Learn to fingerpick a Knopfler melody, or attempt to achieve peace in the Middle East?

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randellarandella Frets: 1848
After 28 years of using a plectrum, I decided to have a stab at the intro to Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet".  By God I think I know which would be easier to pull off.

Interestingly, I found a video of the man himself whilst searching for a tutorial - almost catatonic in his speech delivery but when he picks up a guitar?  Blimey.

And pick up a guitar he did (lovely Martin parlour, pre-CBS Strat, '58 Les Paul Standard, that resonator off the cover of Brothers in Arms).

The most enlightening bit of the interview was him talking about fingerpicking, funnily enough.  He said at first it's a bit like waterskiing - "I'm up!  I'm up!  I'm u... ah. Never mind."

Anyway, persevere I shall - getting there.  It's got to be the hardest thing I've learned since I first picked up a guitar in the late '80s, it feels like someone took the fingers off my right hand and replaced them with 14 big toes.

If anyone's got any magic tips, share 'em here.  I'm not daft though, I know there's no other way really than repetition - same way I got fluent with the old Dunlop Tortex.
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 9441
    First things first... you know it’s in Open G, right? 

    Other than that it’s mostly perseverance.

    You can take comfort in that I’ve been laying it for years and still struggle with the steady strum from the low D up through the barred  “D” shape. 
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3577
    That clip you watched where he plays the C with the G bass underneath and he plays the pattern, that's the basic starting point for pretty much any of his finger picking stuff. I just kept doing that pattern until I could do it mindlessly then you can add bits of melody on top .......... that's the basic recipe

    Romeo is in open but you can play a close version in normal
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • MayneheadMaynehead Frets: 1172
    I've always thought Mark Knopfler's music is better enjoyed than imitated.

    Even the best covers on youtube cannot get close to his feel and timing. There is just some magic in his playing.
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  • randellarandella Frets: 1848
    Yep, got the tuning and capo sorted @stickyfiddle - cheers! :)

    I'm at the perseverance stage now.  If you mean you struggle with the 6-string arpeggio, string 6, 5, and 4 with the thumb and then finger 1, 2 and 3 (all in a lovely sextuplet feel) then yeah.  Me too.  I've just about got it but then cannot for the life of me hit strings 5 and 1 open immediately afterwards.  It's like trying to play a harp whilst wearing mittens.

    My god though it's a lovely sound.  Aside from an indulgent noodle on the old man's D-35 three times a year, I've neglected the acoustic and any sort of picking for a decade or more.  It's a whole new world, but I am actually enjoying it.
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  • randellarandella Frets: 1848
    Danny1969 said:
    That clip you watched where he plays the C with the G bass underneath and he plays the pattern, that's the basic starting point for pretty much any of his finger picking stuff. I just kept doing that pattern until I could do it mindlessly then you can add bits of melody on top .......... that's the basic recipe
    Yep, that's the longer-term plan.  I'm at a tipping point now where I can just about keep it going slowly in a loop and even that puts a smile on my face.

    It's been a while since I've wanted to pick the guitar up every time I walk past it, so all good :)
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 9441
    Yeah, that’s the one. From that videos online MK uses that left hand shape every time he’s on that D (not actually D) chord, which I just find impossible. 

    It it does sound lovely when you get it right tho :)
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  • Whenever I get up the courage to start fingerpicking again, I learn new songs by playing them reaaaaaallllyy slow. Absurdly slow. That’s the only way I can get the various rhythms into my fingers. 

    When I can play a section without thinking about it, only then do I think about speeding up. 
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  • mixolydmixolyd Frets: 336
    Where’s the video?

    The golden rule for learning new technique is hands separate practise.

    When practisiing new technique with both hands your brain is calculating:

    1. Left hand
    2. Right hand
    3. Coordination of the two hands

    And according to some scientific study that I have no reference for no 3. Is much more intensive and difficult for the brain to learn.

    So do the picking hand separately until it is good before trying to coordinate with the other.

    This is how pianists in the conservatoires learn, hence the obvious gulf in technical fluency between them and the typical pianist.
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  • randellarandella Frets: 1848
    @mixolyd here you go (waterskiing reference at 1:20)...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OG__SwkV3wg

    One of the reasons for using R&J as a starting point is specifically because the left hand is (comparatively) simple when compared with what the right is doing.  As it's the polar opposite of my normal legato-heavy plectrum technique, it does force me to focus on the picking hand.
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  • mixolydmixolyd Frets: 336
    randella said:
    @mixolyd here you go (waterskiing reference at 1:20)...

    One of the reasons for using R&J as a starting point is specifically because the left hand is (comparatively) simple when compared with what the right is doing.  As it's the polar opposite of my normal legato-heavy plectrum technique, it does force me to focus on the picking hand.
    Thanks that was fab.  That man was very lucky to fall in love with guitar the way he did.
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  • uncledickuncledick Frets: 227
    It's when he says "Pretty soon you find you're playing like this...."    I'm still waiting
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  • randellarandella Frets: 1848
    @uncledick - funnily enough I was recently showing a friend, who's just starting to play, how to hold a pick.  She was struggling - "it feels weird, it's too loud!"  I was trying to put myself in her place but after three decades of holding that little piece of plastic between my thumb and forefinger I can't ever imagine a time when gripping and using one didn't feel entirely natural.

