Flamenco Guitar Forms Explained
In this article I am going to discuss what we mean by flamenco forms.
I am going to focus mainly on flamenco guitar because I am a flamenco guitarist.
However, I will also discuss flamenco forms for dance and singing.
I imagine that some people will not like what I have to say.
So be it.
Flamenco is vitally important to me.
I have devoted my life to flamenco and I am not too happy about certain tendencies.
Although I will try to explain flamenco here I hope that my videos and sound tracks are just as important.
Flamenco Guitar Forms
To approach a definition of flamenco guitar forms I am going to compare classical composition.
When we think of a musical composition think of a composer creating their own original work.
Or sometimes more than one composer working together.Perhaps one composing the melody while the other focusses on the lyrics.
The resulting composition is the fruit of the composer’s efforts.
Flamenco guitar forms do not develop in this way.
Before any flamenco guitarist gets anywhere near to creating any flamenco guitar music they must understand and indeed live flamenco itself.
Flamenco is born as a sound of the human voice so let us start there.
Flamenco Song is the essence
What I am going to say now is true but a little limited.
Bear with me.
I will expand as I go along.
Before there was flamenco there was a sound which we call cante jondo.
Explaining Flamenco Cante Jondo
Actually, we need to be very careful here.
This cante jondo, or in English, deep song was not actually music or a song as such.
Deep does not refer to a deep voice but to a depth of emotion. Or perhaps an utter despairing emotion.
Cante jondo is a cry, a scream, a protest. It is an agonised lament.
People in Andalusia lived exceptionally hard lives with great poverty and terrible social injustice.
I do not know, no one really knows when this all started.
Writers on flamenco tend to point to about 1830.
It would not surprise me if the pain that found its expression in this deep sound had been boiling over for quite some time.
The people who expressed these tragic sounds gave them names such as Tonás, Martinete, Debla.
The development of other Flamenco styles
Flamenco continued to develop and the repertoire increased.
Still no composer; just the people of Andalusia expressing their emotions. Some of these forms were tragic, others were melancholy, while others were lovely or even joyous.
Again, the people gave these expressions names such as Soleares, Seguiriyas, Tientos, Tarantas, Granaínas, Fandangos, Alegrías, Mirabrás etc.
The flamenco structure
The question we might ask is what makes a Soleares, for example a flamenco form.
Further, what makes Soleares really Soleares and not something else.
Soleares has a rhythmical and harmonic structure.
The rhythm is a 12 beat cycle with emphasis generally on the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th beats.
So, we could say if you want to play Soleares on the guitar you had better try to get the pulse right.
What about the harmonic structure?
That becomes a matter of debate and be weary the great knowledgeable brains. They don’t know so much!
In the early days Soleares, indeed any flamenco form, was played with very few chords.
Different combinations of A minor, G 7th, F Major, E Major and C Major.
Nowadays, guitarists who are interested in playing flamenco are increasingly sophisticated.
They can create and play endless chords, harmonies and patterns. What is more they can explain them all to you.
If you should (and I would not recommend this) question them they will generally be more than capable of providing a very detailed explanation of what they are doing.
Further, they will prove that their creations are genuine flamenco.
Flamenco Forms as Flamenco Dance
Dance had existed in Andalusia since for ever.
However, flamenco song came about before flamenco dance.
Because of this we can say that dancers wanted to dance flamenco.
That is to say, their priority, indeed their commitment was to express the flamenco form corporally.
This is the exact opposite to what we often see nowadays.
Nowadays, we see people who are first and foremost dancers.
So they look to flamenco song and guitar to provide them with an accompaniment to their dance.
This often leads to a situation in which they develop a fixed well- rehearsed dance choreography.
Without any doubt this is not how things started in flamenco.
Flamenco developing from emotions
This is the way I see it.
First there was the flamenco song. Lots of people wanted to sing flamenco but it is not easy.
So, what do you do if you cannot sing flamenco.
You can try to express that same emotion with your dance or with your guitar playing.
To a certain extent it is not completely silly to say that people worshiped the emotion that we call flamenco.
They wanted to share in that emotion one way or another.
Flamenco Music Copyrighted
Some flamenco guitarists are exceptionally good at creating new ideas.
Not surprisingly they want recognition for their original ideas.
To do this they depart from the flamenco tradition.
Traditionally you would say that you were playing in the style of a flamenco form.
Hence we would have said that a flamenco guitarist played a number of forms but that they have their own personality.
Having their own personality did not change the understanding that they were still interpreting a music of the people.
That is beginning to change.
Nowadays we see flamenco guitarists give a specific name to their creation.
However, I think we need to look a little closer.
The maestro guitarists never play their own piece the same way twice.
They have the bass theme and they improvise and develop it.
Their followers tend to try to play an exact copy of the great master’s piece.