Lessons and info for the nylon string guitarist

Tempos and moods

Emotive expression
Flamenco has been defined as “an expression of the human condition”. I like that. Traditionally, each form has a unique emotional atmosphere connected with it. The best way to experience this is to listen to traditional style singing recordings. You can really feel the agony and the ecstasy expressed in these songs. If a song moves you internally to feel specific emotions, the singer has done his or her job.

The tempos shown here are meant only as a general guide. In reality (whatever that is) most forms can vary greatly in speed as the performance progresses. Garrotín and Farruca and Zapateado for example, have alternate fast and slow passages. Soleares and Alegrías are two forms with sections which can gradually build up tempo. We’re speaking traditionally of course. With modern flamenco however, almost anything goes. I’m referring to stretching the boundaries of traditional flamenco forms, not the Ottmar Liebert’s brand of totally unrelated ‘New Flamenco’. Stretching boundaries is fair enough. After all, flamenco is an evolving art form and new ideas and fusion concepts are all part of the mix. Did I mention rules? Basically there are none, not for style anyway.

Speed freaks
Back in the fifties and sixties, flamenco performance seemed to follow a predictable formula which included a healthy serving of showmanship. The exotic element was exploited to the max. In addition, it seems every recording from that era tried to outdo the rest with speed. They played very, very fast in those days and tremolo was included wherever possible.

Showmanship – Where’s the compás?
Anyway, the only rules which are considered sacred relate to compás timing. Even so, compás tends to get a little hazy with some of the flashy recordings of Manitas de Plata, Carlos Montoya and even Sabicas. I know that may sound sacrilegious to Sabicas devotees, but please spare me your emails telling me what a misguided, bad person I am. I said some recordings by these artists, not all. When I first started to accompany dancers and was beginning to understand compás, I had a good listen to some of these old records again. All I’m saying is that I had a hell of a time trying to count out Sabicas pieces. I said to myself, “this guy is supposed to be a master, so where is the compás definition and accented beats? I can’t hear it”. It was sort of there, but with all the slowing down and speeding up it is almost impossible to pick at times.

Whatever turns you on
With genuine flamenco groups, when was the last time you saw a performance of Soleares that reminded you of loneliness and introspection? If you like a little anarchy in your lifestyle, flamenco could be just what you’ve been looking for.

BEATS PER MINUTE

MOOD

230

Bulerias

Festive, mockery, playing the fool

220

Chuflas

Festive, fun, spontaneous

210

200

Rumba

Festive, playful, seductive, Cuban flavor

Zambra

Festive, fun

190

180

Guajiras

Cheeky, seductive, Cuban flavor

Alegrías

Happiness, merriment, celebration

170

Colombianas

Enjoyment, celebration

160

Sevillanas

Festive, traditional folk dance

Fandangos de Huelva               

Festive, traditional folk dance

150

Tarantos

Darkness, tragedy, deprivation, sorrow

Zapateado

Flamboyance, showmanship, cleverness

140

Verdiales

Festive, traditional folk dance

Malagueñas

Festive, lighthearted

130

Tangos

Festive, lively

Garrotín

Sensuous, cheeky, happy

120

Siguiriyas

Mournful, desolute, a sense of loss

Soleares

Lonliness, longing, introspecrion

110

Farruca

Dramatic, macho, disciplined, strutting

100

Peteneras

Sadness, grieving, funeral like

90

80

Tientos

Serious, stately, majestic, sensual

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