Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” is one of their most popular songs and a defining moment for lead guitarist Mark Knopfler’s career. Learning to play the iconic riff and nailing the unique tone is a must for any aspiring rock guitarist.
Recorded in 1985, “Money for Nothing” featured Knopfler playing a 1958 Les Paul instead of his go-to Fender Stratocaster. The song’s tone was heavily influenced by studio trickery and specialist recording techniques, making it difficult to recreate live. Knopfler used a variety of guitars in performances, including his signature Pensa Suhr MK-1 and Steinberger GL2.
To achieve a similar tone, you’ll need a humbucker-equipped guitar, an overdrive pedal, and EQ knobs on your amp. A wah pedal set to a fixed position may also help. The song’s tempo is 134 bpm and its key is G minor. The main techniques used are harmonics and fingerpicking.
Knopfler’s fingerstyle technique in “Money for Nothing” heavily relies on his first and second fingers, with occasional use of the thumb. He also rests his third and fourth fingers against the guitar body for stability. While it may not be a “perfect” technique, copying Knopfler’s method can help you get closer to the recording’s feel.
When recording “Money for Nothing,” Knopfler used his 1958 Gibson Les Paul with a Laney amp to generate the basic tone. Dual-mic’ing, double-tracking, and aiming for a ZZ Top-like sound created the song’s distinctive drive tone. In early performances, Knopfler tried to recreate the sound using Les Paul’s bridge-position humbucker and his amp’s tone shaping, while later on, he used the neck humbucker and added a rackmount EQ/filter effect (best recreated with a wah pedal set to a fixed position).
With these tips and techniques, you can master the iconic riff and tone of “Money for Nothing” on your guitar. Watch the video below and you’ll find a lot more information and easy ways of learning this song.