UG Weekend Riff: Part 5

Ultimate Guitar


Dire Straights - Money For Nothing. This weekend's riff is from a very recogniseable song by the headbanded 80's star, Mark Knophfler. It begins directly after the falsetto vocals of 'Police' bassist, Sting, who appeared on the Brothers In Arms record simply because he was holidaying near the studio in Montserrat. You should fast forward about 1:30 on your CD (you do have a copy, right?) to give it a listen.


There are many aspects of the tone that need to be considered to make this sound right but the first is that Mark Knophler never used a plectrum. Ever. For this reason, you will want to use your thumb, first and second finger to pick the strings. Because of the way the melody switches between strings, it is best to assign each finger to a string as shown in the diagram below. Bar 1 2 3    |  4     5 6 7    |  8

e| --------- | --------- | B| --Second- | --------- | G| --First-- | --Second- | D| --Thumb-- | --First-- | A| --------- | --Thumb-- | E| --------- | --------- |

Apart from this, the riff needs to be made as staccato as possible. The notes do not run together and so it is advised that you lift your fretting hand slightly between notes to kill them. Some notes hardly ring out at all and these are tabbed as staccato and should take a little extra attention.

Gear Info & Settings:

Although Mark uses Stratocasters live, the guitar on this track is rumoured to be a Les Paul Junior with the bridge pickup on. A Strat has the luxury of being able to achieve the throaty sound with the out of phase pickup positions. Turn on the bridge and middle pickups to get much closer to the tone. However, on stage a wah pedal is used to accentuate the tone and you should press slowly down on the pedal until the tone is about right, and then leave it there! Interestingly, this is the only time Mark Knophler used a Wah pedal.

As for amplifiers Mark Knophler uses a Jim Kelly combo. Since the tone here is mostly from teh use of the wah pedal, it is best to set your equalisation flat (all at 5). Gain is at about 4, although if you are playing a strat and using singlecoil pickups, push it up to 6. Finally, if you have a reverb pedal, the first loop of the riff has 'Room' style reverb set to 3 or 4. This should be switched off when the drums come in so if you don't have a pedal, you will have to decide whether to keep it on or not use any reverb. Since the riff is mainly staccato, it's best to leave it off.

Audio & Tab:

KEY: () natural harmonic * let ring . staccato (above tab)

133 bpm     . e| ----------------- | ----------------- | B|:---------------6- | ----------------- | G| -7---7---7-5-7--- | -----7-5-5-3-0-0- | D| -5---5---5---5--- | -5---5-5-5-3-0-0- | A|:----------------- | ----------------- | E| ----------------- | ----------------- |

    . e| ----------------- | ----------------- | B| ----------------- | ----------------- | G| -----0-----3----- | -3--/5---5---3-0- | D| -x---0---0---0-0- | -3--/5---5---3--- | A| ----------------- | -1--/3---3------- | E| ----------------- | ----------------- |

    . e| ----------------- | ----------------- | B| ----------------- | ---8------------- | G| (7)--7-----5h7-7- | -7---5-7p5-3-0-0- | D| -----5---5-5-5-5- | -5---5-5-5-3-0-0- | A| ----------------- | ----------------- | E| ----------------- | ----------------- |

    .                       . e| ----------------- | ----------------- | B| ----------------- | -----------------:| G| -----0-----3-0--- | -----0----------- | D| -x---0---0-----0- | -3---0---5*------ | A| ----------------- | -3-------5*------:| E| ----------------- | ----------------- | Click here to get a midi file of the tab above.

38 comments sorted by best / new / date

    That's a fair enough reason to use midi I guess, but it really doesn't sound as good as someone recording it themselves. Also, just one thing, on the tab, second bar, is that first note (the G, fret 5 D string) meant to just be on the D string? It sounds like there's fret 5 G string being played on the midi alongside as a double-stop.
    Geldof the Grey
    The two notes are the 5th fret D string (G) and the 6th fret G string (F) which shouldn't still be ringing out on the midi but... is... Meanwhile, if you want to record a guitar only version of every riff, then e-mail me and we'll see what we can do.
    sweet child o mine is such a great riff its hard to play it right to!!!!!slash is so good
    ironically i was just thinking about learning this song the other day but i forgot all about it then i stumbled upon your article. thanks, great riff, great 80's song.
    Geldof the Grey
    that would only be ironic if you, like, went to every tab site in the world and they all had wrong tabs and then you found this one, right on the homepage :p:
    oh yeah i recognize this song. this is the one where they go "i want my MTV" right?, i always wanted to know the name of it.
    all i know is that Weird Al did a version of this song about the beverly hillbillies which by the way, is much better
    ^NO VERSION IS BETTER THAN KNOPFLER'S!! Brilliant riff...i learned to play it the way that was in total guitar a few years ago though. brilliant song...brilliant band! and they werent one hit wonders DIRE SRAITS ROCK!
    Geldof the Grey
    I use the midi because if I recorded the riffs: a) They would suck b) There would be no drums and bass c) They are spot on for timing.
    i dont like the lead singer's voice, but this is still really catchy. the dire straights were basically one hit wonders, even though they DID have sultans of swing and a few other ok songs. ^dont get mad about that; i dont know a lot about them so people who do may disagree
    Tis a kickass riff even though I haven't heard it before. I shall probably try this out.
    Geldof the Grey
    Most definately, although I'm planning something special for Weekend Riff 10. Details coming soon!
    Did you get any inspiration from Total Guitar Magazine by any chance? Also you managed to spell Mark Knopfler wrong throughout the whole article! Regardless, another great riff..
    Geldof the Grey
    Yes, I read Total Guitar since they have a lot of info on the guitars used. I still double check all the facts and you will notice that I had to change some things I figure they got wrong, the duppers.
    The (7) is a harmonic, you play it by holding your finget tip just above the fret and playing the note, it should make a nice high ringing noise.
    sweet child o mine could be a good one, but i still think you should do an rhcp riff. btw id never place my thumb on the d-string when i could just use my third finger for b, 2d for g, and first for d
    Yeah, really good riff, and I can't wait for Sweet Child O' Mine as I'm a die-hard GnR fan. Hmm, but just to point out, you managed to spell Dire Straits wrong and Mark Knopfler's name wrong too. Otherwise than that, its wicked!
    Why use midi files?! They're so disturbing! I liked the riff where the poster of it actually played it and recorded it, sounded much better and easier to follow.