My Mentoring Session with Mark Knopfler

I’ve just lived one of my wildest dreams for real: a one-to-one lesson with my hero, Mark Knopfler !!! And I still can’t realise what happened!

How could it be possible??? We’ve got to go back to July 2010 when I discovered a guitar competition while surfing on the net looking for news about Mark’s music. This comp was organised by PureSolo, and I visited their site to know exactly what it was about. PureSolo.com is a website where you can record yourself, voice or instrument, on a large amount of accompaniment tracks using their online program.

Mark Knopfler provided the site with 3 songs, “Sultans Of Swing”, “Calling Elvis” and “Speedway At Nazareth”, the original tracks without the lead guitar! Playing on the original backing tracks with Mark singing, a dream by itself! I used to play on playbacks recorded by other musicians that sound differently. So, that was great to record myself in the shoes of  Mark Knopfler! After a few trials, I realised how brilliant was his guitar playin’ on “Sultans Of Swing” and how precise he was. As soon as you play a note out of rhythm, even a single dead note, it sounds awful!!!

After organising my ideas and training a little bit on the original back tracks, I was ready to record Sultans live from the first note to the last one.

I’m not very familiar with music via computers. I only know how to plug my guitar in an amp. I just have a 6-year-old Dell laptop without knowing how to plug my guitar in! I also have a digital recording studio, a Boss BR-1200 CD, to create and record rough versions of my own songs. I plugged my Shure microphone into the Boss, and then connected the line out of the Boss into the line in of the computer. I don’t know whether the sound card is good or not, but it worked perfectly! Then I plugged my Fender Strat into my Hot Rod Deluxe amp with a delay pedal between, and placed my Shure microphone just in front of the amp. I recorded several versions of Sultans before being quite satisfied. Then a little bit of Room reverb from the PureSolo recording program and that was in.

After a while, like everyone participating to this comp I suppose, I listened sometimes to other entrants and was really impressed by several ones. There are very good guitarists out there and that was so enriching!!! I had the feeling you could guess the personality of people by the way they expressed themselves on those great songs. Unique experience!

And then, on the 6th September, I read congratulation messages posted on my page. I was one of the 5 finalists… My heart started to beat louder and louder! I was thrilled by the idea of being listened to by Mark Knopfler!!!

When my brain finally accepted this idea several days after, I received a mail from John, a co-founder of PureSolo, that I was the winner of that amazing comp!!! What to say… Unbelievable… I needed several weeks to understand what was going on!

After a few email exchanges, we arranged a meeting with Mark Knopfler. He’s a very busy person and his management asked for the days I was available. Every date was OK for me, the sooner, the better!!! Finally, my lesson with Mark was planned on November 9th, travelling to London on the 8th November, and flying back on the 10th November.

Two weeks before the meeting, my plane tickets and my hotel room were booked by the PureSolo team.

The D-day was approaching and I had difficulties not to be too excited! How can you prepare yourself to such a meeting??? I decided to take it easy and not to create useless pressure…

The 8th November, 10h55 local time, Bordeaux, France. I embarked on the plane to London. Then took the Gatwick Express train to the Victoria Station and a taxi to the Royal Garden Hotel, a wonderful 5-star hotel close to Hyde Park and not far away from the famous Royal Albert Hall where Mark played lots of times.

The 9th November, 07h45. As planned, I met David, co-founder of PureSolo.com, at the Starbucks just down the street of my hotel. We ordered 2 coffees and talked together. I was really nervous and he made me feel comfortable and relaxed. Then, we drove to the British Grove studio! I didn’t know how the studio looked like from the street. I only saw few pictures and films from the net or DVDs.

08h30. We arrived half an hour before the lesson. My head was empty and I floated on the pavement like in a dream. We were standing in front of this beautiful red house. You can’t imagine there’s one of the best studio in the world inside if you don’t know the place. We were standing on the other side of the street and took some pictures. A man walked along the street, took his keys out of his pockets and entered the studio. We waited a little bit before ringing the bell. The man welcomed us. We entered the magical place!!!

The walls are white and there’s lot of wooden parts and windows everywhere that make the place really welcoming. We took the stairs and entered a large windowed room with a huge table and lots of chairs around. To the left, an opened-modern-designed kitchen and to the right, a wonderful painting covering the wall, “Four Lambrettas and Three Portraits of Janet Churchman” by John Bratby, the one used on the cover of “Kill To Get Crimson” album. And to the far end of this huge room, there’s a relax place with sofas, a TV and a very modern firehouse. Two chairs were facing each other on a persian carpet with guitars on their stands waiting for us! I made few steps to approach the guitars. Surrounding one of the chairs, there was a MK signature strat plugged in an old vibrolux Fender amp, and a MK signature Martin!!! Another Martin was waiting on its stand close to the chair that I supposed would be mine in a few minutes!

