Sal's flamenco soapbox

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What flamenco is NOT

Flamenco "style" guitar teachers
What amazes me is that the CD sleeves often mention that the artist studied with some flamenco master or other. If this was true, these masters didn't pass on much about playing clean rasgueados or the basics of Buleria or Soleá. I don't consider myself a flamenco master, but I did have some good teachers who worked with dancers and singers. I also listened carefully to the real masters and studied close ups on videos. I can tell you I nearly gave up several times because it took over twelve months of constant practice before I could produce half decent rasgueados. No one guitar teacher has all the answers and neither do I, but I am satisfied that I did my homework. From my personal teaching experience, I have had students come to me who say they had taken flamenco guitar lessons, but on hearing them play I could find no evidence of that. After a few tactful questions, the truth is revealed. In one typical case, it turned out that the teacher was a classical guitar teacher who dabbled in self taught South American slapping rhythms. After nine months of taking lessons from this teacher, this student had no idea what Sevillanas or Soleá was or how to play alzapur or standard triplet or five stroke rasgueados. Furthermore, he had never heard of Niño Ricardo or Ramon Monyoya. Was he learning flamenco? You tell me.

Flamenco guitar players (and dancers) can always tell if a recording artist has ever met a genuine flamenco teacher like he says, or is just bullshitting, even if they only play rumbas and romantic tunes. You can hear it in the clarity of the notes and rhythm strokes, and also in the silences and cuts. These silences and cuts are the most revealing.

The question arises that maybe some "new age flamenco" artists simply choose not to play rasgueados and rely almost entirely on single note melodies. Gosh! some of these players even prefer using a flatpick to using their fingers. Hey! That's fine by me. Why not? Unfortunately, the perception amongst some flat picking, rock n' roll flamenco wannabe's is that the faster the run, the more "flamingo" it sounds - to them. And they want to play like that real bad because that's how the girls like it; fast and furious. Oh, to be a Van Halen style guitar hero using just the fingers. How cool is that? Hmmmm? (He scratches his head and takes another sip of strong coffee) Defining flamenco in terms of picado skills alone might sound reasonable to some, but the way I see it, if you have taken the trouble to learn flamenco guitar techniques, especially from a "master", why would you not exploit those techniques in your professional recording career. That really puzzles me. I would like to send out a personal call to any of the artists listed in the chart below. Could you please email me and explain this?

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