Mark Knopfler Sultans of Swing

Mastering the Pentatonic

Article 4 – Mark Knopfler; “Sultans of Swing”, adding the 2nd, and flirting with Harmonic Minor.

The Pentatonic Scale is the holy grail for guitarists. It’s easy to play and it sounds amazing.

Mark Knopfler Mastering the Pentatonic

This series will show you how to get the most out of our favourite scale, and how making small modifications will get you sounding like the pros and their signature sound.

With any scale, it is important to learn the shape starting on the E string (like in previous articles) but also starting on the A string. This article will be using the D minor pentatonic at fret 5 on the A string (see right).

You will notice an extra note added in blue, this is the 2nd, a note Knopfler often uses in a trill with the minor 3rd (see in the licks below).

Achieving the signature Knopfler sound isn’t just about note section but also articulation and phrasing. You will very rarely (if ever) see Knopfler using a pick. He employs a “claw” technique between his thumb, first and second finger. This means he plays lines that you might not think up with a pick. This also leads to the heavy use of double stops; playing two notes at the same time, and rakes.

“Sultans of Swing” licks: 1. Intro

“Sultans of Swing” licks: 1. Intro

This opening lick perfectly shows the 3 main ingredients to Knopfler’s playing; the pentatonic scale, finger- style, and the use of the 2nd.

Bar 1 & 2 is made up of a classic pentatonic lick with lots of vibrato. Bar 3 has a “rake” in it from the G string to the E string, quintessentially Knopfler – assign a finger to each string and make it snappy! It’s also worth noting that these notes make up a D minor arpeggio and highlight the chord underneath perfectly, another Knopfler move. Finally we have a hammer-on-pull-off between the 2nd and m3 on the B string.

2. Verse double stops

Verse double stops


Here we see how Knopfler uses double stops. They reinforce the harmony but also act as a rhythmic device. The syncopated pattern help push these couples bars along. Play these using your 1st and 2nd finger, with the final triad being played with thumb, 1st and 2nd finger.

Below is a lick that is made up of all the ideas we have discussed so far.

Mark Knopfler Sultans of Swing


3. Verse Harmonic Minor use.

Although very much in D minor, “Sultans of Swing” throws in an A dominant 7 chord every now and again, a chord “outside” the key. If you were to play a D minor pentatonic over the A7, the C (m7) of the D minor pentatonic would clash with the C# (3rd) of the A7 chord. To get around this, Knopfler dips into a D Harmonic Minor scale, which is a D minor scale with a major 7th:

Verse Harmonic Minor

Mark Knopfler Sultans of Swing   PDF available. Get you GUITAR LESSONS LONDON here!

Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR

Repair log: Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR (1950’s, Precision Bass, Left Handed in Fiesta Red) Vintage Series

Copyright retained, Terry Relph-Knight 20/06/18

Cost – £ 95.82 + shipping

Delivered with a black soft gig bag.

Fender do not currently make a single coil vintage precision bass in their standard range, let alone a left handed version. The closest is the Mike Dirnt Road Worn® Precision Bass® with a split humbucker pickup at £1,399.

A Fender 52 Precison Bass is only available from the Custom Shop.

The customer brought this bass to me because he wanted the headstock re-shaped from the Harley Benton outline to the correct shape for a Fender 50s Precision Bass.  

This bass is a Thomann in house brand, far east made, left handed version of the Fender 1951 Precision bass with the four pole single coil pickup and design features carried over from the Telecaster. It is a long scale instrument 864mm, 34 inches. It ships with D’Addario round wound strings 0.045, 0.065, 0.080, 0.100. Perhaps EXL170 ?, £22.99 of value just in the strings. 

This instrument represents astounding value for money. Like most low cost Chinese instruments it looks great and the paint finish is excellent, but there are signs of rapid finally assembly by semi-unskilled workers – the string tree barely attached by a very small screw at an odd angle, the untidy fit of the neck in the neck pocket and the neck screws fitted at odd angles.

Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR (1950’s

With just a little corrective work this bass is a unique looking instrument that plays well and sounds great.

Body – A basswood contoured body (probably in four or five pieces) in a Fiesta Red high gloss finish with a white vinyl single ply pick guard. Some of the countersinking for the pick guard attachment screws could be a little deeper. No neck shimming in the neck pocket. This body has forearm and belly contours and a fairly heavy edge radius, all of which the original 1951 instrument would not have had. 

Unlike the review of one of these basses on YouTube, this instrument does not have a hidden hole under the pickguard, the hole for the pickup lead is correctly drilled, from the pickup cavity through to the control cavity. Fair amount of dust under the pick guard. The control cavity is not screened.

Neck – A substantial modern C profile, two piece maple neck with a glued on 16 inch radius, 20 jumbo fret maple fret board (truss rod obviously routed and fitted from the front). Black plastic dot markers. Dual action truss rod adjusts at the headstock with a 4mm Hex key. Removed from the body the neck is almost flat with just a hint of forward bow. Rod had maybe 1 and ½ turns clockwise. White plastic 42mm nut. 4 bolt neck plate with a black plastic cushion. The four screws were very tight in their holes and had been drilled and fitted at odd angles. The corners of the heel are a bit sharp and the neck doesn’t fit all the way to the bottom of the neck pocket – there is about a 1mm gap.

