Home / Actualidad flamenca  / Guitar ways: the disciplines

Guitar ways: the disciplines

A new section for enlightening the universe of the flamenco guitar, focusing on historical topics, schools, disciplines, constructions, etc. We begin with thoughts about the guitar accompaniment for cante and baile, also listing the leading artists in each discipline.

We begin a new journey and a new Project. Encouraged by Manuel Bohórquez, we will develop the universe of the flamenco guitar. The journey will start with historical topics, schools, disciplines, constructions, etc. We will also continue to portray the masters who have exalted this instrument.


We all know the flamenco guitar as a musical instrument. We are aware that it is a plucked string instrument. Its technical execution creates different melodies and harmonies by pulsing the strings with our fingers or, in other cases or styles, with a plectrum or pick. However, we know how difficult the noble art of the guitar is. Even as this instrument was originally introduced in flamenco to accompany singing (cante), the evolution it has experienced until our days have been extraordinary. Moreover, in this instrument, as part of one particular musical genre, we find three disciplines with their own flamenco identity. Besides, through flamenco’s two centuries of history, we will find true masters who set the standard for each discipline. The disciplines we are referring to are accompaniment for dance, the accompaniment for singing and the solo or concert guitar.


The flamenco genre has a clear tradition of oral transmission. When it comes to the flamenco guitar, this transmission happens face to face. In fact, guitarists would often admit that they “borrow things from one another”. The analysis of this musical instrument has resulted in treatises, methods, transcriptions and even studies about its evolution. That is why we know that all flamenco guitarists have vast resources available to them for learning their trade. Actual practice is vital when it comes to accompaniment for dancing or singing, because in these two disciplines there are basic unwritten codes that are essential for the evolution of the flamenco guitarist.


We know that the guitar first appeared in flamenco with the purpose of accompanying singing. Regarding the guitarists of accompaniment, even as there are some differences between playing for singing and playing for dancing, there are common aspects that every guitarist must know. Besides having a technical knowledge of the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic possibilities, a flamenco guitarist must know the different styles (palos) of flamenco genealogy and must be well-versed in the various styles of cantes and their different rhythms and harmonies. The guitar accompaniment is what provides a solid and comfortable base for the melody of cante, and a good synchronization of the song-guitar or dance-guitar pair.


Among the qualities that are essential and necessary for the art of guitar accompaniment are the knowledge of cantes and their structure. This is where a falseta is played as an introduction to the llamada al cante (“calling to sing”). The singer (cantaor) continues with a voice warm-up (temple) and thereafter sings a bunch of stanzas, in a dialogue with short intervals of elaborated falsetas. It is essential to have a repertoire of falsetas and guitar motifs of different cantes in their various tunes. It is also convenient to work, in a practical and real sense, on a good intuition combined with a capacity for musical improvisation, aiming for a good development of the auditive reflexes. There must also exist a good rapport with the singer being accompanied and knowledge of their tessituras. And of course, we cannot forget about the use of the bridge to adapt to the requirements, not to mention infusing each toque (guitar playing) with flamenco identity and depth.


In a similar way, although with some differences, we have accompaniment for baile (dance). Just like the guitarist who accompanies cante provides the entradas, remates, compases and cierres, the accompanist for baile has the difficult task of assisting the famous llamadas, escobillas, silencios, desplantes or the pataítas, campanas and cambios or subidas de compás. Thus, guitarists who accompany baile, besides having a clean, expressive and flamenco technique, must also possess an extraordinary sense of rhythm and compás, with their rasgueos (strumming), arpeggios, tremolos, picados and pulgares always in the service of corporal expression. Every baile has specific features that define their unique identity. As examples we can mention the bailes por tarantos, por alegrías, por garrotín, por soleá or por seguiriyas, where each palo possesses their own unique and proper structure.


Historically, we know that there were true masters in the art of the guitar in all its variants. Since the middle of the 19th century, with the introduction of the guitar with the so-called toque, where the instrument leans on the guitarist legs — traditionally known as toque a lo barbero — its evolution has been extraordinary. We shall highlight two important milestones that changed the development of this instrument: the appearances of Ramón Montoya and Paco de Lucía.


