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I have been playing my guitar for a few years but never put in enough time in order to advsnce from a "chords player" to someone who can improvize a bit. I do have a good ear... I thought to get in to it i would learn to play something i realy like- anything played by Dire straits. any ideas what is a good one for my case?

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4 Answers 4

Boy, you don't start off slow, do you? Mark Knopfler's playing is virtuosic---not, perhaps, the flashiest or fastest, but subtle and with tons of inflection. If you're just getting started learning to solo, you'll be able to learn all the notes, but after a few years, you'll listen to the song again and hear things you've never heard before, and you'll probably have to re-learn the solos. Which is great, really.

So with that in mind, here are some suggestions:

  • "Tunnel of Love", starting around the 5:59 mark. Simple, beautiful, full of feeling. Pay attention to when he hammers-on and pulls-off to notes instead of plucks, and especially pay attention to the notes to which he bends.
  • "Romeo & Juliet", starting around 4:53. Again, the notes aren't difficult, but playing them just right is.
  • "Brothers In Arms", from 4:49 to 5:39, and then again from 6:03 to the end. Just, wow.

Don't start with "Sultans of Swing". Yes, it's great, but it's probably too fast to start with, not just because your fingers may not be ready, but your ear probably won't follow it yet either. "Money For Nothing" is a great song too, but the solo is actually a couple of guitars layered over each other, each of which is playing double-stops---that's too much going on for right now.

Anyway, start with those three and build up from there. Enjoy!

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Excellent choices. I think my first was R&J - and years later I went back to it and re-learned it as I could hear so much more in it! –  Dr Mayhem Dec 9 '11 at 10:42
    
His solo during their performance in the Live Aid concert (1985?) made me laugh with joy. That, and Mangini's audition for Dream Theater, made me laugh a lot! –  The Chaz 2.0 Dec 11 '11 at 1:46

This is way old but I want to comment because I'm a massive Dire Straits fan. I started out my guitar playing career working on Sultans of Swing from videos on the internet. I play finger style, no pick, so it was hard to get both the right picking action and the left hand movements. Because I started with a song I know so well, backwards and forwards, I can hear the riffs in my head. Most of them are very short and not too difficult. The middle solo didn't take long except for the end bit of it, and of course the end of the last solo.

But it's not just the tones you want to get, but the percussive clicks too which all add to the Knopfler feel.

Lions 2:05 to 2:30 is a nice little solo which isn't too fast and moves you around the fret board a little.

Expresso Love 2:27 to 2:54. Careful of the 2nd guitar coming in at 2:40

Follow Me Home 3:05 to 3:46. If you like fun with harmonics, there's a bit of 4:19 too.

Enjoy.

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While I don't disagree that Sultans of Swing is a difficult song, there are so many licks in there that you can certainly benefit by learning them. It is fast at 150bpm, but you can slow it down and it will be rewarding to get even to the first bridge. Sultans, of all the Dire Straits songs, is about the best tabbed and/or transcribed song.

I don't think I've ever heard anyone play like Mark Knopfler, but it's just the most amazing thing to listen to and having seen him live, it's just amazing how carefully he tweaks each note for volume, vibrato -- it's like he has an inner dialogue going with his guitar.

Good luck!

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You should understand that Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits uses a playing technique that is quite out of the ordinary for electric guitarists. He does not strum or play solos with a guitar pick, not ever.

He plays "fingerstyle", in a fashion similar to that used by classical guitarists. He plays all his guitar parts by alternating strokes between the thumb, index and middle fingers of his right hand (and perhaps the ring finger as well; I'm not sure about his specific technique), or by plucking chords as a group of strings played together with three or four fingers at once, and playing with the fingernails on the strings to produce the tone.

If you want to play Mark Knopfler's solos, you need to learn to play fingerstyle (and that includes learning how to grow out, file and shape your fingernails on your right hand into the proper shape for fingerstyle playing). Much of what he does would be difficult if not impossible to play with a standard guitar pick in standard up-and-down picking fashion, and even if you could figure out how to pick those solos they wouldn't sound quite right.

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