based on the D minor pentatonic scale and features a unique plucking pattern. Start on the 10th fret of the G string with your index finger, hammer onto the 12th fret with your ring finger, and then bar the B and E strings with your index finger. Pluck the strings with your index and middle fingers and finish with a slide from the 13th to the 15th fret on the B string.

  1. Volume Pedal Magic

Knopfler’s second essential lick involves using a volume pedal to create a pedal steel-like effect. He often uses this technique in songs like “Tunnel of Love.” In this lick, you’ll play in D minor and F major, emphasizing the 10th fret of the G string and the 10th fret of the B string. The volume pedal helps soften the attack, creating a smooth and ethereal sound.

  1. “Sultans of Swing” Picking Technique

Knopfler’s picking technique is a hallmark of his style, and it’s beautifully demonstrated in the famous “Sultans of Swing.” Using primarily the index and thumb, he achieves a distinct sound. Try the thumb-pull-thumb-index pattern on the 10th fret of the B string, followed by a pull-off to the 10th fret of the G string. This pattern repeats, creating a captivating and intricate melody.

  1. Triads: The Songwriting Secret

Another aspect of Knopfler’s style is his use of triads, which can be heard in several of his songs. These three-note chords are versatile and add depth to his compositions. For instance, in “Sultans of Swing,” he uses D Minor, C, and B flat triads in various inversions to create a rich harmonic texture. These triads also appear in “Tunnel of Love” and “Lady Writer.”

  1. The “Walk of Life” Groove

Last but not least, Knopfler’s classic “Walk of Life” groove is a testament to his rock ‘n’ roll influence. This technique, reminiscent of Chuck Berry’s style, involves strumming up and down with your nail while using your left hand to fret the fifth and sixth strings. In the key of E, it creates a catchy, rhythmic groove that’s impossible not to tap your foot to.

The Surprising Bonus Technique

Now, for the surprise! One of Knopfler’s lesser-known but equally fascinating techniques involves reusing the same material in different ways. He often employs the same triad patterns but arranges them with different bass notes to create entirely new songs. A prime example of this is “Private Dancer” by Tina Turner, where you can hear the same triads used in a different context, showcasing Knopfler’s ingenuity as a songwriter.

In conclusion, Mark Knopfler’s guitar style is a treasure trove of techniques and creativity. By mastering these five essential licks and understanding his songwriting secrets, you can not only pay homage to this guitar legend but also infuse your own playing with his distinctive flair. So, grab your guitar, dive into Knopfler’s world, and start crafting your own musical journey.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of Mark Knopfler’s guitar style.


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