«Through flamenco’s two centuries of history, we will find true masters who set the standard for each discipline: accompaniment for dance, the accompaniment for song and the solo or concert guitar»


A multitude of guitarists have contributed to setting the standards of accompaniment for cante, as well as to define the structures in guitar playing. We can go back to Paco de Lucena and Paco el Barbero, passing by Rafael del ÁguilaPerico el del Lunar and Manolo de Huelva. There are whole families renowned in the art of accompaniment, such as the Moraos, the Parrillas and the Habichuelas, where Parrilla de JerezMoraíto and Juan Habichuela represent its highest expression. Yet, if we must pick one guitarist as an expert in this noble art for, that would be Melchor de Marchena, who accompanied two of the greatest flamenco cantaores in history: Manolo Caracol and Antonio Mairena. And his evolution can be appreciated in his son Enrique de Melchor. We can also appreciate this art form in masters such as Niño Ricardo, Eduardo el de la Malena, Currito el de la Jeroma, Antonio de Sanlúcar, Ramón de Algeciras, Quino Román, Pedro Bacán, Pepe Martínez, Manolo Domínguez, El Poeta, Quique Paredes, Manolo Brenes, Miguel and Juan Vargas, Paco and Miguel Ángel Cortés, El Perla, Eduardo Rebollar, José de Pura, Manuel Silveria, Rafael Rodríguez El Cabeza, Ruben Lara, Diego del Morao, Miguel Salado, Paco León, Antonio Patrocinio, Fernando Moreno, Antonio Dovao, Francis Gómez, Niño Jero, Manuel Jero and Juan Manuel Moneo, among many others, in a list that would be extremely long. Yet, we cannot forget two guitarists who have also taken guitar accompaniment to its highest expression: José Luis Postigo y Antonio Carrión.


Regarding toque para el baile, many of those mentioned above also play for baile performances. There are guitarists who have made a career in part by creating music for various productions of baile, such as Paco JaranaJose Luis de la Paz, Dani Vélez and Joaquín Amador.


Then there is the soloist toque. It is here where we can appreciate technique at the service of flamenco expression. The flamenco themes in soloist musical pieces are developed in a more orderly and structured way, compared with toque de acompañamiento. This is apparent in the evolution of this discipline through history and is exemplified in the pieces of obligatory study for any self-respecting guitarist. The toque is more elaborated and meticulous, with an elevated degree of composition that barely leaves any room for improvisation. The classic guitar has influenced this discipline, since some of its pieces are recommended for broadening the musical horizons of the flamenco guitarist. On the other hand, many classical guitarists got started in this flamenco discipline, such as the concert guitarists Julián Arcas and Amalio Cuenca.


Nowadays, the flamenco concert guitar has great renown all over the world. A great level of technical, harmonic and rhythmic mastery is materialized by guitarists such as Esteban de Sanlúcar, Mario Escudero, Miguel Borrul, Sabicas, Niño Ricardo, Serranito, Andrés Batista, Diego del Gastor, Isidoro Carmona, Manolo Sanlúcar, Paco de Lucía, Manuel Cano, Juan Serrano, Ricardo Miño, Vicente Amigo, Gerardo Núñez, Serranito, José Antonio Rodríguez, José Luis de la Paz, Rafael Riqueni, José Carlos Gómez, Paco Cepero, Paco Peña, Juan Carlos Romero, Alejandro Hurtado, Santiago Lara and Antonio Rey, among many others.


Sometimes, circumstances take guitarists to different types of work. This implies a qualitative leap in the evolution of the guitar player, and we can observe a rhythmic, harmonic and melodic richness in both their accompaniment and soloist toque. Clear examples of this are Manolo Franco, Niño Manuel López Romero, Manuel de la Luz, Salvador Gutiérrez, Pedro Sánchez, Álvaro Mora, Juan Campallo, Niño Seve, Manuel Valencia, Alfredo Lagos, David Hidalgo El Moncayo and José Juan Pantoja.


Nowadays we are also witnessing the blossoming of a group women with exquisite technical abilities in all disciplines of the flamenco guitar. There were some flamenco guitar players in the 19th and 20th centuries such as Amparo Álvarez La Campanera, Josefa Moreno La Antequerana, Dolores la de la Huerta, Anilla la de Ronda, Teresita España and Adela Cubas. The evolution of these artists is manifest in our days on guitarists such as Davinia Ballesteros, Antonia Jiménez, Laura González and Alba Espert.


In the following articles the different disciplines of the flamenco guitar will be developed in greater detail. We hope that these, together with other important guitar topics, be of interest for all readers.



Translated by P. Young


Huelva, 1977. Maestro y guitarrista apasionado del flamenco. Investigador y divulgador de nuestra cultura. El camino del compás le lleva a ser un docente con duende.