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Brendan

Posts: 216
Joined: Oct. 30 2010
 

Top Tips 

The editor of Flamenco News is mithering me for an article to support guitarists. I don't have a lot of time, so obviously I'm turning to the hive-mind.

Suppose we go Buzzfeed and compile a list of Ten Things You Won't Learn About Flamenco Guitar From Books (and may not hear from your teacher, unless your teacher is really good at remembering what it was like to be a flamenco newbie). What should they be?

I have in mind advice for the beginner-ish to intermediate player, and the tips should be practical, self-explanatory one-liners, such as "do all your daily drills to a metronome" or "sit in on a dance class".

Thanking you all...

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 30 2015 16:37:12
 
tele

Posts: 1438
Joined: Aug. 17 2012
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

1.-10. Flamenco puro

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 30 2015 19:52:44
 
Miguel de Maria

Posts: 3524
Joined: Oct. 20 2003
From: Phoenix, AZ

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

#10: Rodrigo and Gabriella really aren't flamenco. Really. Rodrigo and Gabriella to real flamenco, is like Justin Bieber to, well, let's say a talented, hard-working singer with a normal endowment of dignity. The good news in this is that there's a whole world of really awesome, quality stuff out there for you. All you have to do is take this red pill. [at this point, you provide links]

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Arizona Wedding Music Guitar
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 30 2015 21:06:01
 
BarkellWH

Posts: 3067
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

Develop a taste for jerez, either fino or amontillado. And for God's sake, drink it from a copita, not the typical Old Fashioned glass that most restaurants unwittingly serve it in.

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 30 2015 23:38:26

payaso

 

Posts: 81
Joined: Dec. 7 2014
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

Ten tips? Fools rush in, etc, so here are ten, in no particular order:

1. Decide what level of accomplishment you are aiming for and how much time you are going to devote to learning flamenco guitar – just to enjoy yourself, play for friends, for a dance class, to get gigs in a restaurant, with a singer, for a solo career etc. The popular idea that a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice are required to be really good at something may not be strictly true, but it’s probably a useful rough guide. But you can enjoy yourself, and perhaps even please people you play for, with very, very much less. Flamenco guitar doesn’t have to be a painfully hard slog.
2. Evaluate what it is you really like about flamenco guitar – the emotional intensity of the genre, the technical brilliance, the exciting rhythmic pulse, fast picado, expressing your inner gitano soul, the Andalusian culture, whatever. Work out how you can achieve what most appeals to you, then try and broaden your knowledge and appreciation.
3. Of course listen to as much flamenco as you can, in all its variety, components and epochs, but also listen to a great deal of other musical genres to become more knowledgeable about the role of melody, harmony, rhythm, emotional expressiveness etc.
4. Learn to read musical notation and tablature in order to make yourself more musically (and guitaristically) aware and literate.
5. Study how and why the essence of flamenco lies in the cante and how the guitar relates to that.
6. Evaluate in musical terms how flamenco guitar playing has been influenced by PDL and his successors, and how these changes have affected the aspirations of many younger guitar players and the type of audiences they appeal to.
7. If you’re quite serious about flamenco, try to find the funds to spend time in Spain to attend flamenco festivals, courses, peñas, etc.
8. Be sensitive and respectful to your audience. Not just the neighbours but people who voluntarily listen to your playing. Recognise that simpler things played well, with good compás and emotional depth, can be much more readily enjoyed by non-guitarists than fancier, more difficult things played less than perfectly (or maybe even perfectly…).
9. Learn as much as you can about the physical aspects and potential problems of playing and looking after yourself, your posture, your hands, your fingernails etc.
10. Don’t play too much (or at all?) for dancing if you really want to be an outstanding soloist. Your hands may suffer. Identify the guitarists who never play for dancers.

And an 11th. Please tune your guitar more carefully.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 31 2015 11:46:58
 
Morante

 

Posts: 1542
Joined: Nov. 21 2010
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to payaso

Why all this talk about guitar? Beginners need to understand that flamenco is cante.

You can accompany cante with minimum technique and a few basic falsetas if you understand the cantaor.

Everything else on the guitar is frivolous and, more often than not, poco flamenco.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 31 2015 15:46:53
 
BarkellWH

Posts: 3067
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

The idea of compiling a list of ten tips toward playing better flamenco strikes me as trite and superficial, like those books one finds in the "Self Help" and "Self Improvement" sections at bookstores. You know the kind, "Ten Tips toward a Better You," "Five Charactieristics of Successful Businessmen," "How to Win Friends and Influence People," and other such superficial reading for those who lack initiative and imagination. If you need to read such unimaginative nonsense, you probably lack what it takes in the first place, whether to play flamenco or to succeed in any other endeavor.

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 31 2015 20:14:23
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
Joined: Jan. 17 2005
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to payaso

quote:

ORIGINAL: payaso

10. Don’t play too much (or at all?) for dancing if you really want to be an outstanding soloist. Your hands may suffer. Identify the guitarists who never play for dancers.