Repair log: Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR

Hardware –  Pickup: Roswell VTN4 Vista Vintage PB Style single coil (specd. At 9Kohm DC resistance, actual DC resistance is 8.81K). Black Forbon flatwork, top printed with the Roswell logo in white, four ¼ inch Alnico 5 rod magnets, coil wrapped in black fabric tape.

L in HenrysQResistance

120Hz 4.114 0.3574 8.882

1000Hz 4.137 2.710 9.602

16mm Volume (B250K lin, 247.5K measured and treble A250K log, 257.6K measured) controls on a Tele prototype style chromed plate. Chromed dome knobs with plastic push on inserts. Wiring isn’t terrible. As this is left handed instrument the controls operate in reverse, so its anti-clockwise for more volume or treble. The linear volume is reasonably smooth but the log treble wired in reverse is of course, very on/off. The precision basses from the ‘50s had a 0.05uF (50nF) tone cap and today the nearest standard capacitor value would be a 0.047uf (47nF). The capacitor fitted is a 68nF nominal value plastic film capacitor which measures at 73.26nF. This larger value would also tend to exaggerate the on / of nature of the tone control.

The chromed 4 saddle bridge plate is probably a zinc alloy casting, but the barrel saddles are of chrome plated steel. 4 Kluson style elephant ear tuners with centre split posts. The tuner posts are steel, not zinc alloy, I don’t know if the chromed gear is cast zinc or brass. A single round string tree between the E and the A tuners. String tree screw is very small, is fitted at a weird angle, and barely bites into the headstock.

The strap buttons are rather notional – small and without much taper.

Problems / modifications – Customer wanted the Harley Benton headstock outline re-shaped to something closer to the original Telecaster shape. As became apparent, the Volume and Tone controls are unsuitable values and do not work well. The output jack is very cheap and flimsy.

Very poor intonation.

Work done – Disassembled the bass and checked for fit and finish. Deepened the pick guard screw countersinking a little, as a few of the screws were standing a little proud. Countersunk the screw holes in the body to minimise any possibility of finish cracking around the holes. Countersunk the screw holes in the neck to minimise tear out and ensure a flush fit to the bottom of the neck pocket.

Sanded a little more of a radius on to the corners and back of the heel to improve the neck fit.

Lubricated the four neck screws with candle wax so they aren’t quite so stiff to screw home.

Re-cut the outline of the headstock to be closer to a ‘53 precision bass, using a template for a Mike Dirnt signature bass. Sealed the cut surfaces with 3 coats of Danish oil. 

Plugged the string tree hole, re-drilled it and fitted a more robust screw. Fitted a matched pair of more robust screws to the jack plate. 

Replaced the volume and tone controls with Alpha 25mm 250K anti-logarithmic pots, the tone cap with a 0.047uF (46.22nF measured) plastic film capacitor and the output jack with a Switchcraft jack. Re-assembled and adjusted the intonation, which was way out. Also tweaked the action/saddle heights a little as the saddles were all at odd angles.

Intonation as delivered (now adjusted for zero error)

E +6

A +13

D +6

G +8

It doesn’t seem as though intonation was ever set on this instrument as it was a long way out. Probably the saddles were left in a what looked like a sensible stair step pattern as the bridge came off the factory pile. The saddle heights also don’t seem to have received much attention since all four are slightly tilted. 

As with most bass string sets the two low strings in the D’Addario set fitted are double wound while the two uppers are single wound. Consequently the intonation compensation for the two pairs of strings is almost the same, with the two single wound strings requiring a shorter string length than the two double wound. This explains why Leo Fender thought he could get away with only two saddles, each saddle sharing a pair of strings, for the original design of this bass. 

Action as delivered – open string action at the twelfth fret – G  2mm E 3mm

After adjustment G 2mm E 2.5mm

A fret rocker test did not reveal any high frets.

Precision Bass Repair Log

Repair Log – April 1983 Squier Vintage Precision Bass SN:JVXXXXX made in Japan

15/06/17 Copyright reserved Terry Relph-Knight

Current value – £500 to £600

Delivered with a very worn gig bag.

One of the excellent Fender Japan Squier Precision Basses made in the FujiGen Gakki factory, this instrument has been gigged hard for all its life and this is the first time it has ever been serviced. The only user modification made to it is the replacement of the original tortoiseshell pick guard with a white 3 ply guard.

With the exception of another new cream pick guard the owner wanted to keep this bass as original as possible, so all the old hardware was removed, re-furbished and then re-fitted to the bass.

JV P bass bent tuners

JV P bass bent tuners

A U shaped route in the body below the truss rod nut was revealed when the white pick guard was removed. This is a very useful feature because it allows easy adjustment of the truss rod without any disassembly of the bass. A matching cut out was made in the new cream pick guard to allow easy access to this feature.

Body – Four piece body, possibly Japanese Sen (Ash) in Arctic white finish, with a 3 ply white pickguard (Owner tells me this replaced the original tortoiseshell guard). White self adhesive neck shim at the bottom of the neck pocket printed Fender 83 4. The body is in reasonable shape but it does have numerous scratches and dings. The largest is through to the wood on the edge above the forearm contour. Three standard conical strap buttons, (two fitted with rubber strap stops) one below the bridge, one on the upper horn and one on the back of the headstock. Body has a U route in the bottom edge of the neck pocket for easy access to the truss rod adjustment.

