Flamenco is the generic term for a musical and dance phenomenon that emerged in the mid 19th century in a cultural melting pot by a multiethnic fringe group in the south of Spain, in Andalusia. The actual beginnings, the birth, are to be sought in the pre-flamenco era, when Andalusian (Moorish), Jewish, Castilian, Zigan and sub-Saharan African sources were transculturally constituted through interaction and fusion.
Although the guitar has popularized flamenco worldwide, the cante (song) and especially the baile (dance) are other cornerstones of this fascinating musical culture. Originally, the guitar was purely an accompanying instrument for dancing and singing and was called Guitarra Rasgueado (percussion guitar). From the tablatures of Spanish baroque guitarists and composers it is clear that as early as the 18th century the two techniques of guitarra rasgueado and guitarra punteado, as the plucked style of playing was called, were combined.
From this developed over the centuries that virtuoso guitar playing that reached its peak with Paco de Lucía, whose technique is now considered the standard. Even today, in the motherland of flamenco, Andalusia, guitar playing is first learned to accompany simple songs and complex dances, before beginning to play solo, whose goal is then the highest virtuosity.
The technique of the right hand of the flamenco guitarist differs in many points from the classical guitar. In addition, flamenco uses other techniques that are not used in classical guitar or in other guitar techniques.
- de mano/abanico (from the wrist);
- de dedos (with the fingers)
The rasgueado is the most striking feature of flamenco guitar technique for the layman. To play it correctly requires months of practice. The problem with teaching it, especially in workshops, is that the rasgueado with all its variations, de mano/abanico (from the wrist), de dedos (with the fingers), is explained in about three hours. Then the student can go home and practice for months, because without this technique flamenco guitar playing is not possible at all. If he is very eager and wants to progress quickly, after a short time he will have tendinitis and/or his rasguedo will not sound nice, which is usually (even with other techniques) related to trying to achieve speed too quickly. The secret is to perform the movement of each finger slowly and deliberately. Speed is not achieved by being fast (an old adage). If the rasgueado is simply "rattled along", it sounds like raindrops on corrugated iron, that is, like a sound without pulse or meter.
Since the rasgueado scares many guitarists away from tackling a flamenco piece, all compositions in my album Flamencolitos are provided with instructions for an alternative way of playing, i.e. without the rasgueado. Of course, everything sounds more authentic with the original technique, but those who don't know it, or need to learn it first, have the option of accessing the ossia staves at the end of the piece.
The original video is in English, or German.
1.2 Pulgar (thumb)
The thumb still plays an important role in flamenco guitar. For a long time, until the 50s of the last century, there were still very many guitarists who played scales, runs, melodic sequences only with the thumb. However, the focus is on tone production, i.e. the attack. The angular position of the hand and the thumb to the string to be struck is decisive. When the thumb is played in apoyando (applied attack), the tone is at its best (you can now see that many electric bass players prefer to play with the thumb when the attack is not too fast, in order to achieve the fullest and roundest tone possible). This thumb position also corresponds to folkloristic playing on all conceivable stringed or better plucked instruments, regardless of whether they are in the Alps, the Andes, the Caribbean, Africa or the Far East, in contrast to the classical guitar, where it is avoided as much as possible. Basically, everything sounds more transparent when the thumb is applied, no matter what technique is used. You can recognize a flamenco guitarist by his thumb. He only has to strike a few strings - and you know what he's got.
There is the arpegio (flamenco) and arpeggio. In flamenco guitar, the thumb is also used here. If you haven't used the thumb for arpeggios for years, this change is usually only possible with a lot of practice. The practiced ear, however, hears immediately whether the player plays the thumb apoyando.
The thumb is also played apoyando in the tremolo.
The picado is basically played apoyando. So the alternating stroke with index and middle finger (i-m), as in classical guitar. But not with the movement from the base joint of the fingers, but from the middle joint (see Paco de Lucía and now millions of others).
Here is the technique of the great masters (Paco de Lucía etc.)
The stroke with the ring finger, middle finger, thumb, mano (whole hand) above, below, or on the strings, in conjunction with an upstroke or downstroke - or free.
Golpe techniques of the rumba stops.
This technique exists only in flamenco. The thumb is used like a pick, and the technique is performed on one string, on a pair of strings, or on three strings.