Robyn, the Personal Assistant of Mark, entered the room and welcomed us after being introduced. We chat a little bit together and she made me feel so comfortable as the meeting approached! She informed us that the lesson would long one hour, as Mark had lots of commitments and an appointment at ten. She received a call from Mark that said he was coming. Wow…

David asked me how I felt at the moment. I can’t remember what I answered!

 

Mark Knopfler, CEO David Kaplan and competition winner, Christophe Leyssard

09h00. Mark entered the room, smiling as he stepped over to greet us, and congratulated me after being introduced. We talked a little bit together before sitting on our chairs and taking our guitars. He really made me feel immediately at ease.

He firstly asked me to play a G chord, that I did all along the fretboard. After awhile, He asked me to play something starting from a G. I improvised a few folk rhythms and arpeggios. He showed me how to simply sound well using Chet Atkin’s finger picking style, using your thumb alternatively on the 3 lower strings to play the 4 beats.

From then on, I had the history of rock music back from the old blues men releasing songs in the first part of the last century. He gave me names of musicians playin’ blues and explained what each of them brought to music, playing licks and rhythm parts at the same time. Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Son House, Blind Willie McTell and Blind Blake with his piano-rag style who used rolls with his thumb. And everything became more complicated and sophisticated.

He told me listening to those great guitarists is the first thing to do to develop your own style. That means not to listen to one of their songs one time, but really to explore their guitar playin’ and feel their approach of music.

After, we took our electric guitars and we worked on vibratos, finger by finger and on one string, then several ones at the same time. He made few licks I tried to imitate to gain fluidity in my playing.

He told me that it’s very important to keep on playing acoustic guitars cause it’s more difficult to play them well. Then it’s far more easy to take your electric guitar after and play your stuff. Using a plectrum is also very important to practice cause there are parts where you need to use one. The sound is different and that’s the best amplifier ever. The signal is far better.

Then the lesson was over and Mark had to leave. I learnt more things in one hour than in 20 years of guitar playing.

After the lesson, we were invited to visit the whole studio with the manager of the place, David Steward, who participated to the technical designing of British Grove studio. We spent one hour and a half discovering a real museum. In fact, it has two studios that are really well designed and every detail was thought of. For example, the main recording room in studio 1 is made of a central area surrounded by several little rooms. As the walls are configurable, you can totally open the space to have a huge room, or to partially open them to create isolated recording rooms. Flaps high on the walls can also be extended to modify the sound. That’s incredible to see all that live. As we talked, we could appreciate the comfortable acoustic quality of the place.

Very old machines can be connected to brand new systems, enabling lots of different possibilities of recording. That’s a paradise for musicians. Every where you look, there’s a great machine, sometimes full of history. As far as I remember, there’s an old mixing tube desk used by the Beatles in the 60’s, a custom-made Neve console and a API Legacy to name a few. The control rooms are really large compared to most of other studios and are equipped in a 5.1 configuration with wonderful ATC monitors which can be positioned where you want as they are placed on an ingenious rail device. All this was built and designed with lots of cleverness. We also talked a little bit about the amazing cooling system. The problem is that the air becomes dry. So they developped a technology to control humidity in order to have the perfect air to preserve machines, instruments and, of course, musicians spending hours and hours in the studio. After this amazing visit, we left the place, our heads full of memories.

Well, there’s so much things to say about that morning and I feel really lucky to have had this unique opportunity. Before meeting Mark, after so many years listening to his music, you’ve got thousands of questions to ask and, at the end, you realise you asked none of them. And you also didn’t say things you wanted to say, cause you were so captivated by what was happening and his incredible power of story telling.

Now, I concentrate on rearranging and recording my own songs using all I learnt during that single enriching hour! I’ve just found a new band happy to play music inspired by the very fruitful Mark’s career, trying to explore that wonderful music (http://myspace.com/chrisleysmusic for curious people).

I fell in love with his music and his guitar playing 25 years ago and I realised why when I left the studio with David. The experience I had listening to all the guitarists on the site was just a clue. You can guess who the person is by the way he plays his instrument. And Mark is a great man, a gentleman that have many stories to tell and to share with people!

If you read those last lines, thank you for the time you’ve just spent here… and excuse my french!!!