Neck – 12 inch radius C profile one piece maple neck with a slab rosewood fret board. 20 small vintage frets, white dot markers. Date 4 13 ‘83 hand written on the end of the neck. A stamp – 5 . EX T on the back of the neck heel. An L shaped brown wear mark on the headstock shoulder below the E tuner, possibly from a hanger. Four bolt, chrome plated, thin steel neck plate, with the serial number stamped on it. The four neck ‘bolts’ are (very rusty) cross head. They are the older tapered style with a smooth shank above the threaded portion.

JVP bass Fret wear

Truss rod adjusted by a cross head barrel nut at the heel. Tightened by about one half turn as received.

Fairly heavy fret wear down to the 9th fret.

A small gold label reading – C D Music, 6 Westwick Crescent, Sheffield S8 7DG (0742) 377967 is stuck on the back of the headstock. Another one of these labels is stuck to the middle underside of the scratchplate.

Repair Log Squier Vintage Precision

Hardware – 4 riveted clover leaf, nickel plated tuners with Kluson style hole and slot string posts. All four tuner base plates are bent upwards in the middle by around 1mm. Tuner posts, the worm and all tuner parts, apart from the round brass gear, are made from steel. One old style circular string tree. One split humbucker PB pickup, covers are quite worn, height screws are rusty and support rubber may need replacing. Volume and tone controls with knurled flat top aluminium knobs, originally chrome plated (most of the chrome has worn off).

JV P bass old bridge cleaned

JV P bass old bridge cleaned

Volume control is 286.4K Tone is 279.9K both 20% curve. Tone cap is 104 (0.1uF) plastic film with green resin dip.

Top loading Fender bridge (really filthy) – chrome plated, bent, 1.5mm steel base plate, attached to the body with five chromed cross head screws (it was rust city under the bridge plate). Four 5/16 diameter, threaded, nickel plated brass, saddles with slotted head height adjustment screws at either end. Each saddle with a 1.5inch cross head intonation screw and spring. All bridge screws are nickel plated steel.

Strung with Thomastik-Infeld JF344 Jazz Flatwound 34inch long scale 4-String Bass Guitar Strings, 43, 56, 70, 100 Long Scale at £54.99 from Strings Direct (actually paid £45.73 from Thomann).

Action – clearance at the first fret with string depressed at the second is zero. Open string height at the 12th is 2.5mm on the E and 1.75mm on the G. Maybe 0.5mm relief. Open string pickup clearance is 5mm on the E and G. The two halves of the pickup are tilted to follow the fretboard radius.

Intonation as received

Distance between back of saddle and front of bridge fold


A 0 19.0mm

D +2 22.0mm

G +4 22.0mm

After re-furbishment and with new Thomastik strings, intonation at the 12th fret was adjusted to zero error.

Fender set-up guide


Bass SideTreble Side

Vintage style 8/64″ (3.6 mm) 6/64″ (2.4 mm)

Noiseless™ Series 8/64″ (3.6 mm) 6/64″ (2.4 mm)

Standard “J” or “P” 7/64″ (2.8 mm) 5/64″ (2 mm)

Special Design Humbuckers 7/64″ (2.8 mm) 5/64″ (2 mm)


Neck Radius String Height Bass Side Treble Side

7.25″ 7/64″ (2.8 mm) 6/64″ (2.4 mm)

9.5″ to 12″ 6/64″ (2.4 mm) 5/64″ (2 mm)

15″ to 17″ 6/64″ (2.4 mm) 5/64″ (2 mm)

Adjusted this bas to  1.75mm           1.75mm

Possible new parts

Wilkinson bass bridge – £11.99 plus post (with grooved brass saddles) from Northwest Guitars

(Fender Vintage bass bridge – £53!!!)

Pair of knurled knobs – £4.33

13 pickguard screws – £1.52

4 stainless steel necks screws – £1.60

Thomastik JF344 are £54.99 inc post for Strings Direct or £48.08 via Amazon inc post, or even £46.51 Thomann.

An aside – Rogers Waters apparently uses Rotosound ’77 Jazz Flat strings. These are diagonally flat wound with Monel alloy tape.

Work done – Bridge removed, disassembled, cleaned and reassembled (including the saddle with the jammed screw – now replaced) with all four saddles reversed so that the old worn string grooves are underneath and the unused side is now upwards. Rusty patch on the body under the bridge polished smooth and clean. Neck removed and dirt (literally!) scraped from fretboard, fretboard smoothed, cleaned and polished with a little beeswax. Truss rod nut removed, thread lubricated and replaced.

Tuners / machine heads removed, polished and lubricated. Volume and tone pots sprayed with DeOxit.

Knobs removed, cleaned and polished.

Original fitting of the machine heads was incorrect and the baseplate’s were bent. The bearing hoops that hold each end of the worm gear are attached to the base plates by folded tabs. These pass through the plate and are bent over to hold the hoops in place. These tabs protrude below the base plates by about 1.5mm. Unless small routes are made in the back of the headstock to allow clearance for these tabs, the base plates of the tuners will not sit flat on the headstock. Clearance routes had not been cut in this headstock and as a result, when the four corner attachment screws on each base plate were tightened, the base plates bent so their centres stood proud from the back of the head stock. I marked and drilled the tab positions, re-bent the plates so they were flat and then re-mounted each tuner.

