How does Mark Knopfler measure up with other rock guitar players in his prime?

Written by on June 21, 2020

Chris Austin · Guitarist & been listening to Mark Knopfler for lot of years

Mark Knopfler can’t be measured against any (or at least most of) guitarist of his prime (70s, 80s) or before him (60s) or after his prime (90s).

You could compare a lot of guitarists for their time e.g Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or even Jimi Hendrix with each other. And as for 70s, Ritchie Blackmore, Eddie Van Halen, Brian May, Angus Young, Santana or many others.

But you can’t really compare Mark Knopfler with others, because Mark Knopfler is unique. Mostly because he doesn’t use a pick. But there are other reasons. He isn’t obsessed with heavy distortion, different pedals, barre chords, fast or slow licks. He was different.

Apart from his guitar playing style, he also didn’t play the same genres as others. The blues or classical. He adapted the combinations of blues, country, folk and also few jazzy styles in his music.

He used to play clean and non-sloppy all the time. Other guitar gods like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen also often used to be sloppy. Other clean guitarists were David Gilmour, Eric Johnson, Shawn Lane, Eric Clapton etc. But their playing style differs from Mark Knopfler.

If you consider playing fingerstyle guitar, then Mark Knopfler was also unique among them. Tommy Emmanuel, Paco De Lucia or Joe Pass also played with fingerstyle. But not like Mark Knopfler. His finger-styling is quite different. Possibly because he never learned to fingerpick from others. Rather he learned on his own.

The closest guitarist I could compare is Chet Atkins

By whom Knopfler was inspired. But Chet Atkins wasn’t from his time. He was quite before him. Chet Atkins himself was quite unique. (Now, Don’t make choose between them.)

Mark Knopfler’s recordings are also unique. His songs aren’t easy to play. I think most shredders wouldn’t be able to play like him. Doesn’t matter how trained or technical you are. And that killer tone he created “Money For Nothing”

And finally, he can play with a pick. And he can be good at it, so I wouldn’t say he is strictly restricted to fingerpicking.

Conclusion:

He is pretty unique. And that’s why I always put him on the top tier. Along with Hendrix, Blackmore or Buckethead. He isn’t much technical or fast. But pretty much unique to be compared with others. Especially from his time.

Update:

Glad to see many responds to my answer. Many comments. Thanks to all for reading it.

Well, so many readers are introducing Lindsey Buckingham and Jeff Beck. Both of them are extraordinary guitarists like Mark Knopfler. But there are some reasons I didn’t compare them with Knopfler.

Talking about Lindsey Buckingham, he is also an unique guitarist and very good guitarist. He is underrated as well. I would say he is more underrated than Knopfler in terms of guitar ranking. Anyways, he too does fingerpicking to play his guitar. But his fingerpicking isn’t same as Knopfler. The biggest difference can be seen in their thumb used. Mark Knopfler uses his thumb more often than Lindsey. He kinda strikes his thumb harder on strings than Lindsey does. On the other hand, Lindsey also uses his index and middle finger to fast strum on the strings. Where Mark Knopfler often uses his middle, thumb and index fingers individually to pluck each strings (especially in his early eras). Mark Knopfler also uses strong vibratos. And his vibrato using is too often than Lindsey. Mark Knopfler’s fingerpicking is pretty much like a claw. Where Lindsey’s fingerpicking is quite like banjo picking.

One other big thing is their tone. Mark Knopfler’s tone is quite different than Lindsey’s tone. Lindsey’s tone often goes to pop, rock, folk and sometimes to new wave. Where Mark Knopfler’s style is often sounds combination of country, jazz and blues (more bluesy). Knopfler’s solos have more broken licks. Where Lindsey’s soloing is very smooth unlike Knopfler. So, I think only thing that could be compared between them is that both of them are fingerpicking. But they are not much alike.

As for Jeff Beck, (sighs). He is a tough one. I don’t know where to start with him. He is very unique. Comparing to others. He is good at both fingerpicking and using a pick. He didn’t use pick from the 80s. Truth. But his tone and Knopfler’s tone is very different. Jeff Beck uses a lot of pedals and frequent uses of whammy bar. He often uses fast licks in his songs. But Mark doesn’t uses much pedals and whammy bar like him. Even if he does, his tone sounds much different than Beck. And Jeff Beck’s songs sound more of hard rock, pop rock and blues (hard rock type of blues). Where Mark’s tone is more jazzier and more countrier than Beck. So, I don’t think they too can be compared well.

So, I think even though Lindsey Buckingham and Jeff Beck don’t use pick like Mark Knopfler. But that’s the only common thing in them. They aren’t much alike.

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