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Flamenco Songs & Form

Learn about flamenco songs and form in this flamenco guitar lesson video from Howcast.


Okay, so we're going to talk about flamenco songs and flamenco form. I think at this point we can make a distinction between popular flamenco or modern flamenco and maybe traditional flamenco. Okay, the styles you play in modern flamenco are traditionally rumba, has become one of the most popular styles, like I've mentioned in other videos. Okay, in rumba songs can be just like any other song with the rumba beat on it.

Gypsy Kings have many albums with wonderful songs that you can look up, and they follow the basic pattern of any pop song, just with a rumba band and the rumba beat. Now when we talk about traditional flamenco there's really no such thing as a flamenco song. It's more the style you play in and whatever the singer decided to sing or the dancer decides to dance.

When you are a jazz musician for example, and you go to a jazz gig, you might get to your gig and you might have to play with five musicians you've never seen in your life, but everybody knows what to do, right? Everybody calls a song, everybody knows it. They call a key, you play an intro, somebody plays the melody, then you take turns soloing, blah, blah, blah. You do the fourth with the drummer and you finish. So everybody speaks the same language.

In the flamenco setting when you're called to do a gig, and you have to do a singer, it's a little different. There is no such thing as a set of standards that we know, but we know the styles. So a singer might tell the guitarist, "Okay, I'm going to sing in this style of bulerias." And you go, "Okay, that's fine." And he's not going to tell you what key he sings. He's not going to tell you I sing in A Flat. He's just going to tell you where to put your capo on.

So he'll tell you I sing bulerias and put your capo on three. Okay, so you put your capo on three, and as a guitarist, you should know more of less the language. How to play it with the singer. Okay, basically start with an introduction. Then you wait for the singer. Then you play your compas for a little bit until the singer warms up. You have these little sections of the piece called falseta's and these are compositions that are within the style, but they kind of break away from the compas. Usually, they last very little, like about 30 seconds to a minute, maybe even 20 seconds. Then you go back to the compas, singer sings, and so on and so on.

There's no such thing as a song in this case. It's just singer reciting poetry that he has in his repertoire and you playing falseta's and compas that you have in your... So that's kind of the ammunition you have to come to, to a gig, when you're playing traditional flamenco. You have to learn how to play at least a dozen of palos, if not more. And you have to have a couple of falseta's in each one and you have to know how to follow a singer or a dancer. And that's how a traditional flamenco gig works.

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