Pickup removed, magnet poles cleaned, very scratched dual pickup covers sanded smooth, old rubber support pads on brass dogleg carrier replaced with new and the brass polished to remove corrosion. Pickup output wires replaced with a short length of screened cable. Pickup securing screws replaced.

All electronics wiring replaced with silver plated wire with PTFE insulation. All electronics cavities in the body of the bass lined with grounded self-adhesive copper tape, shielding against electrical interference.

Output jack socket cleaned, polished, re-tensioned and coated with DeOxit (the inside of the jack ferrule had a lot of green corrosion in it).

Control pots sprayed with DeOxit contact cleaner.

Frets with high ‘sprung’ ends treated with superglue. Neck adjusted to ‘flat’ using the truss rod and the Technofret leveling beam and three spacers. Frets then milled flat and all wear dents removed using the Technofret sanding beams. Frets re-crowned with a crowning file, then polished using the Crimson Guitars set of abrasive blocks.

New cream (Ivory) pick guard fitted and trimmed to fit the neck pocket. U shaped slot cut to allow access to the truss rod. Truss rod U route in the body trimmed smooth and coloured black.

Bass strung with Thomastik Infeld 344 Jazz flatwound strings. Action and intonation adjusted with the new strings.

Neck pocket shimmed with copper tape on the lower left side and in the right corner, so that under string tension the neck will now naturally sit in the pocket so that there is equal spacing from the E and the G strings to the edge of the fretboard.

Diagnostics –

Looking at the back of the headstock you can see all four of the tuner base plates are bent upwards.

Owner says he has some fret buzz on the E at the 5th and 13th frets.

Looking just at the E string under loose tension there are two very clear permanent bends in the string above the bridge and just below the fretboard (the two positions where the string is plucked most). It is likely that these bends alone are contributing to the fret buzz.

Looking at the frets there is a lot of wear up to around the 9th fret, certainly the buzz at the 5th could be all down to fret wear, but by the time the 12th and 13th frets are reached there is a lot less wear. However checking with a fret rocker tool I can feel some high fret ends on the E side. Under magnification I can see they have lifted a little. I have tried tapping them down with a fret hammer but they still spring high. You can see them moving (11, 14, 15 & 16) because when struck with the hammer the dirt trapped under the fret is squeezed out. Fret 7 was low.


This bass has the standard P Bass two coil split humbucker pickup. Each coil has Forbon fibre end cheeks, friction fitted onto four 3/16 inch diameter Alnico 5 rod magnets. The coils are not wax potted.

Rectangular plastic covers, with height adjusting mounting screws at either end, are a loose fit over the coils. Each coil is held in place in the cover by the pressure of a section of dense black rubber foam under the coil ‘bobbin’ which also provides the upward force against the mounting screws.

A dogleg brass plate is dropped in to the bottom of the pickup route in the body and the two strips of rubber foam are stuck to this plate. The plate is also part of the ground return to the controls – a wire from one coil end is soldered to the plate and a wire soldered to the plate goes to the control ground.

E – A coil

L in HenrysQR in K

120Hz 2.76 0.4270 4.991

1000Hz 2.763 3.272 5.313

D – G coil

L in HenrysQR in K

120Hz 2.757 0.4198 5.069

1000Hz 2.762 3.211 5.411

Both coils in series connected finish-start to start-finish

L in HenrysQR in K

120Hz 5.616 0.4304 10.07

1000Hz 5.611 3.269 10.80


13 pickguard screws – £1.50

4 stainless steel neck screws – £1.60

4 pickup screws – £2.80

New rubber pads for the pickup – £ 1.00

New pickguard – £20.50 inc post

Thomastik JF344 strings – £45.73

Parts total – £73.17

Precision Bass Repair Log

Pentatonic Article 3 BB King

Mastering the Pentatonic Article 3 – BB King 6th and the BB Box

The Pentatonic Scale is the holy grail for guitarists. It’s easy to play and it sounds amazing.

This series will show you how to get the most out of our favourite scale, and how making small modifications will get you sounding like the pros and their signature sound.

Mastering the Pentatonic Article 3 BB King; 6th and the “BB Box”

In this article we will look at BB King’s unique note choice when soloing, and articulation techniques synonymous with the blues legend. Below is the A minor pentatonic scale.

Here are the notes and intervals of the scale:
A(root) C(m3) D(4) E(5) G(m7)

BB King 6th and the BB Box

Pentatonic Article 3 BB King

BB played these notes to great effect. But he also added different ones and incorporated them into an incredibly 
user-friendly “box” to solo over dominant blues progressions. It’s called the “BB Box” (see below).

BB Box

On the B & E strings, you can see familiar Minor Pentatonic notes (plus the 2nd). What gives this box the specific BB “flavour” is the use of the 6th on the G string, a note not found in the Minor Pentatonic. This box is also very versatile as you can play the Major 3rd as well with just a small half bend on fret 13. The blue note (b5) can also be added in between fret 10 and 12 on the E string.

This box will give you a brand new set of licks, as this formation of notes isn’t found in your usual pentatonic shapes.

On the right is a BB styled lick using the “BB Box” in A.

Article 3 - BB King


BB had his own way of bending notes and using vibrato. His vibrato is incredibly fast and achieved by almost hanging your whole hand off the neck. BB would also make these huge leaps up to the tonic note of the key. These ideas are demonstrated below.

