Flamenco Guitar Lessons

Author: classic-guitars  //  Category: Learn Guitar, Music
Are Flamenco guitar lessons worth taking for somebody not raised in Andalucia? Many years ago you had to be a black American to have any credibility as a blues singer or guitar player. And if you were not Spanish you never got anywhere as a Flamenco artist no matter how good you were. But these days, like many musical traditions, Flamenco is now embracing young people from non-Spanish origins. Twenty or thirty years ago Flamenco guitar playing, at least as perceived by people outside of Spain was dominated by a couple of third-rate guitar players who were good at promoting themselves. Now you can see many fantastic guitar players, professional and amateur, Spanish and non-Spanish giving wonderful Flamenco guitar performances on YouTube. Here is a rundown on the guitar techniques you will be introduced to if you decide to take Flamenco guitar lessons.

So onto some basic Flamenco guitar techniques. The most distinctive technique used in Flamenco is the tapping on the body of the guitar. This technique is called the golpe and is performed just below the sound hole. Flamenco guitars are made with a tapping plate to minimize damage to the guitar from constant hitting of the body. The golpe is often used in conjunction with downward strokes of the thumb and with continuous up and down strokes of the index finger used by guitarists playing the Flamenco musical form called Bulerias.

The rapid picking exhibited by Flamenco guitarists is called picado. This is also used in classical guitar but to nowhere near the same degree. It is a “rest” stroke which is played by striking a string with an upward stroke of the first or second finger which comes to rest on the string behind it. So if you play a rest stroke on the second string the finger comes into contact with the third string after it has struck the note. Flamenco scale passages are played as picado using rapid alternating strokes of the first and second fingers.

Another Flamenco guitar technique is the use of rapid arpeggios. Arpeggios are played by placing the first, second and third fingers in position on the first, second and third strings as if you are going to pluck a chord. Instead of plucking all three strings you lift your whole hand slightly so that the fingers play the strings in rapid succession. The thumb and fingers of a guitarist who has practiced this technique can play some very fast arpeggio passages. The effect is similar to sweep picking used in rock guitar.

The thumb is uses almost exclusively in downstrokes. This is another rest stroke where the thumb plays, for example, the sixth string and comes to rest on the fifth string before starting the next stroke. It may seem strange to anybody who has not tried it to make the thumb and fingers “rest” between strokes, but this technique can produce some very fast thumb and picado playing.

Another technique used in Flamenco guitar is the tremolo. This is a technique for producing a long line of melody notes accompanied by the thumb playing bass notes. This technique was borrowed from classical guitar and differs in that Flamenco tremolo is played with four notes between each bass note whereas classical guitarists only play three melody notes between bass notes. In most guitar notation systems the thumb is shown as “p” (for the Spanish “pulgar”), the index finger is shown as “i” , the middle finger is designated “m” and the ring finger is “a” (for annular which is latin for ring).

To play a continuous E on the open first string of the guitar, use the fingers and thumb in this order:

Play a bass note on the open sixth string with your thumb using rest stroke.

On the open first string:

Play a free stroke with i

Play a free stroke with a

Play a free stroke with m

Play a free stroke with i

You have just played one bass note followed by four melody notes. To continue playing, make an E chord with your left hand and alternate the bass notes between the sixth, fifth and fourth strings.

As you can see these techniques are hard to explain in words. They are easier to understand if you use my written descriptions in conjunction with watching Flamenco guitarists on video. It will take some hard work to actually use these techniques, and I strongly suggest you take lessons from a guitar player who knows how to play Flamenco.

By: Ricky Sharples

About the Author:

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