Sultans of Swing

by Dire Straits • Lesson #555 • Jun 22, 2024

In today’s lesson I’m excited to show you my take on the Dire Straits classic Sultans of Swing. I’m using a capo 5 arrangement for this lesson, which lets us play along with original recording using much easier chord shapes. I’ll begin with an easy strum version, show how you can add the recognizable melody notes, and then get into a custom fingerstyle arrangement I put together (using the Travis Picking technique). Whether you want to strum or fingerpick, this lesson has you covered!

  • 0:00 Lesson Overview
  • 2:00 Chords & Strumming
  • 7:13 Adding the Melody
  • 14:17 Fingerstyle - Basics
  • 23:08 Fingerstyle - Advanced

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Practice Notes 6 pages

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Here's a print-friendly PDF I made with all of my practice notes for this lesson. This lets you follow along with everything I show in video tutorial at your own pace.

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Part 2 - Advanced Fingerpicking Lesson

In a continuation of what I teach in main lesson, here’s an extended tutorial where I show my “secret stash” fingerpicking arrangement. This takes the basic Travis Picking approach I showed, and continue to add melodic flourish to things. This one is quite a bit more difficult to play, but it shows how you can take something basic and pile on bells & whistles to truly make it your own. A full playthrough of this is available below, with tabs.

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Slow Playthrough Videos

Campfire Strum

Plays through each section slowly, using basic strumming pattern. Notice how I’m adjusting my strum during the split measures (i.e. wherever you have two chords in a single measure), as I show in my main video lesson and my practice notes.

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Strumming with Melody Notes

Here, I play through each section while emphasizing & accenting the melody notes. This helps draw our ears toward the catch melody we associate with this song. You can add light strumming as desired, which I demonstrate here… just make sure the strumming doesn’t overshadow the melody notes!

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Travis Fingerstyle - Basic Picking Pattern

This takes the chords and melody shown above, but adds alternating bass notes per each of the chords (all of which are highlighted in my tab, and played with your right thumb). I’m simplifying the melody in many places, to ensure things are rhythmically consistent — which is incredibly helpful when getting up to speed with this fingerpicking approach.

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Travis Fingerstyle - My “Secret Stash” Arrangement

Finally, I take the basic version above and add tons of flourish & spinkles, mainly with the melody notes. I’m much more loose with the rhythm of the melody, matching what you hear in the Dire Straits version quite a bit more. I also use the Hendrix-style G major voicing (with the wrapped thumb) in a few places. This one is tricky, but shows what you can do after a lot of practice!

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Here’s a few lessons I’ve made that will help with techniques used in this song:

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