“Lack of use, plus three bouts of COVID, probably phased out the plectrum for me”: Mark Knopfler on why he’s ditched the pick in favor of fingerpicking

Mark Knopfler holds his 2011 Pensa Custom guitar
(Image credit: Joby Sessions/Future)

Mark Knopfler has long been regarded as one of the premier electric guitar fingerstylists in the game. In recent years, though, Knopfler says, his playing has moved even more in the fingerstyle direction. 

Though he still has reverence for the guitar pick, the Dire Straits man says that his move toward fingerstyle has been one of the byproducts of his overall shift in technique in the 2020s. 

Speaking to Guitar Player in a recent interview, Knopfler revealed that he's “started using more and more fingerpicking and less and less plectruming.

“I think lack of use, plus three bouts of COVID, probably phased out the plectrum for me. I just kept losing them and would be fingerpicking more – not necessarily fingerpicking better, just more. And it proved to be just a bit more comfortable for me.”

That said, Knopfler – self-effacing throughout his discussion with GP – is on no high horse about his fondness for fingerpicking, even saying that using a pick is inherently better. 

“I want to bow to the plectrum and say it’s a superior thing,” Knopfler said. “It’s louder. It’s faster. It’s got a better signal. It’s the best amplifier there is. I didn’t give it up until recently. I was capable of playing things with a plectrum quite a lot, and I would do all the rhythm parts with one all the time.”

Elsewhere in his chat with GP, Knopfler – to an arguably ridiculous extent – went in further on what he sees as the deficiencies as his playing, saying that his “grip on the guitar has gotten even worse.

“[His] songwriting – it takes you away from concentrating on playing, and it accentuates the simplicity of a lot of my stuff that I want out of the guitar,” the guitarist said. 

“I’ve almost become a sort of a half-player in the sense that I only tend to play half the notes that are there that I could play, and my fingering is all wrong. I don’t hold the neck properly; I hold the neck like a plumber holds a hammer, not in a proper, artistic way.”

To pick up the new issue of Guitar Player – which features an extensive discussion with Knopfler about his guitar collection, his star-studded re-recording of Going Home (Theme From Local Hero), and his new album, One Deep River – head on over to Magazines Direct

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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