When Mark Knopfler was growing up, every kid wanted an electric guitar. Few owned one. The older kids at his school tried building their own in woodwork classes, and they all aspired to one design: the Fender Stratocaster.
Knopfler also wanted one, and he wanted a Fiesta Red Strat like The Shadows’ Hank Marvin had. His first electric was a 1962 Hofner Super Solid - in red. By 1978, Dire Straits were ready to record their debut LP and Knopfler finally owned a ’61 Strat. More importantly, he had a style all of his own.
There is a quiet magic to Mark Knopfler. His playing is approachable and accessible, familiar but somehow out of reach. You can hear The Shadows, JJ Cale, BB King and Chet Atkins in his playing, yet Knopfler’s sound and style is unmistakably his own. He is truly an auteur of tone. Few guitarists make better note choices, few phrase a lick better.
Eschewing a pick, Knopfler pinches at his strings, rolling back and forth on his volume pedal, and is in full control of his instrument’s range. He has used a Gretsch Chet Atkins, Gibson Les Pauls, Teles and his Pensa MKs, but he’s most definitely a Strat man. Old habits die hard.
Here we've put together two guitar/rig collections - as always, one budget and one blowout - that should get you close to nailing Knopf's tones...
Squier Classic Vibe '50s Stratocaster
BUDGET: This Squier blows a lot of your budget but it’s well worth it for that vintage Strat tone.
Fender Champion 40 Combo
BUDGET: With onboard effects and stacks of features, the Champion is an all-access pass to the Knopf’s mellow twang.
Boss FV-500H Volume Pedal
BUDGET: Volume and expression for less than £80. What’s not to like?
Hoter Sportline Headband
BUDGET: Yeah, Knopfler sounds laid back, but he sweats like a demon. Buy in red or black, it’s your choice.
Total spend on budget rig: £535 / $672 (approx. based on web prices)
Fender Classic Series '50s Stratocaster
BLOWOUT: Knopfler’s signature Strat is impossible to find, but this one gets you close to early Straits tones.
Fender Vibrolux Reverb
BLOWOUT: In the early Straits days, Knopfler used a brown Tolex-covered Vibrolux. This is a beautiful all-valve modern update on the classic.
Ernie Ball EB6180 Junior Volume Pedal
BLOWOUT: A volume pedal is a vital part of Mark’s rig.
MXR Carbon Copy Analogue Delay
BLOWOUT: Pound for pound, the Carbon Copy is one of the best delays on the market.
Deerskin Driving Gloves
BLOWOUT: To play like The Knopf’, you need to drive like The Knopf’ (he’s finished in the Top 10 at Le Mans).