Romeo And Juliet is the song that was played live by Mark more than 1 thousand times actually and it still remains in his live setlist, making it one of the, if not the most played his song ever. Remember, at one show you usually hear the song once, so it means he played it every day for 3 years straight, and this, especially being a rough approximation, is quite impressive! From what I understand, this classic song even beats the all mighty Sultans Of Swing in that respect, because Mark drops Sultans occasionally, but he just couldn’t stop playing Romeo, even his guitar gave up already and he’s still playing the song. So you can say Mark loves it, and so do we. First, the basics. Yes, it’s in Open G tuning, yes, Mark usually plays it with the band and on a different type of a guitar, it has a capo on the 3rd fret, everybody knows that. Let’s start with the chord shapes. This is important song, so I’ll be unusually detailed here. Open G tuning is probably the easiest open tuning in existence, because D, G and B stays like in the standard tuning and other strings goes down just one whole step. Very easy to tune, very easy to understand. Romeo And Juliet, being one of Mark’s earliest songs, is not a particularly complicated song chord-wise, in fact it’s only 5 chords, like in Sultans Of Swing. It’s just the open tuning that makes it look like a difficult piece, but the first chord shape is actually just D. The first string goes up a whole step, the rest is like in the D/A chord shape. This is the shape I’ve probably discussed 50 times already because Mark uses it all the time. D/A, adjusted for the Open G tuning. This is your basic A shape, adjusted for new tuning again. This is all that’s left from the standard G shape, the easiest one yet, next is Bm. Capo makes it sound like Dm, taken straight from the Sultans riff, again bass goes up the whole step and we’re done. This is the chord a lot of people are trying to play with an open B string, but I don’t know, it sounds terrible to me. Yes, the notes are right, but the sound is awful, sounds too busy if that’s a word. So the proper way to play it is to mimic the real Bm: three fingers in a row and the first finger up here, yes it’s harder to grip, but sounds so much better. Good thing is that from the D it’s easy to get to Bm through the 3rd finger, see? Makes it for a good exercise. The tricky bit is to mute the 6th string with the tip of the 2nd finger and mute the 1st string with the first finger. I always tell the beginners — learn how to mute strings properly, because this could be the easiest way to spot a beginner, when he plays a C chord and never even try to mute the thickest string. So it’s been D, A, G, Bm, only 1 chord left, and it’s an Em. We can try to play it as in standard tuning… but the way Mark plays it, always, because it’s the only rational way to do it, is with two fingers like that. The same thing as with Bm with open B, it sound strange if you add the E bass, which IS the root note, but again, it sounds terrible. Because it’s too easy to under press it with the thumb, and it’s too easy to mess it with the 1st finger as well, sounds terrible and too busy, so there’s only one solution which is open 5th string bass. Which actually makes it Em/G chord. But this way you’ll play it clean each time. It’s a trade-off, but it happens with open tunings, that’s why they called it “odd” tunings, I guess. Just kidding. So all the 5 chords are: D/A, A, G, Bm, Em/G. This is all you need to learn to proceed with the song, seriously. From what I can tell, here on YouTube people usually play this song pretty accurate, but some nuances get lost here and there, I’ve already discussed Bm and Em quirks, but I love the nuances, I truly believe that the devil is in the detail, so I’ll talk about my favourite parts in the song, little hidden gems which I rank as a little songwriting masterpieces within the main masterpiece which is the song Romeo And Juliet we all love and want to play. It’s hard for me to discuss the fingerpicking patterns in the introduction, because there’s so many ways to play it, as with any fingerpicking tune, each time you hear Mark play it, it sounds a little different, because you can alternate bass, repeat the bass, or even give it more space to breathe. The only way to play the song as interesting as it deserves is to learn every single variation. But the version I played at the start is a combination from like 10 versions all the way from 1980 to 21st century. I’d say, if you’re not familiar with this, learn how to strum the song first and then try to fingerpick it, because for playing the intro you have to be deeply connected with the context of the song, how it feels and develop. So I’ll do it right now and go through each section just brushing with the thumb, starting with the intro. And this is the whole song, 5 chords as I said, it repeats and everything else is in amazing, amazing details. The first hotspot is this ingenious 6 string line connecting D with the G through the A chord, it’s one of the most enjoyable fills I’ve ever played in my life. It’s so beautiful it even forces Mark to use four fingers which is a rare thing for his playing, but it’s so enjoyable. Thumb, thumb, thumb, index, middle, ring, pull-off. Perfect. The main thing to point out is, it’s very important to do a pull off in the left hand immediately, completely change the whole chord here, only then it’s going to sound fluent and beautiful. I remember picking it out when I was 15 or 16, I played like this. But it’s much easier just to switch the chord completely. Anyway. Another little bit is this turnaround from A back to D, and I mean this little note on the 3rd string played by index finger. It sort of ties the two parts together more beautiful than if you just go without it. Because it sounds just like the line before and not connecting anything. Of course in the song it is barely noticeable, but it’s there. Now, the verse. Also this bit with the open strings, it sound almost like the fill I’ve mentioned before, but it cuts earlier. I love how Mark always plays it with the melody note first, and then the bass, as opposed to… creating a very unique feeling of syncopation. I was shocked it gets unnoticed by so many players out there, to me it’s one of the best parts in the whole song, so enjoyable to play. I can’t stress that enough. Playing this song is like a therapy. Maybe that’s why Mark loves it so much. Of course many things happen in the chorus. First, I want to point out this: it’s important to not to overdo it with chords, in fact the best way to accompany yourself is to use as little chords as possible, to this point I only played like this, but here’s the over-the-top example… To me it sounds too complicated, much better to do it in a more subtle way, check out how little chords I use and make it sound more interesting. It’s the band’s job to flash it up and play all these incredible harmonies, in this song every part is interesting — the bass creates some slash chords, rhythm guitar plays interesting drone fills, beautiful piano playing. As I’m here anyway, another little thing that keeps being missed by a lot of people — here, right after Em, this D chord which lasts like for a millisecond, but it is there, it adds to the overall sound so much, compare it if I just go straight from Em to G. This is one place where overdoing it you actually help it sound better, so there’s no rules anywhere here. But if you sing it and play at the same time like it supposed to, keep it simple so you won’t screw up both parts. I think, everyone can agree on that. The point I’m trying to make here is that if you’re going to play a song for more than 1000 times and for millions of people like Mark do, it’s not like you can get away with playing it half-hearted, not knowing exactly what you’re going to play. The way I analyse the song is I’m constantly asking questions, like “Which is the best way to play this line?”, or “Where should I simplify it so it will be harder to make mistake?”, and despite some criticism I get for my voice I always sing the song. As with the song Money For Nothing or in fact with any song from 50 songs I covered before, this is always the case. Mark have a lot to say, so the song to me isn’t full if you don’t sing it, as we Russians say, “you can’t throw a word out of a song”, and I can’t imagine performing Romeo And Juliet without singing, it’s like a book with blank pages, you have to tell that story and the guitar is only a part of it. I can’t sing Paul Simon songs, but another outstanding feature about Mark Knopfler songs is that you don’t need to be Frank Sinatra in order to play it. And I love this song so much, I hope you liked my take on it. Thank you.