Mark Knopfler pro tip and guitar warm-up exercise: "You've got to stop associating emotion with tension"

Mark Knopfler
(Image credit: Andy Sheppard/Redferns)

“I’m still learning to relax my left arm [fret hand], when I’m playing," Dire Straits legend Mark Knopfler told us in 2015. The more you can learn to relax that left arm, the more fluid you’ll be. If you tense up, you’re just gonna slow down. And for a long time I played that way – and I used to get pain all down my forearm. I used to play Sultans… like that a lot. It’s just habit."

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Mark Knopfler

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Knopfler knows this is an understandable habit players fall into into. "Getting the urgency into the playing gets translated into tension, unfortunately," he continues. "But you’ve got to stop associating emotion with tension.”

That's a really valuable point. It’s easy to tense up when you play, especially if it’s a tough tune, and tension hampers your performance – ultimately slowing you down. 

Play through this simple warm-up exercise to get limbered up and ready to rock. Play it in reverse and it becomes more of a challenge as you move down the neck, one fret at a time.

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