Before we dig into how to play flamenco on the guitar for beginners and showcase some basic flamenco guitar techniques, let us first talk about this genre in general, and try to learn a thing or two about its history.
Flamenco is a form of art, not just music. Originated in Spain many centuries ago (the oldest flamenco record dates back to the mid 17th century), particularly in the Andalusia region, Flamenco has its roots deep in the music and dance styles of Andalusia. It's signature moves which are very famously recognized worldwide include:
- Guitar playing
- And finger snapping altogether
The flamenco music genre is very broad and wide, and itself is segregated into many other styles. These styles are referred to as “Palos”. It's said that there are roughly around 50 Palos out there, we won't mention every and each one of them here, but allow me to highlight just a few very famous ones that you probably know or have heard about them before, such as: Tango, Rumba, and Fandango.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FLAMENCO GUITAR AND THE CLASSICAL GUITAR
The flamenco guitar is basically the same as the classical guitar, however, there are some distinctive differences between the two.
Nylon strings are used for both guitars, and although you might see both “classical guitar strings” and “flamenco guitar strings” being sold in stores today, there are no real difference between the two types except maybe for the tension and the weight, and many guitarists use the same type of strings for both the classical guitar and the flamenco guitar.
If you're looking to buy a new set of strings for your flamenco guitar, I suggest that you don't give much attention to the label if it says “flamenco” or “classical”, but rather experiment with different sets every now and then, and stick with the ones that sound beautiful to your ears.
The body's wood of the guitar is very identical also, however, the top part of the flamenco guitar is typically made of spruce or cedar and is thinner than that of the classical guitar, which helps produce a more percussive and brighter tone that characterize the flamenco music style.
The back and sides are typically built from rosewood, sycamore, and Spanish cypress.
Another distinctive feature of the flamenco guitar over the classical guitar, is the addition of a “tap plate” (or Golpeador, pick-guard) on the top side of the guitar, near the sound-hole. It functions as a protective shield for the body of the guitar from the continuous finger tapping on it, a technique that is widely used in the flamenco music genre. See the image below:
So far we have covered some basic information on the flamenco in general, and flamenco guitars in particular. It is time now to talk about the basic techniques of the flamenco guitar, and start playing flamenco on the guitar right away! So let us begin.
SEVEN BASIC FLAMENCO GUITAR TECHNIQUES
In the video below, made by Cordoba Guitars, a famous company that produces and sells nylon string guitars since 1997, Ben Woods, a flamenco guitar artist, explains how to properly execute 7 basic flamenco guitar techniques. Watch it here, enjoy:
TECHNIQUE #1: 5 STROKE TREMOLO
In contrast to the classical guitar technique, 4 stroke tremolo, flamenco expands upon this technique with the addition of another stroke at the end. You play the base or the root note on the lowest string with your thumb (1 stroke), while on the higher E string you do 4 strokes continuously like this: Index -> Ring -> Middle -> Index. Here's the full correct sequence of this technique:
Thumb -> Index -> Ring -> Middle -> Index
Tremolo should be played as fast as you can, you can't play it slowly otherwise it wouldn't be “tremolo”. Repeat the sequence while changing notes on the base note as you like, and maintain tremolo on the high E string.
TECHNIQUE #2: PICADO
Picado is the act of playing alternately using only two fingers: The index and the middle finger. It's used to play single notes and single-line scales. Unlike with the classical guitar where you would normally “pluck” each string up with your fingers, Picado relies on striking downward to the point where your fingers slightly touch the strings above. Depending on how much you practice, you can play notes really fast with this technique.
TECHNIQUE #3: ARPEGGIOS
We've talked about arpeggios before here. “Arpeggios” is playing chords, but instead of playing them simultaneously by strumming, you play each note of the chord individually one after the other.
TECHNIQUE #4: GOLPE
Golpe is the reason you need a “pick-guard” that we mentioned previously. Golpe is the act of tapping your finger on the body of the guitar, either below or above the strings, to create a percussion sound. There are many ways to do this technique, however when you tap on the area above the strings, where you normally wouldn't have the “tap plate” to protect the soundboard, be careful not to tap too hard because you might damage it.
TECHNIQUE #5: ALZAPUA
Alzapua is simply a triplet with your thumbnail only. The concept is very easy, and not hard to implement, but it could get challenging when trying to execute it fast and with the addition of other notes as well. It's possible to make it a quadruplet if you can use Legato to add another note.
TECHNIQUE #6: LEGATO
Legato is simply another name for pull-off's, and hammer-on's. If you don't know what these are, pull-off's are simply when you play a note on one string, and then pull-off with your finger to play a lower note on the same string without picking or plucking with your picking hand. Hammer-on's is the same but in the opposite direction, you hammer-on with your finger on a higher note.
TECHNIQUE #7: RASGUEADO
Rasgueado is a form of strumming the guitar by twisting your hand, similar to the movement of a fan. There are so many ways you can play the Rasgueado, as demonstrated in the video above, and there is no wrong or correct way to do it. No matter how you choose to do it, the end result is more or less the same.
Flamenco is one of the hardest styles to play on the classical guitar. It requires years upon years of practice to master all these flamenco techniques and be able to play fast and clean, just as the flamenco genre requires. But if you manage to persevere through all the difficult times and training sessions, and become a true flamenco guitar artist, you'll have an immense amount of satisfaction and self-respect.
We've touched only on the surface of the topic. If you like what you saw, and want to become a real flamenco artist, the best way to do this is by either finding a really good private flamenco guitar teacher in your local area, OR you can check one of the online guitar teaching programs that I have reviewed and approved here: Guitar Training Programs
Thanks for reading and I wish you all best of luck!