Pentatonic Article 3 BB King

Pedal Board Build

Build Log: Pedal board build 

Terry Relph-Knight copyright reserved.

The commission for this guitar effects pedal board build was to build a fairly compact, rugged and portable effects board based around effects pedals the client already owned and regularly used. Both the sequence of effects connections and the layout was to be optimised without the physical order limiting the connection order.  

A Pedaltrain Pro Junior was chosen for the base, being both light and strong and available with a tough nylon carry case. Nine volt power is provided by a small and economically priced switching supply, the Diago Powerstation. Rather than rely on plugging the mains power lead into the small two pin figure of eight connector on the side of the Diago, the mains lead from the Diago was wired to a standard 3 pin IEC connector, mounted on a bracket at the back of the Pedaltrain base. Nine volt power distribution is via a 6 way Diago daisy chain cable. For the original board layout with seven pedals the seventh power connection was provided by an extra cable that plugged in to the auxiliary power output on the back of the BOSS Chromatic Tuner. 

Build Log: Pedal board build

The pedals were attached to the Pedaltrain base using conventional hook and loop self adhesive Velcro with the hook tape fitted to the Pedaltrain and the loop tape to the pedals.

The only pedal modification was to the VOX Wah Wah. This pedal had been previously restored – cleaned, pedal polished, base re-painted and a new control pot fitted. For use on this pedal board it was fitted with an external 2.1mm power jack, having previously been battery only.

Pedal connection order

Pedal Board Build

Pedal Board Build

Right to left – Guitar in to ….

Crowther Audio Hot cake …………….. white to Tuner in

VOX Wah-wah ……………………….. green to Tremolo in

BOSS Chromatic Tuner TU-2 ………… blue to Compressor in

BOSS Compression Sustainer CS-2 ….. black to Wah in

BOSS Tremolo TR-2 …………………. yellow to Delay mono in

BOSS Digital Delay DD-6 …………… red from mono out to Reverb in

Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Nano Reverb …. to amp

Hot cake eventually replaced by BYOC Tube Screamer and Boost

Diago Powerstation 9V switching power supply

Pedal board components and costs

Pedaltrain Pro Junior frame & soft case                 £86.99

Diago Powerstation 9V switching power supply £61.88

9V power extension cable £05.50

Postage returning the faulty Powerstation £04.10

Patch cables £04.99

1 x IEC mains cable £05.00

IEC socket and custom mounting plate £03.90

Cable tie bases £05.00


10/02/18 In for a clean up 

As received –

Guitar to Uber Scream Tuba

Tuba to BOSS Tuner

Tuner to Cali 76 compressor

Compressor to Viscous Vibe

Vibe to EP Booster

Booster to BOSS DD6 Delay

Delay to Holy Grail Reverb

Reverb to amp

Delivered with the VOX Wah to be restored to the board.

The Hot Cake is an always on buffer pedal. With the Hot Cake missing the pedal chain is no longer fed from a buffered signal. It seems the BOSS TU-2 may also have an always on buffer.

New connection order

Guitar to Tuner

BOSS Tuner to EP Booster

Booster to Uber Scream Tuba

Tuba to Cali 76 compressor

Compressor to Wah Wah

Wah Wah to Viscous Vibe

Vibe to BOSS DD6 Delay

Delay to Holy Grail Reverb

Reverb to amp

Fender Custom Shop 51 Nocaster Repair Log

Repair Log:  30th of July 2010 SN:NCxx Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition ‘51 Nocaster made by Fender in Corona USA

Guitar Repair. Hello and thank you for visiting our Guitar Repairs London page. Please feel free to check out some of our guitar repair logs below. We are meticulous with our guitar, amp & effects repairs and catalogue all our repairs. We produce a full range of Guitar Tech services to keep your instrument in perfect health including restrings, setups, electrical work and parts replacement. If you need anything relating to you guitar fixing please contact us here at London Guitar Repairs today to find the perfect solution for requirements. Our pro Guitar repairs and luthier services are by experienced Guitar Techs, we specialise in bespoke guitar and amp repairs including servicing, re-strings, setups, re-frets, refinishing, neck resets & vintage guitar repair. With over 30 years combined experience, our guitar techs have been trusted to work on the guitars of some of the most elite guitar players in the country and around the world.

Copyright reserved Terry Relph-Knight 01/10/17

Current value – Can be found on offer for £1,700. Purchased from Wunjo’s for £2,000.

Delivered with a rectangular cream and maroon Fender Custom Shop hard case, including a custom shop certificate and other documentation.

Strung 10 to 52 Ernie Ball STHB


Fender Custom Shop 51 Nocaster Repair Log

Fender Custom Shop 51 Nocaster Repair Log

Description – A Fender black guard Custom Shop replica of a 1951 ‘Nocaster’ Telecaster, reliced with all slot screws.

Body – Light swamp ash body in the traditional blond finish. Relic wear under the forearm and around the back edge. The black 5 hole pick guard does indeed appear to be made of a thin (0.0625 inch 1/16) sheet of un-bevelled phenolic material and the top surface is lacquered to make it look blacker and shinier. A small area below the top E string has been rubbed away to simulate playing wear.

Neck – One piece, fat soft V, maple neck with a walnut skunk stripe. Wear through on the lacquer up to the eight fret. 21 thin vintage frets. Headstock carries only the script Fender logo in silver with black outline,  Fender Custom Shop V logo on the reverse.