Das klingt jetzt vielleicht ziemlich akribisch und theoretisch. Aber für den Flamencogitarristen, der alles von der Pike auf gelernt hat, ist das ganz normal und selbstverständlich. Nicht umsonst sind meine Publikationen für Flamencogitarre nach wie vor weltweit anerkannte Lehrwerke, die auch in Spanien für den Unterricht verwendet werden. War ich doch einer der ersten, der die Techniken, die seit dem 16./17. Jahrhundert von unzähligen Gitarristen über Jahrehunderte hinweg entwickelt wurden, in Wort, Bild und Ton erklärt und gezeigt hat.
2. Palos (genera, styles)
In flamenco there are different palos (genres) that were originally dance and/or song forms, but for the most part are still valid today. Sevillanas, Bulerías, Soleás, Alegrías, Siguiriyas, Fandangos, plus the Hispano-American Tangos, Rumbas, Guajiras, Peteneras etc.. They all have their own compás (see below), their structure, their distinctive character, the so-called aire or soniquete (groove) and are played in the corresponding key, major/minor and/or dorico (ancient Greek scale - today's Phrygian church key, also called Andalusian cadence or flamenco mode). These basic forms (classifications) subdivide into about 30 other derivatives. Flamenco artists who have never met each other, no matter on which continent, are immediately able to make music and dance together, if all of them not only know the chosen palo, but also know it.
Flamenco or its palos have never been composed. If there are arrangements, then with a lot of free space for the stringing together of falsetas (riff/lick), or taconeos (footwork of the dancer), thus with free access to the countless drawers of a large chest of drawers. Whereby the content of the respective drawer, the falseta, the step or the sequence of steps, was created at some point and the form of the dresser, the respective genre with its fixed rhythms (see Compás) and rules in the baile (dance) and cante (song) was learned and practiced beforehand. The widespread opinion that everything in flamenco is spontaneous or even improvised is complete nonsense.
A solo piece on the flamenco guitar consists of the typical rhythm (compás) of the respective palo and the stringing together of falsetas, which may well have been created by the respective performer or taken over and rehearsed by other guitarists. An exception is the rumba, or the Hispano-American palos with binary meter, in which it is quite possible to improvise endlessly, as in other genres.
Here are a few examples from Palos:
Palos: Toque (guitar playing)
Palos: Baile (Dance)
3. Compás (rhythm - beat unit)
Another component is the so-called Compás, i.e. the rhythm or the beat units in the above-mentioned Palos. This is for us Central Europeans, actually for all non-Spaniards, another big hurdle, since this Compás, with which everything stands and falls, is not "in our blood". Since the 2-4 stress of the Afro-American popular music, in contrast to our accustomed, occidental 1-3 stress, the musicians here in Europe, indeed worldwide, have more or less "intus", the appropriation of the flamenco rhythms takes a disproportionately long time. Besides the palos with binary (2/4 and 4/4) and ternary (3/4 time), there are very many that are mostly played with a so-called Aksak or, as the Andalusians say, Amalgama time, that is, an alternating time that alternates between 6/8 and 3/4 time, or reciprocal. This compás is played as follows:
Reloj = flamenco clock; Palmas = hand clapping; Pie = foot tapping; Compás = counting in alternating time.
These Aksak rhythms already existed at the time of the Moorish occupation of Spain (789 - 1492) or in the Maghreb and Orient. In medieval Europe, people danced and played music predominantly to triple time. Only with the deportation and enslavement of the blacks south of the Sahara, first to Portugal and Spain, later to America, were binary time signatures introduced. Since the blacks were able to make an even beat out of an odd beat (contra dance, contredanse, contradanza, country dance), the fascination with hemiolas gave rise to these alternating time signatures (Andalucía Baja, Caribbean, especially Cuba and Haiti).
For more information on flamenco rhythms, see El Compás.
In the Baroque period, composing in alternating meter was common, especially in Spain and Hispano-America. This form even influenced our great master Johann Sebastian Bach in his Sarabande and Chaconne (Chacona), which is probably of Afro-Peruvian origin. So if the compás, which is assigned to the respective palo (see above), is not somnambulistically mastered, authentic playing is impossible. This is because, in addition to the rhythm, knowledge of the structure as well as its harmonic progression (cadence) must be observed.
To learn these rhythms I invented a special Flamenco Metronome already in the 80s. In the beginning it was a device, later I programmed a software / app.
Compás / Amalgama / Bulerías
Flamenco clock with the beginning of the counting of the respective palo. Accents on the clock: 3 - 6 - 8 - 10 - 12.
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