I recently attended a flamenco guitar workshop in Edinburgh run by Alba Flamenca. The teacher, Carlos Cortes Bustamante, was over from Spain and spared some of his time to help us improve.
Flamenco guitar is very different from standard rock, classical or acoustic guitar. The rhythms are different as are the methods for strumming and picking strings. What we play here, in the UK etc, tends to be based around a regular strumming pattern. Flamenco is based around dance rhythms. Generally, we can fairly easily get our heads around a Tongos or Tientos because it is in a standard 4:4 timing, albeit in groups of 8. Others such as Buleria, Fandangos and Solea are based around 3:4 timing in groups of 12, but the accents are not on the first beat of each set of three. They vary depending on the rhythm of the dance.
I have spent much time studying the work of Juan Martin via his books and CDs. While He tries to explain how it all works, the music is neatly delivered in 3:4 script so it’s all too easy to count it incorrectly.
I also tried learning the dance and attended flamenco classes for a few years. But that didn’t help link the rhythms to the music, well not much anyway. Good fun though.
Carlos showed us the basic count for a Fandangos and within minutes, it all made sense. However, still tricky to play as a life time of counting 1 2 3 4 or 1 2 3 does not prepare you for counting 1 – – 1 2 – . Still, perseverance and practice gets you there in the end and soon I may even be able to accompany my wife who is an accomplished Flamenco dancer.
With a Tientos and also Alegria also thrown in, it was a very worthwhile hour indeed.