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I know Mark Knopfler plays fingerstyle, but What combination of finger/thumb picking patterns does he use when playing lead?

Here is an example from the Sultans of Swing intro (from here):

e-------------------5-8-5----------------
B-----------6------6-----6---5h6p5---------
G-----7------7----7---------------7--5-7---
D--5h7-----7----------------------------7--
A------------------------------------------
E------------------------------------------

And here's my guess at how he plays it, using the PIMA system:

e-------------------5-8-5----------------
B-----------6------6-----6---5h6p5---------
G-----7------7----7---------------7--5-7---
D--5h7-----7----------------------------7--
A------------------------------------------
E------------------------------------------
   p  i    pmi    pim m m i  i    p  i ip

Does anyone have any advance on this, or any further examples of Knopfler-esq patterns?

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Also reference the first track on the first Dire Straits album, "Down to the Waterline". It's another clear example of that distinctive Knopfler arpeggiation and finger-picking style. –  Wheat Williams Apr 18 '12 at 14:18

4 Answers 4

I think your probably right; though he may use the (a)finger for the high E string on the Am7 arpeggio:

                     h p
-------------------5-8-5--
-----------6------6-----6-
-----7------7----7--------
--5h7-----7---------------
--------------------------
--------------------------
   p  i    pmi    ima    i 

But I think the way you have it figured is more likely.

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1  
If you watch videos of Knopfler - especially the early ones - you'll notice he never uses the 'a' finger but rather places it on the body of the guitar... –  Clemens Apr 12 '12 at 17:59

YouTube - iConcertsTelevision - Mark Knopfler - Sultans of Swing (Live)

In the above video, they zoom in pretty frequently on the guitar which should allow you to check his finger picking at different moments throughout the song. This might help you if you want to learn more of it...

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1  
Thanks. It looks like he just uses thumb and first finger for picking, plus a wired kind of brush strike with the back of his first finger. –  Anonymous Jan 17 '11 at 19:06

I think, having watched him do this a number of times, playing it around a 5-8th fret box is unlikely. Consider the following:

--------------------------------------------
------------------10--13--10----------------
------7----10-----10----------10--9h10p9-\7-
--5s7---5-----7---10------------------------
--------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------
   p  i p  i      pmi  i   i  p   p       p

This may seem a bit odd, when compared to playing it in the 5-8th fret box, but Mark Knopfler moves all over the fretboard and he uses the Dm on the 10th fret a ton in this song. BTW: I did this tab real quickly, so it's pretty loose. You'll have to figure out where he pauses (like on the 3rd note). Every live video is different from the original recorded version, so if you want to sound like Dire Straits, this seems more like it. In the videos, it's, as I said, different from performance to performance because he knows his scales so incredibly well he can just make magic come out of the air (no really, it's all about his skill).

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I cheat when playing the arpeggio, I just use my thumb and mute the strings as I go down. It sounds ok to me.

This guy has it pretty much down as I play it, however the bit after the arpeggio isn't quite right but you'll pick that up listening to the song. I don't like his his arpeggio sounds but he's got the technique right. I do the same sort of thing for Down to the Waterline and the one near the end of Tunnel of Love, for example. It's really hard to tell you're just using your thumb, but it does really put you out of position so you have to make a little quicker once you come out of it.

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