the "Money for Nothing" guitar sound? "a happy accident" (SOS excerpt)
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7th May 2006
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the "Money for Nothing" guitar sound? "a happy accident" (SOS excerpt)

Interesting little bit about one of the more recognizable sounds in rock.

-----
Full article on recording Brothers in Arms at:
http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/may0...racks_0506.htm
(SOS articles are subscription only for the first three months. Free after that.)


John Illsley in the live room at AIR Montserrat, with a selection of guitars...
"I remember Mark's Les Paul Junior going through a Laney amp, and that was the sound of 'Money For Nothing'," says Dorfsman. "We were actually going for a sort of ZZ Top sound, but what we ended up getting was kind of an accident. Mark would be in the control room and we'd run a lead out to the main area, and I remember getting a channel set up to monitor, heading out to the room to move the mics around, and Mark's guitar tech Ron Eve getting on the talkback and telling me not to touch anything because it sounded amazing as it was.

"One mic was pointing down at the floor, another was not quite on the speaker, another was somewhere else, and it wasn't how I would want to set things up — it was probably just left from the night before, when I'd been preparing things for the next day and had not really finished the setup. Nevertheless, whether it was the phase of the mics or the out-of-phaseness, what we heard was exactly what ended up on the record. There was no additional processing on that tune during the mix.

"Later on, we tried to recreate that guitar sound at the Power Station with the same amp, same setup and same models of microphone, but we could never get it. I'd drawn extensive pictures and had a little map of how everything was set up, but there must have been something weird going on to make the guitar sound that way in Montserrat, because in New York it sounded like a cleaner, karaoke version of the same thing. I messed around with it for a good couple of hours, but Mark was just getting bored and wanted to move on. The whole thing was very confusing.

"Later on, a lot of people asked me how I got the sound on the record, but it was just one of those happy accidents that have not happened to me very often. I don't know if something was broken, but we could not recreate that sound again. All I know is, it was the sound of Mark playing, using his fingers instead of a pick, together with the Laney amp. It felt and sounded so good that I just had him do five or six passes and later comped something together and wound up using a couple of the passes in the final mix, putting a double in at certain points even though that wasn't something he normally did.
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I love spooky stories like that - they add to the magical mystery of making music.
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Great!
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Shit.

I didn't know it was that hard.

Fukk.

We got it once by using a wah-wah pedal in front of a Marshall with a Telecaster [put it up next to the CD and could hardly tell the difference].

Obviously, nobody touched the wah-wah pedal once it was set.
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Is it just me... or does that first guitar riff, after the woozy synth intro... sound sloppy? Like they used the take BEFORE the good take?

And Sting singing along... he's grasping at straws... it's like no one could figure out a worthwhile line to sing.

Malcontent Day, here.
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It's just you... they had the I Want My MTV idea weeks if not months before they asked Sting, who happened to be on the island, to do it.




also note:
What mic pres did Neil "choose" for each instrument on that record?

the DESK.
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Okay, you guys got me sucked in.

I bought a download of the song, Googled the guitar tab, did a little practicing and am now trying to duplicate the sound.......I'm having some luck with my Roland Micro Cube-R, using the R-Fier amp setting and flanger set at 10:00 with a touch of reverb at 4:00, the majority of the guitar parts sound pretty close, but there's a few spots where that unique sound that sounds like some sort of electrical buzz, that I haven't got yet. I'm thinking that's got a be a synth added in,...yes ?? no ?? or some kind of phaser/flanger to the tenth power...???

I would doubt seriously that the sound was created by misplaced microphones around an amp with no effects processing. Something else had to be going on there.

It's all in fun.
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8th May 2006
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WTF? That is so clearly a wah pedal tone. I distinctly recall reading about this years ago, and I believe Mark got the specific wah pedal (which I think was a Crybaby) and he got it modified into a rackmount case and permanently wired up for that specific sound.

It should be fairly obvious its a wah anyway.

I'm sure the specific mic arrangement was helpfull - it's a great sound.

I like Wierd Al Yankovic's version - where he does the Beverly Hill Billies.

Mark is credited for the guitar playing, and it sounds exactly like Money For Nothing. Maybe they lifted the tracks, I don't know. But I don't think it's so hard to recreate, except for the right hand finger style.
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Oh - and that "electrical buzz" is a great sound isn't it? It's a DX7 keyboard sound.
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Yes, that is a great fun sound, I'll have to get a DX7 someday. Thanks for the info !!

It definitely is a cool sounding song, put together really well, and possibly the riff of the decade.

Getting another Crybaby is also on my list.

What's amazing me is the Micro Cube may not be exact, but it's in the ballpark.
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I remember trying to recreate that sound, or come up with something with a similar character but interesting in it's own way, not long after that record came out. My band at the time was doing everything direct, & I remember using I think an Alembic tube preamp for distortion- running one channel's output in to the other's input- possibly a Rat, with the filter cranked down, kind of like a wah pedal- a Biamp graphic EQ with the 2 high & 2 low bands all the way down, & a pair of B&B cx-1's. Something was making the signal stereo before the graphics, I don't remember what but probably an analog or digital delay on a short "doubling" type setting. The guitar was an Ed Reynolds custom job.
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I thought Knopfler pretty much nailed the MFN sound live. He had a Pete Cornish system combining more than one amp, cabinet and some pedals. Don't know which set-up went into the MFN sound though.
One thing that wasn't accidental.......
Knopfler and Dorfsman realising the guitar sound was the one, despite the unorthodox mic positioning.
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This guy plays the same gtr lick in every song. I think he is one of those guys that you're 'supposed' to like even though he really doesnt do anything.
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That's is truely the voice of ignorance speaking. I expect you have no idea who Mark Knopfler or Dire Straits are.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CorkyTart
This guy plays the same gtr lick in every song. I think he is one of those guys that you're 'supposed' to like even though he really doesnt do anything.
You are out of your mind.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macr0w
You are out of your mind.

yeah, that playing on sultans of swing is crap
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eligit
yeah, that playing on sultans of swing is crap
That was the first thing I thought of when I read that.....