Repair Log Fender Custom Shop 51 Nocaster

Hardware – Kluson style tuners. A single round string tree next to the G tuner. Custom Alnico 3 Tele pickups (bridge pickup has flat magnets). Nickel plated folded thin sheet steel bridge with three brass barrel saddles, 4-40 height screws?. Through body stringing with flat ferrules. Four bolt, chrome plated steel neck plate stamped with the NC77 serial LIMITED EDITION and the Fender Custom Shop V logo. Standard Tele control plate with a three way switch and solid nickel plated brass flat top (slight edge radius) knurled knobs. All cloth wired. Tone and volume controls are modern CTS pots. Unfortunately these pots have no stress relief clip, the pot shaft slides in the collar and is only held in place by the locating post into the middle of the steel clip on cover.

This guitar as shipped from the Custom Shop was originally wired to the ‘51 Nocaster schematic with a 15K (wired between neck and middle on one half of the switch and an 0.05uF cap (wired from the other half of the switch – neck terminal – to ground). These components have been removed and the guitar re-wired to modern Tele wiring by a previous owner.

The original ‘51s had no variable tone control. The wiring offered –

Neck pickup with a set bassy sound (no variable tone control)

Neck pickup with no tone control at all

Both pickups with the second rotary control acting as a blend for the bridge.

The neck pickup has the North of the magnet poles up and the bridge has the South up. The pickups do seem to be arranged for hum cancellation in the middle position.

Centre saddle low E to middle 12 fret 327mm, 325mm high E. 257mm front edge of bridge to middle 12fret. Bridge plate is 3 3/8” long.

Problems – Brought in for noise (hum) and a loose output jack. Guitar occasionally produces loud crackles and hums. Seems related to the tone control.

Work done –

Tightened up the nuts on all the controls, on the switch and on the output jack. Dabbed on some clear nail varnish to help lock the output jack nut in place. Replaced one of the rusted ‘reliced’ pickup screws with a clean screw. Re-bent the cover tabs on the tone controls loose cover, shifted the output jack ground over to the back of the volume control where all the other circuit grounds are. Sleeved the long bare wire on the tone cap. Placed an M3 nut inside the Tone knob as a spacer to stop it scraping on the control plate. Replaced the missing switch tip with a barrel tip (the original barrel tip was included in the case, but the slot for the switch arm was so gouged out that it would no longer fit securely).

Having removed the strings in order to lift the bridge I removed the saddles, sanded them down to remove old string notches and soaked all the screws and springs in WD40 to remove dirt and rust. Also cleaned the bridge plate. With the saddles re-assembled and replaced on the bridge plate I set up the action and intonation.

Diagnostics – Loose output jack. Missing switch tip. Pot nuts are loose. Control plate screws loose.

A quick fret rocker test shows fret 8 is high in the middle and one or two other frets further down the neck are a touch high. Fret surfaces look as though they have been levelled fairly recently, but not re-crowned.

A continuity test showed that the bridge plate and strings weren’t connected to ground. Removing the strings and lifting the bridge plate revealed that the ground jumper between the pickup ground lead tag and its elevator plate was intact. It turns out that all three reliced bridge pickup screws were so rusty they no longer made an electrical connection between the pickup elevator plate and the bridge.

Input jack tip contact seems slack, jacks don’t make a positive insertion. Ground lead from tone cap (cap added by previous owner when the guitar was re-wired to modern wiring) is not sleeved and runs over the top of the volume wiper where it could short out.

The tone control seems loose and repeatedly rotating it fully anti-clockwise often produces loud crackles and hums. Looking closely the steel back cover is loose on its four folding tabs. Ridiculously, the only ground return for the output jack is through a black cloth covered wire that is soldered to the back of this cover. With the tabs to the cover being loose the output jack ground has only a very sketchy and intermittent connection to the guitars circuit ground. Perhaps the 1950’s pots had more reliable connection to ground from the cover, the pots in this guitar are of course modern CTS pots. CTS do seem to have changed to using a thinner, softer steel for the pot casing and the fixing tabs are quite easily loosened through down pressure on the pot shaft.

Along with the bad ground connection to the bridge plate the grounding scheme seems very poor. Fender may have been intending to exactly copy a ‘51 Nocaster, (the Fender shop wiring drawings do show this as how the ground was wired) but in the process they seem to have done some really daft things.

Screws – American guitars have either 4-40 or 6-32 saddle height adjustment screws. The first number indicates diameter and larger numbers greater diameter. The second number indicates thread count – 40 is more per inch than 32.

4-40 is 0.112 inch clearance

6-32 is 0.138 inch clearance

4-40 are smaller screws found in Strat saddles.

So 6-32 is the larger size found in the early Tele 3 saddle bridges.

My DeTemple titanium 3 saddle Tele set has ½ inch long screws in the centre and 3/8 long on the two outside saddles. My Rutters is 3/8 and 5/16.

Bridges like the Wilkinson are metric and use M3 screws. They seem to be all 10mm long.


Black barrel switch tip.

Further work – 20/12/17

The original slot head saddle grub screws stick up and are sharp and uncomfortable under the palm of the right hand. I replaced the original screws (six 7/16” long 6-32 slot head) with two stainless steel 1/4” long 6-32 hex head screws for the high and low E strings and four stainless steel 3/8” long 6-32 hex head screws for the other four strings (1/16” hex key for adjustment).

