How to play Alzapua

Spanish version

The alzapua or in Spanish alzapúa is a very exciting and quintessentially flamenco technique.

It is very particular to flamenco guitar playing and I am not aware of it being used in other guitar styles.

The Spanish word is the joining of two words: alzar which means to move something upwards and púa which is the casual name for a plectrum.

Thus, in this technique the thumb nail is going to be used a little like the plectrum.

There are several different rhythmical patterns for playing alzapua so I will start with a simple example.

Hold any chord but maybe E Major for this example.

First simply pluck the lowest bass or E string. Make that a nice sharp pluck, sometimes referred to as staccato.

Then we need to strike down from the next sting which will be the 5th string or A string. At this stage it is not too important how many strings you strike against. It is typical to catch the 5th, 4th or D and 3rd or G. The important thing is to make sure that we play a crisp downwards strike rather than stroking slowly over the strings.

Our next movement is to strike back upwards from treble to bass with our thumb nail. If we played down as far as the 3rd string from that point we can snap back up to our starting point.

So we have played three movements: bass pluck and up and down.

This will provide us with one alzapua.

Alzapua can become much more complex than this and indeed it almost always is. For example, the single bass note will usually change several times thus producing a melody to accompany the percussive down and up movement. Furthermore, that bass note can become two bass notes but we will be careful to ensure that they are played faster to fit into the timing or compás.

In my explanation above I started with the open bass but you can start with the down stroke which will affect slightly the stress in the rhythm.

I explain these alzapua patterns as well as others in my YouTube lesson on How to Play Alzapua

There are a few seconds at the beginning of the video clip from the end of a lesson on rajeo. I hope this is not off putting and I explain that rajeo in another article.