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The Flamenco Guitar: The Instrument Of A Genre

Sep 5, 2008
It's not very often that an entertainment genre has music, dance, and an instrument all specifically designed for it, but this is precisely the case when it comes to the art of flamenco. Flamenco is a Spanish musical genre, arguable the most famous, which is probably due to the dramatic dance style associated with the art. Flamenco dance is an expression of passion and is characterized by powerful, graceful movements and intricate hand and footwork. The music that accompanies such dance must be equally striking, which is why the music of the flamenco guitar is so unmistakable.

The flamenco guitar is an instrument designed and built specifically to play flamenco music. Other types of guitar, such as the classical version, may be used for many different musical genres; the flamenco guitar is used strictly as an accompaniment to flamenco singing and dancing, at least in traditional circles. It would perhaps be most accurate to say that in traditional flamenco music, no type of guitar except a flamenco guitar is ever used.

The traditional flamenco guitar is made of Spanish cypress and spruce, which lends a very distinct color to the instrument's body. Such woods also make this guitar lighter than its classical cousin. The flamenco guitar's design is also a bit smaller than that of the classical guitar, which gives this instrument's sound a percussive quality. The ideal flamenco guitar must also allow for a quick attack, as the music of this art form is both rapid and intricate.

In addition to its physical differences from the classical guitar, the flamenco guitar also necessitates different playing techniques and patterns. To begin with, flamenco music is traditionally played using a "capo," a device that is attached to the strings along the neck and which raises the pitch of the instrument. The use of the capo, in addition to increasing flamenco guitar's percussive qualities, allows the guitar player to match the key of the instrument to the singer's vocal range.

The playing of a flamenco guitar is characterized by specialized techniques, the following five of which are the most significant: golpe, or the percussive finger tapping on the soundboard in the areas above and below the strings; picado, or single-line scale passages performed with great attack and articulation; rasgueado, or strumming done with outward flicks of the right hand's fingers; alzapua, or a thumb technique during which the right hand's thumb is used for single-line notes and then strummed across the strings in quick succession; tremolo, or the playing of a bass line underneath a treble line consisting of rapidly repeating notes, often over a chord.

Of course, most of the preceding information has meaning only if one is well versed in flamenco music, or at least in guitar terminology. The average fan of flamenco is usually drawn to the visual aspects of the art more than the musical. One will be aware of the striking poses of the dancers, the complex tapping of their nailed shoes, the swirling of the woman's costume. But underlying and controlling it all is the melody of the flamenco guitar.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for guitars, flamenco guitars, sheet music, guitar tabs, and home theater audio.
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