Mastering the Pentatonic Carlos Santana

Article 2 – Carlos Santana – blend Dorian

The Pentatonic Scale is the holy grail for guitarists. It’s easy to play and it sounds amazing. This series will show you how to get the most out of our favourite scale, and how making small modifications will get you sounding like the pros and their signature sound.

Mastering the Pentatonic Article 2 - Carlos Santana; blend Dorian

In this article we will look at how Carlos Santana adds two notes to the pentatonic to create the latin-blues mix he is known for. Below is the A minor pentatonic scale.

Mastering the Pentatonic Carlos Santana
A minor pentatonic scale

A minor pentatonic scale

The two notes we need to add are the 2nd (B) and a major 6th (F#). Our scale now looks like this (see right).

the Dorian mode

the Dorian mode

These new notes create semitones within our pentatonic scale. This interval is key in sounding like Santana. If you were to add these two notes in both octaves of the pentatonic you would now be playing the Dorian mode, but more on that later!

We will now look at song examples where Santana strides between the pentatonic and Dorian:

Oye Como Va” Intro melody:

The song is in the key of A minor, hence our use of a minor scale. The melody ascends, making full use of the 2nd (B), before falling back to the tonic note. Syncopated (off-beat) notes also give this lick a latin flavour.

Oye Como Va

“Oye Como Va” Main melody:

Here Santana uses the 6th (F#) on the 7th fret of the B string. He mixes this dorian lick with a classic blues motif in the second bar.


“Evil Ways” Solo: (transposed to Am)

A quintessential Satana lick; starting on the “and” of beat 1 gives the lick a real syncopated feel. The first bar is strict Dorian, followed by a classic blues lick in bar 2.

Evil Ways Solo

“Samba Pa Ti” Main melody:

One of Santana’s most famous instrumentals. The following three licks are all taken from the opening section. Here we introduce a new Santana technique of grace notes. These quick notes add another latin flavour. Lick 1 is the opening melody, lick 2 its response, and lick 3 is a turnaround used to get back to chord I.

“Samba Pa Ti” Main melody

Article 2 – Santana

Fender Pro Junior valve amplifier Repair Log

Repair Log – 1996 Fender Pro Junior valve amplifier

Terry Relph-Knight copyright reserved.

The Pro Junior is a 15W combo amplifier with two 12AX7 dual triode valves and a pair of EL84’s in push pull for the output. The power transformer is rated for 230V and a solid state rectifier produces around +319V for the B+. Note – check if this particular amp has an export transformer with adjustable input taps. Checked and it does, but only for 110V and 230V.

The semi-open back cabinet on this amp is of particle board covered in much worn lacquered tweed. A 10 inch 8 ohm loudspeaker is mounted on a ‘floating’ baffle board with a brown synthetic grille cloth with horizontal baize highlights. Top mounted controls on a chrome plated steel panel with white silk-screen legends –  Input jack, volume, tone, power indicator and power toggle switch.

Fender Pro Junior valve amplifier

Fender Pro Junior valve amplifier

Various problems – Crackling and chronic instability. Also distorted output. Broken handle, and later on a ripped out input jack.

Fender Pro Junior

Work done – When first seen I simply replaced the blown Fender branded 10 inch loudspeaker with a new Eminence Legend 125 and cleaned all the valve bases with contact cleaner. The crackling problems seem associated with the old phenolic bases being fried by the output tubes idling at high dissipation. Later replaced all 4 mini Noval valve bases with ceramic bases and installed an output tube bias adjustment. Set bias to  2.7V (for that particular set of output valves) across one half of the output transformer. 

The ripped out PCB mounting input jack was replaced with a floating nylon jack connected via two short wires to the PCB.

At some point the output tubes were replaced with a matched pair of JJ’s and a new handle was fitted.

Parts –

4 x ceramic mini Noval valve bases – £ 13.44

1 x 50K preset – £ 1.64

Stripboard and wire – £ 2

Parts total – £ 17.08

Later on – A problem with almost no output. Turned out the phase splitter DC balance was completely out of wack. One triode was hard on the other off. This problem was extremely difficult to diagnose. It was eventually found to have been due to leakage currents through dirt on the PCB surface. Cleaned the PCB with isopropyl alcohol and the phase splitter returned to proper D.C. balance.

July 2017 – Latest problem – the amp squeals when flat out. First 12AX7 is microphonic. Swapping the first valve with the second cures the problem. However one of the set of JJ EL84 output tubes is running hot – the red silk screen logo on the valve is burnt brown (and the heater filament flares bright yellow at the pin connection when the amp is turned on !!!!). 

Work done – Replaced all the valves with new Electro Harmonix valves.

Continued …….

Diagnostics – 

Mains voltage setting check – The amp appears to be set to 230V and this is the highest primary voltage available. 

As wired 110V230V

Blk/Blu S1B S1B S1B Power Neutral, trans to switch

Black from switch CP4

Blk CP5 CP10 CP6


Blk/Red CP7 CP7 CP7


Blk/Grn CP9 CP9 CP9

Blk/Yel CP10 CP8 CP10

Blk/Wht CP11 CP5 CP11 Fuse SW and Power Live

CP5 connects to CP6 on the PCB and both go to the fuse and eventually mains power Live. CP7 connects to CP8 on the PCB, CP11 is an isolated connection parking point on the PCB.

