Music/instrumental tutor

Music from the ages.
Music for the ages.

What comes to mind when you think of flamenco?

My focus for postgraduate composition was flamenco music, how the culture made use of the guitar—and how it could develop my compositional skills. At the start, I had no intention of learning technique—not along with the musical expression which I wanted to use, to soak up and flavour a solo guitar portfolio within the space of one year. But it held a few surprises, and it felt best understood from the inside.

Flamenco is globally renowned for its energy and rhythm, each group performance characterised by an almost improvisatory feel. It seems so loose and free. Party music.
Unsurprisingly, it is highly organised. The core from which the true interpreters deviate must still align the music, and the guitar is not the main attraction. That understanding developed as my appreciation grew, but the guitar was my instrument. When it came to understanding music which featured guitar, it was also my lens

Guitar interpretation—toque—is only one part of flamenco, and it arrived late to the party, too. The concert flamenco guitarist is a novel concept within an ancient art. Cante (voice/singer - chanting, essentially), baile (dance), jaleo (physically generated rhythm from palmas (clapping), tongue-clacking, finger clicking, fingernail snapping, etc. The guitar was merely one part of an expressive form, whose roots lie in a solo, emotion-laden voice and the rhythms of the soul, hammered out with the physical body: the tools that we are born with.

I felt that I could not resist playing flamenco—at first on my distinctly classical guitar—a hand-made, finely crafted meta-library of tone and timbre including soft, simmering basses and teasing melodies, piercing highs, and a thunderclap, punchy low end always ready to provide contrast. My principal and beloved instrument—completely dissimilar to something that a toquaor of the era could afford, and built with different aims.


I didn't always appreciate the classical guitar for its breadth of expression. When my favourite instrument was a Les Paul, the subtleties were lost on me, until around a dozen years ago, when someone gave me a cheap classical guitar they wanted rid of. I never took it seriously at first, but by 10 years ago, the nuances of tone and expression on a single nylon string redirected my path through music to the one it has been on since. I cannot even remember what happened to my electric guitars, amps, & other equipment; it took the study of flamenco to rekindle my fondness for electric guitar (in fact, I ended up building myself one, and no one was more surprised than me that it works, never mind how good it sounds).

After writing my first pastiche in authentic, flamenco style, I put my precious, unusual, and beautiful principal guitar into the luthier for overdue maintenance—compelled to buy the flamenca blanca of highest affordable approval rating, discussed in Spanish flamenco fora, corroborating what some UK players had said.

Instead of being built for depth of tone, a flamenca is based on what was affordable way back when. The descent of expression into virtuosity may have been assisted by instruments set up for speed and ease of play, fret buzz a part of the sound, but the rattle and sparkle of rasgueados couples directly with the true priority: the rhythm of each different form (compás). It sent a jolt through my playing and falseta experimentation that saw me pick up an electric—only occasionally, and baffled as to 'Why now?'. There was no complex answer. It was a simple connection to my own history, cast aside in favour of classical guitar, because a union would not have been possible before. The freedom I saw in flamenco music allowed me to reconnect.

I then wrote at a steadily increasing speed, with more and more musical opinion starting to find its way through the score of each compás with every falseta and llamada. I began to feel like I understood something of how flamenco worked; how it was organised. 

Within a relatively short time, I felt my compás/pastiche work grow, through musical gestures growing steadily distant from—though still umbilically connected to - the subtle variance on traditional rhythm and harmony that attracted me to Falla, Granados, Albeníz, Gerhardt... the cache of inspiring artists who pulled me along this path in the first place.

I'd got what I came for, even though I thought I came for something different.  

It is still growing, leading me down new roads, with its old hands



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