    Then I started to take this whole fingerpicking thing seriously.

    Ah.  There we go.  Now I remember.
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  • 57Deluxe57Deluxe Frets: 5787
    This should be a thread that Reads: If Tony Blair offered Guitar Lessons - would you??
    <Vintage BOSS Upgrades>
    __________________________________
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  • ronnybronnyb Frets: 531
    And I can't play with a plectrum! I've always used my fingers mainly in that 3 finger style that Knopfler uses (not that i'm anywhere near a tenth as good as him) but i can't seem to get the right strumming pattern or picking technique with a plectrum. When i strum i use the side of my thumb. I have tried many times to use a plectrum and say to myself i'm not going to use my fingers till i get this right but i always end up chucking it away and back to the fingerpicking. . 
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  • RockerRocker Frets: 2743
    Getting my two hands working together or separately is proving to be a major challenge. I am trying to knock out a few chords on the piano. It is not the same as using a knife and fork.....
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Albert Einstein]

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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 9441
    ronnyb said:
    And I can't play with a plectrum! I've always used my fingers mainly in that 3 finger style that Knopfler uses (not that i'm anywhere near a tenth as good as him) but i can't seem to get the right strumming pattern or picking technique with a plectrum. When i strum i use the side of my thumb. I have tried many times to use a plectrum and say to myself i'm not going to use my fingers till i get this right but i always end up chucking it away and back to the fingerpicking. . 
    I’m about 70% no pick these days, which to me is completely normal. But when I demoed an amp yesterday the guy was dumbfounded when I refused the pick he offered me and proceeded to still be able teh guitar..!
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  • ronnybronnyb Frets: 531
    ronnyb said:
    And I can't play with a plectrum! I've always used my fingers mainly in that 3 finger style that Knopfler uses (not that i'm anywhere near a tenth as good as him) but i can't seem to get the right strumming pattern or picking technique with a plectrum. When i strum i use the side of my thumb. I have tried many times to use a plectrum and say to myself i'm not going to use my fingers till i get this right but i always end up chucking it away and back to the fingerpicking. . 

    I can never seem to hold a plectrum firmly enough I always end up dropping it. I sometimes think I should have learned guitar left handed because I do a lot of things left handed except writing. It's a bit late now I've been playing nearly 40 years, it would be like learning all over again and buying more guitars of course.
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  • randellarandella Frets: 1848
    ronnyb said:
    ronnyb said:
    And I can't play with a plectrum! I've always used my fingers mainly in that 3 finger style that Knopfler uses (not that i'm anywhere near a tenth as good as him) but i can't seem to get the right strumming pattern or picking technique with a plectrum. When i strum i use the side of my thumb. I have tried many times to use a plectrum and say to myself i'm not going to use my fingers till i get this right but i always end up chucking it away and back to the fingerpicking. . 

    I can never seem to hold a plectrum firmly enough I always end up dropping it. I sometimes think I should have learned guitar left handed because I do a lot of things left handed except writing. It's a bit late now I've been playing nearly 40 years, it would be like learning all over again and buying more guitars of course.
    @ronnyb ;

    Conversely I’d be happy if it was possible to graft a 1mm Delrin pick onto the thumb of my right hand, that way it wouldn’t end up in the washing machine with all the others :)

    Not holding it too firmly is the key I find, in fact I always have nerves for the first couple of tunes at a gig and hold onto it for dear life. Once I settle down I get back to holding it lightly as normal. I’ve never once dropped one (cursed it now of course!).

    Horses and courses though. I’ve always admired players like you who don’t have the plastic crutch. Fingers make such a nice sound on the strings. 

    I’ve seem Jim Mullen play a couple of times, ripping the most complicated, blistering licks with his thumb. If you’ve never seen him, check him out. If I could play a thousandth of that I’d die a happy man. 


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  • ronnybronnyb Frets: 531
    Being unable to use a plectrum does restrict you though, that sweep picking thing. Just as an example i've been trying to get off that song by the chilli peppers, 'snow, hey ho'. I've virtually got it with my fingers but it somehow doesn't sound quite right without a plectrum.  
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  • clarkefanclarkefan Frets: 445
    Wow cool video, thanks for posting this :) There's enough new stuff in that 14 mins to keep me busy for years. Thanks, looks like I'll be taking the fingerpicking challenge as well, that was inspiring, what a musician :)
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  • fandangofandango Frets: 1105
    ... and then along came Tommy Emmanuel.....
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  • ModellistaModellista Frets: 865
    fandango said:
    ... and then along came Tommy Emmanuel.....
    Exactly. You think you're up to speed with fingerpicking and then they invent a little piece of plastic to stick on the thumb and it's back to square one again!
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