Nails for Guitarists
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Flamenco guitar music started as accompaniment for songs or cantes like Soleares,Tarantos, Seguiriya, Tientos and many more. All these songs and their corresponding dances are related, like an extended family. They are indentified by their rhythms or compás, melodies, harmonies or musical keys and emotional themes. Anyone playing flamenco guitar is playing one of these specific pattern known as palos. No matter how technically refined Flamenco guitar playing has become, even the virtuosos like Paco de Lucia and the late Sabicas, famous for their solo work, would probably define flamenco in terms…
Flamenco guitar music started as accompaniment for songs or cantes like Soleares,Tarantos, Seguiriya, Tientos and many more. All these songs and their corresponding dances are related, like an extended family. They are indentified by their rhythms or compás, melodies, harmonies or musical keys and emotional themes. Anyone playing flamenco guitar is playing one of these specific pattern known as palos. No matter how technically refined Flamenco guitar playing has become, even the virtuosos like Paco de Lucia and the late Sabicas, famous for their solo work, would probably define flamenco in terms of cante rather than of guitar technique. Flamenco is commonly played using a cejilla (capo). The main purpose in using a cejilla is to change the key of the flamenco guitar in order to suit the singer's vocal range.
In addition to the techniques common to classical guitar, flamenco guitar music is uniquely characterized by the use of Golpes or percussive finger tapping on a tapping plate or golpeador, by Picados with more attack and articulation, by Rasgueados or Flamenco guitar strumming, by Alzapuas and by a different kind of Tremolo.
The rasgueado is very characteristic to flamenco guitar music. Once mastered it can be one of the most impressive parts of flamenco guitar playing. A Rasgueado is performed by outward flicks of the right hand fingers, done in a huge variety of ways creating a nice rhythmic roll, supposedly reminiscent of the bailaor's (flamenco dancer) feet. When practicing the rasgueado pay attention not to drag your fingers across the strings as this will just mute the flamenco guitar strings and cause a ‘messy’ sound. Each finger needs to attack the strings cleanly in a hitting motion. Only your fingers should move and not you hand, your hand should remain still with just your fingers moving to hit the flamenco guitar strings. It is sometimes tempting to move your hand up and down as if you were playing a traditional guitar but this is not the case when playing the flamenco guitar.
An Alzapua uses the right hand thumb for both single-line notes and strummed across a number of strings. Both are combined in quick succession to give it a unique flamenco guitar sound.
The flamenco guitar tremolo is done somewhat differently from the conventional classical guitar tremolo p-a-m-i, it is very commonly played with the right hand pattern p-i-a-m-i.
The three modes used in flamenco guitar music are the Ionian mode (the major scale), the Aolean mode (the natural Minor scale) and the Phrygian mode. The Phrygian mode has the most characteristic Flamenco sound and forms the basis of the Gypsy toques such as Solea, Bulerias, Seguiriya …The Phrygian mode as such is not often used in flamenco cantes. As is common and popular in classical guitar music, we are fond of using the musical tonalities of harmonic minor scales by raising the seventh tone of its corresponding natural minor scale. When looking at chord progressions, this transforms the Phrygian mode of flamenco guitar music into a “majorized or dominant” Phrygian mode , raising the third of the scale by a half-step. In addition to classical guitar music, the actual Gypsy scale is formed by raising also the fourth tone of its natural minor scale by a half-step. This means, the most typical Gypsy scale of flamenco guitar music has a half step increased 4th and 7th tone in its natural minor scale. For example the E Gyspy scale (C family) is found by starting at the 6th degree (natural minor scale), being A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A with a raised 4th and 7th step becoming A-B-C-D#-E-F-G#-A, starting on the E, being E-F-G#-A-B-C-D#-E. The harmonic and Roman numbers of chord progressions in flamenco guitar music are also very typical.
The most typical chord progression of the Flamenco or Andalucia cadence, a sequence of four chords creating a cadencial closure, is VI,V, IV, III (in which the III is major (dominant Phrygian)).
For example when we play a Taranta in D in the flamenco cadence III becomes a F#b9. Another characteristic of flamenco guitar music is that the chords progressions rarely appear as consonant triads, they are usually dissonant chords containing a minimum of four tones. Their variations depend on the song form and positions used on the guitar.
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