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Flamenco and the Compás

¡Fuera de compás! is the worst that can happen to you as a Flamenco performer. Just imagine a dance band playing a waltz and leaving out one or two beats in 3/4 time - unthinkable for audience and dancers alike. ...

Well, in Flamenco it is slightly more difficult not to get out of sync, or compás, but it is roughly comparable with the example of the waltz. Dancers who can’t dance in compás, singers who can’t sing in compás and guitarists who can’t play in compás are avoided by other artists because it is impossible to work with them. Even if you play Flamenco in private and just for yourself, you should keep in compás or should at least know about compás because otherwise, what you are playing is not Flamenco. I always hear guitarists, in many countries, who play difficult falsetas by famous virtuosos, but you can’t tap your feet in time to the music, not to mention discern a compás. This is not Flamenco!

The problem is that outside of Spain the cart is often put before the horse. What I mean is that a guitarist who wants to learn Flamenco will hardly reach his aim if he starts out practising compositions by, say, Paco de Lucía by playing from music or a CD. This is totally inconsistent with the way of learning the toque in Spain or, more exactly, in Andalusia. Everybody, from Ramón Monoya to Vincente Amigo, had accompanied cante and baile and worked as a professional accompanist for a long time before starting to play solo guitar. A guitarist who cannot play in compás and at the same time claims that it is not the end of the world for a solo guitarist to be fuera de compás, shows his ignorance, at best - but this isn’t Flamenco!

 

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Flamenco Compás - Flamenco clock - Reloj Flamenco

Flamenco y el Compás: The “Flamenco clock” (reloj flamenco) has been in use for a long time to explain the compás of the different estilos or palos in Flamenco. If you take the trouble to learn this clock, or if you try to transfer the compáses to the clock, the seemingly difficult rhythms will suddenly become comprehensible and transparent. This will also help you to better understand genres such as Soleá, Alegrías, Bulerías, Siguiriyas, Fandango de Huelva etc., all of which are played according to the “12-beat pattern.”

Years ago I had the idea for a device translating these compáses into visual and acoustic signals. Based on this idea, the Flamenco metronome Compás Flamenco, was developed. The purpose of this metronome is to control the compás of difficult falsetas or dance passages. For the guitarist who practises with the metronome from the start, the compás will become the most natural thing in the world.

Counting and beats

Different ways of counting have been developed and used in the Flamenco genres with their difficult rhythms. The most important thing is to decide on which beat of the clock you need to begin. So, when using the Flamenco clock you don’t shift the accents within the 12-beat pattern, but at the beginning. To use the metronome properly, you should learn the following ways of counting.

Flamenco-Palos

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