Zakk Wylde Shares The Secret To Mark Knopfler’s Sound In ‘Sultans of Swing’

Ozzy Osbourne guitarist and Black Label Society founder Zakk Wylde reflected on gears during a recent interview with Ultimate Guitar. According to the musician, the secret to Mark Knopfler‘s guitar sound in the legendary song, ‘Sultans of Swing,’ comes from using a single-coil pickup.

‘Sultans of Swing’ is arguably the best song created by Dire Straits, written by frontman Mark Knopfler. The initial demo of the song was recorded in July 1977 and quickly gained attention after it was put in rotation on BBC Radio London. Its popularity soon reached record executives, which gave Dire Straits a contract with Phonogram Records.

The song was then re-recorded in February 1978 for the band’s eponymous debut album. Unexpectedly, the success of this single release came more than six months after the record release. The song eventually reached the top 10 in both the U.K. and the U.S., reaching no. 8 on the U.K. Singles Chart and no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, which helped the sales of the album.

Since then, the song has become a staple of classic rock radio and is regarded as one of the band’s most recognizable songs. In addition to this, ‘Sultans of Swing’ was included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list, making it Dire Straits’ only appearance on the list. Along with his vocals, Mark Knopfler’s guitar parts in the song are particularly praised as well.

During a recent interview, Zakk Wylde shared his opinion about the gear used in ‘Sultans of Swing,’ which was a single-coil guitar pickup that’s named among one of the two most popular designs, along with dual-coil or ‘humbucking’ pickups. According to Wylde, using a single coil allowed Mark Knopfler to achieve the floating tone he couldn’t have created with a humbucker.

Asked about single coils, Wylde stated:

“Yeah, but I love Robin Trower and Jimi Hendrix. The sound you get on like Mark Knopfler’s ‘Sultans of Swing,’ you’re not going to get that out of a humbucker. A single-coil has that liquidy tone that you can’t get out of a humbucker. P-90s are great too. That’s the great thing about pickups. You have so much range.”

You can listen to ‘Sultans of Swing’ down below.