First, please excuse me in advance for I am not a pro musician. Playing music is only a hobby for me.

I'm learning how to play the acoustic guitar like Mark Knopfler in his solo career. In this interview (3:36), Mark says that he began with a Folk picking technique, but later began to play like "a Ragtime piano" style (4:00). On some other videos, he also calls it "barrelhouse piano".

My question is: what is the difference between the two styles? In both examples, I hear him playing 4 bit bass, and the melody on top, either together with the bass notes or in between, just like in Folk music.

Does he simply mean that instead of just repeating arpeggio patterns he plays a whole melody?

1 Answer 1


In the folk picking style Knopfler is playing simple arpeggios. In the "piano" style, his thumb is acting like the left hand of a piano player who is pounding out octaves, thirds and fifths in walking bass lines while his other fingers are playing stacked chords with melodic fills, like the right hand of a piano player.

Now the thumb can only play one string at a time generally, so you just hear the one note so imagine a piano player with just one finger on his left hand. :-)

I usually hear the second style Knopfler plays called "country blues" style. See Lightnin' Hopkins and Reverend Gary Davis for more examples.

  • Does Folk picking have walking bass as well or it uses only a constant root + 3rd notes?
    – user44769
    Dec 19, 2018 at 15:33
  • 1
    @Riddle-Master I suppose it would be possible to have a walking bass but it's more pattern picking so it relies more on the chord shapes you're holding and the pattern of strings that you're picking than any kind of conscious movement like you have in country blues picking which has a strong melodic component.
    – empty
    Dec 19, 2018 at 16:52
  • I see. Then, would this be considered a "Piano" style rather than "Folk pattern"?
    – user44769
    Dec 20, 2018 at 19:41
  • Or does L. Hopkins showcase it better?
    – user44769
    Dec 20, 2018 at 19:51
  • 1
    @Riddle-Master I'd have to go with the Hopkins clip for better example of the style. The other style is a little stiff and arpeggi-istic.
    – empty
    Dec 20, 2018 at 21:31

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