Learning to play songs the way the artist plays them (i.e., Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits)

Discussion in 'Sidewinders Bar & Grille' started by CalicoSkies, Jul 15, 2021.

  1. CalicoSkies

    CalicoSkies Most Honored Senior Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Sultans of Swing is one song I've always liked to play on guitar. I've learned basically the "rhythm" style with bar chords, and over the years I've tried watching YouTube videos to try to learn how to play the lead like Mark Knopfler plays. I haven't been able to learn it quite completely, probably because my style of playing is vastly different from Mark Knopfler's.. I was watching another YouTube video about it the other day, describing the finger positioning and playing for the various little things Mark Knopfler does in the song, and it just seems very tricky. Some of the fingering on the chords requires the fingers to be spaced out fairly far (I was wondering if my chording hand is really big enough), and another part of it is Mark Knopfler's playing style of plucking specific strings with his other hand (not using a pick). I think it's something I'd still have to really get used to and practice. I'm not sure I'll ever fully learn to play Sultans of Swing that way.. I just like how it sounds how Mark Knopfler plays the lead.
     
  2. Sureshot33

    Sureshot33 Strat-Talker

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    Not sure any of us can sound like Mark.
     
  3. bluejazzoid

    bluejazzoid Strats Amore Silver Member

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    I think "Knopfler" is ancient Gaelic for "boulder balls" or something like that. So yeah, tone in his fingers, AND also in his --- well... you know.

    :cool: :p

    Genius player & musician... it's hard to play even his simpler stuff and do it justice. But you gotta keep at it!
     
  4. Wayne Adams

    Wayne Adams Strat-O-Master

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    "Sultans" is a little tricky, but it's not nearly as difficult as it sounds. Play it with primarily the thumb and first two fingers, and pay special attention to which finger takes the first jump on each phrase. That was the key for me, because each phrase is a rolling "trickle" of notes that fall right in place if you start on the right finger.

    Yeah, I know, easier said than done...
     
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  5. Guitar boy

    Guitar boy Strat-Talker

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    I don't know. I started playing guitar at age 10 in 1975. And by the time I was 15 I knew the whole tune note for note. I learned it all by ear. My Dad was a guitar player and also a Pharmacist. He came home from work one day and I showed him what I learned, then I played the solo parts. He said to me "who showed you that?" I told him I heard it on the radio a few times and I learned it. To me it was no big deal. It kinda fell outta me onto the fretboard. I also nailed the Knopfler tone on my Dads 1956 Strat through a Silverface Princeton Reverb. He was kinda flipping out that I was able to do this at such a young age. Then I started to be able to learn solos and songs in no time flat.
    I guess it was just something I was born with. Then by the time I was 17 I was playing 5 to 7 times a week. Then things just took off. I've had a really good 40 year run, and I'm not done.
    The Sultans of swing solo is basically all diatonic and coming from the chord tones.
    Still to this day I get a kick outta playing that song!
     
  6. rolandson

    rolandson Dr. Stratster

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    It's called "critical listening" and it isn't as easy as it might sound. It is a technique used to gather the subtle nuance of a piece or passage, despite having the charts in front of one's self...
    It takes the patience of a rock but in the moment one is truly engaged, immediately evident. The "ah ha!" moment.

    Absent that, a program that permits the slowing of a recording without altering pitch, can help decipher just wtf the player is doing.
     
  7. SalvorHardin

    SalvorHardin Strat-O-Master

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    A part of his picking style is employing the thumb with his other fingers, not restricting it to a bass note, different from Emmanuel etc. I use my index, middle and ring finger for the refrain lick. For the ending highspeed triad, thumb and first finger with a pulloff on the high E with the left hand. Pretty straight forward actually.
     