The transformer windings are; BLK/BLU one end of the thermal protection, BLK/RED the other end of the thermal protection and the end of the tapped winding, BLK/WHT is the tap, BLK/GRN is the start of the tapped winding, BLK/YEL is the end of the second winding and BLK is the start of the second winding.


Fender schematics aren’t available at –

You have to ask for them!!

With a complete new set of Electro-Harmonix valves fitted and before any re-biasing, measured B+ 340.8V, red to blue 94.7 ohms 3.6V, red to brown 96.7 ohms 3.13V. Primary currents are 3.6/94.7 = 

0.038014784 amps and 3.13/96.7 = 0.032368149. So idle power is 12.818585165 Watts and 10.930723917 Watts. Maximum idle dissipation rating for the EL84 is 12Watts, so before re-biasing right on the dissipation limit for these valves.

Re-biased to 2.2V red to blue we get 2.2/94.7 =  0.023231257Amps or 7.866103485 Watts.

Output power test into an 8 ohm (5%) resistive load. 34V peak to peak @ 1000Hz = 18.0625 Watts

Temperatures of the output pair at 23 degrees ambient, left 130 and right 165 centigrade (viewed from the back of the amplifier). 

07/07/17 Ordered a complete set of Electro-Harmonix brand valves

EHX-12AX7-FT 2 £23.00

EHX-EL84-Pair 1 £25.00

   Subtotal £48.00

Shipping & Handling £4.25

Grand Total (Excl.Tax) £43.54

Tax £8.71

Grand Total (Incl.Tax) £52.25

The slammed stop bar myth and movement in Tune-O-Matic bridges

The slammed stop bar myth and movement in Tune-O-Matic bridges

by Terry Relph-Knight 27/02/18, copyright retained

This idea, that a screwed down stop tailpiece transfers vibration to the body and provides more sustain is an evil meme. It is perhaps something that some guitar journalist, who didn’t understand physics, wrote in some popular guitar magazine years ago and has been repeated mindlessly ever since.


For a start it is a contradiction – if the screwed down stop bar did provide a better mechanical coupling to the body then more of the string vibration would be adsorbed by the body resulting in LESS sustain. For sustain you want as much of your picking energy to remain in the string as long as possible. Bolting down the stop bar (and the bridge) reduces movement and lossy vibration in the components directly connected to the strings and that is why sustain may be affected. 



Secondly the standard stop bar is not designed to be locked down. The design of the slots in the bar and the collars on the fixing bolts means that the stop bar is more or less equally coupled to the body no matter what height it is set at. To be able to couple the stop bar rigidly to the body you would need to use bolts without collars.

All the Gibson guitars that use a stop bar and an Advanced Bridge 1 or a ‘Nashville’ bridge (should probably be known as an ABR-2) derive from a guitar design using a trapeze tail piece. The stop bar, with its collared bolts, is actually designed to allow the string ends to be raised to approximately where they would be if a trapeze tailpiece was used, otherwise why would those bolts have collars?

The slammed stop bar myth and movement in Tune-O-Matic bridges

The slammed stop bar myth and movement in Tune-O-Matic bridges

If the stop bar is set as low to the body as it will go, over time there is so much pressure on the Tune-O-Matic bridges that they gradually start to collapse and bend in the middle.

Some guitarists recommend ‘top wrapping’ the strings, fitting the strings with the ball ends on the bridge side of the stop bar and then folding them back over the top of the bar. This method of installing the strings to the stop bar does allow the stop bar to be screwed down, while still providing a shallow break angle for the strings behind the bridge saddles. However, if the standard collared bolts are used, this method still does not lock the stop bar firmly to the body of the guitar and many people do not like the rough feel of the strings over the top of the stop bar, which over time will get scratched and grooved by the top wrapped strings.


So why top wrap, when you can use stop bar bolts without collars, fit spacers under the stop bar, and both lock the stop bar firmly in place and set it at the height it was always intended to be, which by the way reduces tuning problems by minimising string friction over the bridge saddles and doesn’t collapse the bridge.

If you are interested in this sort of stabilisation modification for your stop bar equipped guitar then please contact me via or through an enquiry to the London Guitar Academy.

Slop in the Gibson style Tune-O-Matic ABR-1 and Nashville bridges

Like the standard Gibson style stop bar the Tune-O-Matic bridges rely on string tension for their mechanical stability and often have a degree of movement. The holes in the bridge have to be larger than the diameter of the support posts and the screw posts on the Nashville model are often not a tight fit in the threaded inserts into the top of the guitar.

Epiphone are to be applauded in their efforts in addressing this problem. Their solution, called  ‘LockTone’, involves fitting small stainless steel leaf springs in the bridge holes and in the slots of the stop bar. This solution does not firmly lock the bridge or the stop bar in place, but even so Epiphone have published test results that they claim show improvements in sustain

There are other solutions, from for example TonePros that will mechanically lock the bridge in place, improving sustain, tone and tuning stability.

London Guitar Academy

The London Guitar Academy is London’s only dedicated Rock Pop and Blues guitar school specialising in one to one guitar tuition in either electric or acoustic guitar.

Each lesson is tailored to suit each students individual taste and ability; offering a fresh and innovative approach to learning the guitar.

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