Rasgueado and other flamenco techniques in Sultans of Swing

Sultans of Swing from Dire Straits’  first album is surely one of THE songs that comes to mind when talking about fingerstyle guitar playing. In addition to Mark Knopfler’s unique playing style it also features some striking Spanish-sounding elements, starting from the chord  progression itself to some flamenco-like strumming techniques – which is this blog article, or rather the embedded video, is about.

The typical flamenco stroke is called Rasgueado (the Spanish word for strumming) – a particular “roll” of your right hand fingers. I am  really no master of the true flamenco style but I realized many years ago that Knopfler plays  something like this in numerous songs, and practised something that sounds similar – my version of the Rasgueado. I can do it in two different ways: pinky first to index finger, or vice versa. Both sound different but I am not completetly sure which one Knopfler makes use of (possibly both).

The video explains how I play it. I think the idea becomes clear. So, enjoy!

PS: The rasgueado sounds great with distorted power chords, too. Give it a try!

17 thoughts on “Rasgueado and other flamenco techniques in Sultans of Swing

  1. One word comes to mind: AWESOME! Thank you very much for that video, great insight on Knopflers technique, if possible please more of this πŸ™‚

    Again thank you very much!

  2. Hi Ingo! Sorry for the change of subject: would it be possible an explanation of Praire Wedding main riff? Please. Thank you.

  3. Ingo,
    Fantastic playing; your attention to detail is amazing. Could you tell me about the guitar you are playing in this video?

  4. Hi Ingo, performing Sultans of Swing I always played the rasgueado technique exactly as you explained on your video. Nevertheless I always felt that something was wrong with it, because I’ve never heard the same sound that MK produces coming from my strings. Same feeling affects your execution. So far I wondered why but I might have the answer now that I saw a video from the last tour (Pantages Theatre, 17th april 2010). You can easily found it on youtube. The big screen behind the band shows the images coming from the small camera on MK’s guitar palette, during the final bits of SoS. Check from 7:09. He’s not using his nails downward! He’s using his fingertips upwards, then he couples the stroke downward with the thumb. It’s a different kind of rasgueado technique I think, sort of a customization. I tried to play that way, well I think that’s the key! It sounds exactly as MK plays it, even if I’m not totally confident with this technique yet πŸ™‚ What do you think?

  5. Hi Allessandro, you are right indeed, very interesting, something to practice πŸ™‚

    That cam on the guitar is cool, would love to see the video stream it records appearing somewhere some day πŸ™‚

  6. Hi !
    I have two questions πŸ™‚
    For 1, have YOu done whole sultans of swing video ? if yes, can You send me the adress and for second, can YOu send me tabs for SoS ? I’ve been lookin’ everywhere but nothing found, which was better than You. so please send me those tabs πŸ™‚

  7. There is another one on Sultans, just browse my youtube channel. I don’t have any tabs, sorry, I never use them.

  8. I’ve seen You Sultans on YT, but i very need tabs. I can’t play by ear (i’m not too good). Don’t You want to write tabs only for first solo ? Please ? πŸ™‚

  9. oh, and for Eastbound train, only riff πŸ™‚ on Your’s video it isn’t shown very good, i can’t see from this how to play it.

  10. Hi ;),

    as said I don’t have any tabs, I’d need to write down what I played. Please use the contact form of this site (in the top menu) and let me know what exactly you’d like to have tabbed (e.g. from 2:20 – 2.30 etc), maybe we can find a solution


  11. Hello Ingo. I like so much sultans of swing. I live in Ecuador. I want to know. If you can give me class for cam or skype. O r you have a class DVD for sale.

  12. ts so nice that you make this tutorial. i am a very natural born bmx and skate board rider but no skills about music but i do my best and this is the song i want to play. this is exactly what i need but i am german and really i am so weak in musc and i need a theoretical advice what exctly to do for one bar. i swear i plkay your video in 25% speed and i canΒ΄t evtract what goes up.
    can you explain the rhytm part in a form like this :

    1= thumb plays A sting
    &= two Fingers upwards
    2= muted strings while playing directly downwards with one finger
    & = Two fingers upwards
    3 = one finger directly downwards with ringing strings
    &= two fingers upwards
    4= muted stroke downwards with one finger
    &= upwards stroke but only with one finger
    think thats it….
    Thanks alot for your tutorials and i am looking forward to hearing from you

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