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  8. Guitar boy

    Guitar boy Strat-Talker

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    Yes I'm completely aware of how Mark plays the song.
    Believe it or not I can play with just my right hand thumb faster than most people can play with a pick. My Dad taught me how to play with alternate bass strumming, Travis picking, Chet Atkins style finger picking he also taught me the Carcassi P.I.M.A style of picking. Then I got heavily into Jeff Beck. I can play equally as well with a pick or my fingers. I was just born that way.
    And the funny thing is I'm just a regular kinda guy. You know.
    Oh and I'm not a big Emmanuel fan. Everything he plays sounds like it's fretting out.
    I essentially learned how to play acoustic guitar by listening To Leo Kottke album "Green houses" Leo makes the guitar sound like a freight train coming down the tracks, energy and power. And I truly think Emmanuel is a world class genius player. I just can't deal with the super low action buzzing note thing.
     
  9. SalvorHardin

    SalvorHardin Strat-O-Master

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    Yes yes, you're a saint. Hypoglysimic or something. I'm out.
     
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  10. Guitar boy

    Guitar boy Strat-Talker

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    When I was learning how to play the greatest technological advancement was slowing down the 33 and a 3rd vinyl album to 16. And honestly it's always been about my ears. I just hear it and I can play it. It's really weird. Other than what my Dad taught me and 40 plus years of me asking all different instrument players a lot of questions I've basically never took a lesson.
     
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  11. bluejazzoid

    bluejazzoid Strats Amore Silver Member

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    So very true!

    Speaking for myself, as a life-long EVH fan ---spending countless hours dragging my finger on LPs to slow them down trying to figure out licks, and then going to concerts getting right up front to be able to watch his fingers, and even still today with all the technology out there that makes it easier to see how and know what he did --- actually playing something, and also making it sound like EVH, are not always one and the same.

    What I mean is, doing all that is indeed a GREAT way to learn for sure, but evetually I realized that for me the goal should always be acquiring knowledge and new skills ---not just mimicry--- which in turn has helped expand my playing vocabulary and palette to the point where my own playing has become much more self-rewarding - now more than ever.

    Of course, ymmv. :)
     
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  12. Gedster

    Gedster Strat-Talker

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    This kid makes me wanna give up…. It’ll either inspire you or depress you.

     
  13. Seamus OReally

    Seamus OReally Mr. Serious Gold Supporting Member

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    I can’t learn a solo note for note, and there are about half a dozen I try to reproduce as practice, but I’ve never really captured every note and every phrase.
     
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  14. Tremoluxer

    Tremoluxer Strat-Talker Gold Supporting Member

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    It's good to have a lifetime song to work on; it keeps the brain synapses firing. Mine is Paul Desmond & Dave Brubeck's Take Five, in 5/4 time. And even though I've got the verse, bridge, and solo down cold, there are enough subtleties to keep me at it the rest of my life.
     
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  15. Seamus OReally

    Seamus OReally Mr. Serious Gold Supporting Member

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    I feel the same way about Jesse Ed Davis’ solo on “Doctor My Eyes,” and Carlos on “Black Magic Woman,” and a bunch of Steely Dan.
     
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  16. Koop

    Koop Strat-Talk Member

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    About ten years ago our band front man sent me an e-mail on Thursday night and ssid we need to play Walk of Life on Saturday. I had a day job - I was a manager at a major European car company working 12 hour days. I thought, no way in hell will I learn Mark Knopfler in two days. I was right.
     
  17. circles

    circles Resident Pinball Enthusiast

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    Most covers I've learned 'close enough for government work/drunk bar patrons', but not to the level I'd like.
     
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  18. Cesspit

    Cesspit Strat-O-Master

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    I learned long ago I can't replicate note for note solos. Mainly because the result always sounds like me, something I've struggled with for years. I can play the notes but really why try?

    On any cover song I try to capture the feel of the song as I know I am not Page, Clapton or Knopfler and never will be. Getting to accept how you sound and like it is difficult, maybe the hardest aspect of guitar, well for me anyway so every cover is 'my version' for good or bad.
     
  19. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon

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    Mark Knopfler has never played it the same way twice himself...
     
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  20. Cyberi4n

    Cyberi4n Strat-O-Master

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    Isn’t there something about taking a song and making it your own? I mean yeah by all
    means try to get it as close to him as possible if that’s your thing, but….