I’d like to thank all the people who welcomed me at the studio,

Robyn, Mark’s Personal Assistant

Glenn, his guitar tech

David, his studio manager, and thank you to the PureSolo team, especially John, David and Stefanie who mailed me numerous times to make this meeting possible.

Thank you to all the people who posted so nice messages during and after the results of this comp and, of course, thank you to Mark Knopfler!!!

Christophe Leyssard

A meeting with Mark Knopfler

PureSolo recently launched a competition to find a guitarist with the ability to hold his own in a one-to-one lesson with Mark Knopfler.

mark knopfler and christopheGuitarists were invited to use PureSolo’s online recording platform to record the lead guitar part over original backing tracks of Knopfler’s most revered song, including Sultans of Swing.

The standard of all the competition entries was very impressive, but one man stood out from the crowd. His name is Christophe Leyssard; a man from Bordeaux, with a passion for guitar.

On the 9th November, Christophe headed to British Grove Studios to meet his hero. He has written a quick summary of the day in his own words:

“Nearly 3 weeks ago, I lived one of my wildest dream for real : a one-to-one lesson with my hero, Mark Knopfler !!! And I still can’t realise what happened!

On November 9th in the morning, I met David, co-founder of PureSolo.com, who picked me up to go to the British Grove studio! We arrived half an hour before the lesson. We were welcomed by his team, very nice people that made us feel really comfortable before the arrival of Mark at 9am. Two chairs were facing each other with guitars on their stands waiting for us!

And then, Mark Knopfler entered the room… and I spent the best hour of my life as you can imagine! Just watch the pictures on the site and look at my face! I sat in front of Mark who played lots of different things, explaining his finger playin’ and giving tips. All I can say is that he’s a gentleman, and the best teacher ever!!! I’ve been really impressed by the way he plays his guitar and his music culture! Great man!

After a while, Mark had to leave due to other commitments and then we could visit the whole studio for one hour and a half. Definitely a magic place!!!

Don’t hesitate to ask me questions about this meeting, there’s so many things to say and I’d be happy to answer!

Thanks so much again to the PureSolo team for that unforgettable day!!!”

Step by step: How to Enter a Song into a PureSolo Competition

Here it is, the 5-step guide for entering PureSolo competitions!

1) Choose your competition-eligible track

Each PureSolo competition has specific ‘competition songs’. You can find out which songs are eligible on the relevant competition page (for David Guetta, click here)

2) Record your performance

Recording is easy with PureSolo. Just click the ‘Record’ tab to go to PureSolo online music recorder. You can record each track as many time as you like, and save multiple versions.

3) Choose your best recording

All of your saved recordings are displayed under the ‘Recordings’ tab on the Record page. To play a recording, select it to load it into PureSolo recorder, then hit the Play button.

4) Click “Share”

When you have loaded your favourite performance of a competition track into the PureSolo recorder, click the small “Share” button at the bottom right of the control panel.

5) Click the “Share It” Button

Clicking the “Share It” button has the effect of posting your performance onto your PureSolo public profile, as well as onto the competition entries page. Now the world can hear your talent!

That’s It!

You have successfully entered your performance into the competition.


David Guetta!

We are thrilled to announce a brand new competition with none other than the French superstar DJ, David Guetta!!

The competition takes the same format as our previous competitions – you need to perform for your chance to win!

The grand prize is a pair of tickets to see David perform at one of his upcoming European shows. You’ll get the chance to meet David and will also receive a signed platinum disc!

Travel is included in the prize and the first 10,000 competition tracks will be free (one per person, subject to availability), courtesy of our friends ebookers.com.

Good luck with the competition!

PureSolo, In a Nutshell!

We’ve been busy working on a video to showcase the many benefits of PureSolo to aspiring performers, and came up with this! Let us know what you think.

PureSolo Tech Update 7/9/10

We’ve made some changes to the User Dashboard as the first stage of an overall plan to provide our community with some cool new features.

Recent Recordings have now been merged with Community Notifications into one big activity stream.

With this new addition, you are now able to expand the menu by clicking the ‘more’ button at the bottom, allowing you to view the activities of all your friends further in the past, so you never miss out on what’s been happening in the community.

We implemented this feature in response to requests from several community members, so please let us know what you think, and keep sharing your suggestions with us!

PureSolo Tech Update 2/8/10

Our tech team have unleashed a new piece of functionality for you all to get your mitts on!

Check out the top of your PureSolo profile – see the Facebook Like button? Now your PureSolo buddies can click this button to tell all their Facebook friends about how awesome you are at singing or performing!

We hope to develop this feature so that you will receive a notification whenever someone ‘Likes’ you, but for now, enjoy it, and let us know your feedback.