The good teacher meets the bad student.

I’ve tended to think that if I have any skill at all it would be in teaching. It’s been the greater part of my work, so fingers crossed. I have taught, and continue to teach, many different people many different things. I think good teaching is mainly about being able to see what the next step for a person might be, if they were to improve in a certain way. And finding the right way to pass that information on. And not letting ego get in the way of that information sharing. And … well, probably quite a few other things too.

In relation to my guitar I think all of the good things that have come out of my study have come from that skill. I taught myself most of what I play, for good or bad. The problem comes with the fact that I think that I’m also a terrible student.
The dynamic of knowing what I should do while at the same time refusing to do exactly that is a funny one, and it’s something I’m only just becoming aware of. It means, among other things, that it’s all a bit of an experiment. I’ve confounded a few people, I think.

Some of the most obvious areas for practicing flamenco guitar, are accuracy, repetition and patience. Getting something right, over and over again, seems pretty obvious you might think. If only. 

Imagine the child beginning to learn how to walk, and who then suddenly makes a run for it. Of course they quickly fall over. And so they return to basics. You may then think that they have learned their lesson. Until after a few simple steps they suddenly try to make a dash for it again, and this pattern is repeated over and over again. You may despair at this point.

Of course becoming aware of something is the first step to change, so I fully intend to listen to people, and myself, and put many of the necessary basic steps in to practice. 

And so to this week’s video. The tremolo high melody (0.23 – 0.46 seconds) is all on the top string, which is easier. I’ve also tried to slow it down, and to keep to a straight beat. Sometimes I can play (and hear) all the notes in the picado (1.10 – 1.20), and if I can’t, I slow it down and build it up again. It comes and goes, but at least it’s there some times.

Here’s to learning how to walk before I run!

Rhythm is king

As promised from the last post, here’s a go at Moraito’s Feria Del Caballo. 

When I first started messing around with (studying) flamenco I was teaching percussion and hand drums in Cumbria, UK. I’ve always thought of myself as a guitarist, but I was fortunate to be taught hand drums be a master drummer from Jamaica. So my 2 musical passions, guitar and rhythm! 

For a project I was handed a Juan Martin instruction video and after watching it for only a short time, I had one of those ‘if only I could do that I would be happy’ moments that happen often and that keep me playing.

There are a series of books (and more) published by Affedis, and one of the first I bought, and I have bought many, was a Moraito tab book. Yes, plenty of ‘if on I could do that I would be happy ‘ moments there. But I connected with Moraito in an immediate way. To this day I still think he’s one of the most sensitive guitarists I’ve ever heard.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mora%C3%ADto_Chico_II

I learned (most of) the book. Some pieces were very hard (and still are), but I’m always happy when I connect, in my modest way, to the Moraito world.

Sevillanas are very popular in Spain. It’s a couples dance, and everyone in Spain seems to know about them. I believe they’re mainly danced with singers and a band, but they’ve been interpreted for solo guitar by many Flamencos. I like these by Moraito especially.

They seem to be in groups of 4 sevillanas, are quite short and have a very strict pattern.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sevillanas

I’m accompanied by my ‘metronome’. It is very unfair to call the iPad app DrumPerfect a metronome, because it is so much more. But I’ve added some cajon and clapping samples I’ve found and bought, and programmed the rhythms to the best of my knowledge, given I’ve had no training in flamenco cajon or palmas. 

http://www.drumperfect.nl/

I’ve put a little demo on the screen. I did this using LumaFusion, another iPad app. Eventually I’ll even learn how to use it.

I’ve also tried recording with a microphone. It’s a Rode NT5, and I think it adds to the sound, although it does make the whole process more intricate and time consuming. I’d be interested in opinions.

I’m also trying new strings – Luthier L40’s that were recommended to me. I like them so far, although I miss the Savarez Alliance ‘fizz’. I just wish I could tone that ‘fizz’ down sometimes. Anyway, I’ll spend a little bit of time with the Luthier string family.

Catching up 2: the Magpie collection: Samba Farruca

Apologies to all magpies for adding to the (apparently unjustified) bad press.
Another catch up of something I created quite a while ago. 

I play, and have played, quite a few restaurants and situations where I am basically background. I quite like this: the occasional audience awareness, the contributing to a moment, the helping to create an environment…

A few years ago, while developing material for this I needed something to warm up, and a first piece to start playing. Something relatively easy. A groove. Besides the guitar, I’m also very interested in rhythm. And have taught percussion and hand drum skills for many years, however unfair that might seem to all drummers out there! Samba is on the very edge of flamenco (in my understanding), so I created a 2 chord groove to basically mess about with.

Then there is Farruca. When I first started studying flamenco I was obsessed by the Farruca. At one time I calculated that I could play Farruca for over 30 minutes without repeating myself.

Samba Farruca is a combination of the 2 forms, as it’s name subtly implies… Ok, I’m not great at naming. 

Also, I wanted to explore composition. So I took small pieces from various places – sometimes a straight Farruca, sometimes from other forms, sometimes changing major sections into minor sections etc. For example, the last section, from around 3:53, is an almost straight take of a Moraito Sevillana, with the rhythm changed. I’ll try and video those Sevillanas next, as a comparison.

My exploration for this post is therefore – 

Is this a valid way of composing? I’ve heard similarities between sections in ‘real’ flamenco pieces. Someone changed a Buleria falseta into a Tangos, etc, so it must be ok, no? Would this only work in flamenco?

I’ve also added my pickup to the audio mix. The first post was just an iPhone, uploaded as recorded. I don’t know if anyone notices the difference. Also I used a video editor on the iPad to mix the audio, and add a fade in and out. In this case I used LumaFusion, a fairly new app which I’m going to explore over the coming months.

Still the Savarez strings, although they’re perhaps on the edge of dying. And naked nails, as I still wonder about this allergy thing.

Catching up.

The first minute, or so, of a Sabicas Alegria – Ole Mi Cadiz. Then rumba variations of the same music that I ‘created’ quite a while ago. Therefore – Catching up.

It surprises me how much of a performance making a video is. It’s not perfectly played, but I’ve spent quite a while on the making a video side, so… And anyway – you’ve got to start somewhere.

So the experimentation is mainly in video making using an iPhone. Also, ‘performing’ for video: getting it right.

I’m still not really happy with my strings – Savarez Alliance. They seem to change everyday, so no consistency. And by the time I feel comfortable with a set, they seem to be about to die. If I changed them more often I think it would help, but they’re not cheap. I did try D’Addario Flamenco strings which I felt comfortable playing, except they sounded terrible (to me).

I’ve also tried Nail Envy, but I’m suspecting an allergic reaction to, which is a shame, as I’m quite impressed. I’m not giving up though (yet).