The 2dn thing was Ed V. plays pretty much the same thing in every song but I love him as well.
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i guess if you have

1)taste
2)touch
3)tone
4)soul
5)phrasing
6)a distinct and easily identifiable musical personality

a little repetition does not bother me too much.

EVH (early esp) and Knopfler have these 6 things in spades.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman
also note:
What mic pres did Neil "choose" for each instrument on that record?

the DESK.
Of course... An incredible sounding desk full of great sounding pre's...
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sounded always like an les paul to me. middle position with bridge humbucker tone control set to zero. i LOVE that song.

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I like how these "amazing revalations" come around every ten years or so and everyone is so blown away. I guess cool things like that GTR tone always have that Gee Whiz effect.

I read about the mic'ing on that cut at least fifteen years ago in a recording magazine.
It even could have been earlier than that.

I have played guitar for about 40 years (actually earlier since my dad always had one around.)
Take my word... Mark Knopfler is a GREAT guitar player.
He's definitely one of the better Brit players.

If you think about the time that MFN was written and the subject matter (MTV) it only makes sense that they would have been going for a Billy Gibbons guitar tone.
ZZ Top was pretty much one of the main staples of MTV at that time.
If you are gonna' go for a Ls Paul Jr. fuzz tone than the Rev's tone is a pretty decent thing to strive for!

Danny Brown
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eligit
i guess if you have

1)taste
2)touch
3)tone
4)soul
5)phrasing
6)a distinct and easily identifiable musical personality

a little repetition does not bother me too much.

EVH (early esp) and Knopfler have these 6 things in spades.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by CorkyTart
This guy plays the same gtr lick in every song. I think he is one of those guys that you're 'supposed' to like even though he really doesnt do anything.
Get the **** outta here man. He may have done some boring tracks but he is a hell of a tasty player and has made some great records.tutt

Incidentally I heard Knoffler talking about how he wrote this track in an interview where he stated that he overheard a couple of guys commenting on MTV film-clips in a shop window. He was pissing himself laughing at thier comments "like look at them yoyo's"
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Quite some time ago I realized that a HUGE part of any art or artistry involves the ability to recognize and embrace 'happy accidents'. Great story.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djwayne
Yes, that is a great fun sound
"Money For Nothing", really? Always enjoyed the song & the riff etc, but never gave the guitar tone a 2nd thought. It, works, it fits the fabric of the song...but "great" tone? Eh...

Now, if Dorfsman or whoever wants to give out the secret for the "Sultans Of Swing" guitar tone, I'm all ears!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross
"Money For Nothing", really? Always enjoyed the song & the riff etc, but never gave the guitar tone a 2nd thought. It, works, it fits the fabric of the song...but "great" tone? Eh...

Now, if Dorfsman or whoever wants to give out the secret for the "Sultans Of Swing" guitar tone, I'm all ears!
take clean fender amp w/ a touch of ambience...strat type guitar w/ single coil neck pup...then get knopfler to play it for ya (no pick allowed)...e.
#27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross
"Money For Nothing", really? Always enjoyed the song & the riff etc, but never gave the guitar tone a 2nd thought. It, works, it fits the fabric of the song...but "great" tone? Eh...

Now, if Dorfsman or whoever wants to give out the secret for the "Sultans Of Swing" guitar tone, I'm all ears!
Really??? I think that is one of the most recognizable guitar sounds from the 80's if not the history of recorded music (I am not exaggerating).

Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck, Eddy Van Halen, Eric Clapton, Tony Iommi, Richie Blackmore, David Gilmore. etc. etc. all great and unique tones but the guitar tone for MFN is probably the most distinctive of all. I am not saying Knoffler is a better or worse guitar player than the above and I am not saying that his tone all the time is distinctive, but the opening riff tone is one of the most distinctive and recognizable tones in rock history in my eyes. It is really part of the song, one of the building blocks for the tune.

Just my take.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by not_so_new
the opening riff tone is one of the most distinctive and recognizable tones in rock history in my eyes. It is really part of the song, one of the building blocks for the tune.
Because the tone & the riff are inextricably linked; I agree that the tone/riff combination is all the things that you say (above).

But if you separate the tone -- i.e., the "spectral profile" -- from the part he's playing (is that even possible?) I contend it's far less unique.

Be interesting to isolate single-note instances culled from the "Money For Nothing" guitar intro, throw them up on a spectrum analyzer or TEF display, and see how different they really are from single note instances culled from, oh, say, the guitar intro to "Tumblin' Dice". Completely out of context, with no cues regarding musical phrasing or idiomatic playing technique, just isolated swatches of harmonic distribution...are they that different?
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Sultans of Swing tears my head off.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross
Because the tone & the riff are inextricably linked; I agree that the tone/riff combination is all the things that you say (above).

But if you separate the tone -- i.e., the "spectral profile" -- from the part he's playing (is that even possible?) I contend it's far less unique.

Be interesting to isolate single-note instances culled from the "Money For Nothing" guitar intro, throw them up on a spectrum analyzer or TEF display, and see how different they really are from single note instances culled from, oh, say, the guitar intro to "Tumblin' Dice". Completely out of context, with no cues regarding musical phrasing or idiomatic playing technique, just isolated swatches of harmonic distribution...are they that different?
Tone is a lot more than just static spectral content- It's how that content varies over time. And other things as well.
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