You know the sound. Smooth but with just the right kick of distortion to let you know you are dealing with some real rock n’ roll. You know what I’m talking about. That perfectly even tone that has you walking with a bit of a strut because you just heard “Sultans of Swing” on the radio and can’t get the guitar lines out of your head.
Mark Knopfler possesses one of the most distinct tones in all of rock. With Dire Straits and beyond, Knopfler has been combining fluid solos and chord passages that walk the line between understated and flat-out jaw dropping. Although the beautiful music comes from his head and fingers (he plays without a pick), Knopfler did have a bit of help in developing such a persuasive and sexy tone. The atmosphere and shadings he creates on such tunes as the aforementioned “Sultans of Swing”, “Down to the Waterline” and “Lady Writer” was created with the help of the Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer Compressor pedal.
The Orange Squeezer is a basically a compressor pedal. A compressor is a circuit that compresses the signal so if it exceeds a level, the compressor limits, or puts a cap on, the signal. What this means is that the soft tones are lifted and the loud tones are limited resulting in an even sound. A listen to early Dire Straits recordings is a perfect example of the benefits of using a compressor. The Orange Squeezer enabled Knopfler to keep a flush sound, not too loud and not too soft, which has played a huge role in the guitarist’s unmistakable tone.
Of course, there is the Strat that Knopfler played that helped create such a signature sound. Strats often possess a biting tone that is great for cutting through a thick rhythm section. Combined with the Orange Compressor pedal, Knopfler was able to use the Strat to create the perfect timbre that set his playing style apart from everyone else. Knopfler’s style is so distinct that Fender has issued a Mark Knopfler Stratocaster which features three Texas Special single coil pickups in inside of a Hot Rod Red ’57 ash body with a ’62 c-shaped maple neck. This guitar along with the Orange Compressor is the perfect recipe for creating smooth lines and chords that pop with an even controlled resonance that will have you rolling with the Sultans of Swing in your basement or at the gig.
blog written by E. M. Kaplan