This is by far the silliest statement in this list. It didn't seem to hurt any of the big name soloists like PdL, Sabicas, Paco Pena, Paco Cepero, Moraito, etc. I would like you to identify one major flamenco guitarist who hasn't accompanied dance.

_____________________________

John Shelton - www.sheltonfarrettaguitars.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 31 2015 22:56:05
 
Dudnote

Posts: 1799
Joined: Nov. 13 2007
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to jshelton5040

quote:

ORIGINAL: jshelton5040
I would like you to identify one major flamenco guitarist who hasn't accompanied dance.

Shin Nagashima!

_____________________________

Ay compañerita de mi alma
tú ahora no me conoces.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 31 2015 23:08:35
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
Joined: Jan. 17 2005
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Dudnote

quote:

ORIGINAL: Dudnote

quote:

ORIGINAL: jshelton5040
I would like you to identify one major flamenco guitarist who hasn't accompanied dance.

Shin Nagashima!

How could I have forgotten Shin?

_____________________________

John Shelton - www.sheltonfarrettaguitars.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 31 2015 23:42:12
 
norumba2

 

Posts: 37
Joined: May 20 2015
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to payaso

quote:

ORIGINAL: payaso


6. Evaluate in musical terms how flamenco guitar playing has been influenced by PDL and his successors, and how these changes have affected the aspirations of many younger guitar players and the type of audiences they appeal to.



This raises an interesting counter-question as well ( and since Im a newbie to the foro, feel free to point me to threads where this has been discussed) -- the counterpart to this is to examine guitar playing pre-PdL and his impact to the genre, for better or worse or both. ..

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 1 2015 6:14:02
 
norumba2

 

Posts: 37
Joined: May 20 2015
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Morante

quote:

ORIGINAL: Morante

Why all this talk about guitar? Beginners need to understand that flamenco is cante.

You can accompany cante with minimum technique and a few basic falsetas if you understand the cantaor.

Everything else on the guitar is frivolous and, more often than not, poco flamenco.

Im not sure I'd agree with your third sentence, but totally agree that cante is the often overlooked source for beginners. all else follows from that.

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http://www.norumba.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 1 2015 6:17:19
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12383
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

quote:

ORIGINAL: Brendan

The editor of Flamenco News is mithering me for an article to support guitarists. I don't have a lot of time, so obviously I'm turning to the hive-mind.

Suppose we go Buzzfeed and compile a list of Ten Things You Won't Learn About Flamenco Guitar From Books (and may not hear from your teacher, unless your teacher is really good at remembering what it was like to be a flamenco newbie). What should they be?

I have in mind advice for the beginner-ish to intermediate player, and the tips should be practical, self-explanatory one-liners, such as "do all your daily drills to a metronome" or "sit in on a dance class".

Thanking you all...


I would give a list, but as it's for a public article will you be giving credit to posters quotes you use, or claim it to be "your own" list as the article "writer"?

And to Morante, how can they learn if there are no cantaores left?

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 1 2015 14:50:05
 
Morante

 

Posts: 1542
Joined: Nov. 21 2010
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Ricardo

quote:


And to Morante, how can they learn if there are no cantaores left?


They will not learn, because flamenco will be dead and gone
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 1 2015 15:01:53
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12383
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Morante

quote:

ORIGINAL: Morante

quote:


And to Morante, how can they learn if there are no cantaores left?


They will not learn, because flamenco will be dead and gone



The end.

Next question?

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 1 2015 15:08:15
 
Brendan

Posts: 216
Joined: Oct. 30 2010
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Ricardo

All contributors will get a name-check, and there'll be a reference to the foro and this thread--all at the top. If a consensus emerges, we can do it as joint publication, like a scientific article--assuming everyone is happy with that. For example, it's already clear that one of the points will be: get into cante, bigtime. That is long-established common foro wisdom. If the other nine (or six or eleven) points are all like that, then a simple list of contributors may be fine.

On the other hand, it may be that someone feels himself to be in the unhappy position of the post-doc who did 90% of the work in return for an equal share of the credit with ten others. In which case, we talk our way to a solution.

Or maybe no consensus emerges (what? rancorous division? here?) in which case I guess I could credit individual points with individual names. But that would be rather fiddly for a listicle in a newsletter.

I will give credit to all helping hands, but I'd rather not be the first person to publish a piece in Flamenco News with extensive endnotes.

Another possibility is for one person to take on the job single-handed. That's a bigger favour than I was planning to ask, but it would resolve all ambiguity about who contributed what.

In any case, both this thread and Flamenco News are squarely in the public domain, so my chances of pulling a fast one are slim.

And big thanks to Payaso, for throwing down his list early doors and taking the predictable flak.

_____________________________

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 1 2015 17:17:21
 
jamh2000

 

Posts: 41
Joined: Jan. 13 2012
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

Never think that a new guitar is going to solve all your problems for you. No matter how much you like the sound, if you don't keep practicing and developing, you'll get frustrated.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 1 2015 17:20:34
 
Morante

 

Posts: 1542
Joined: Nov. 21 2010
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

The end.

Next question?


Everything is going in the same direction: we used to have Terremoto, Rancapino, El Torta etc, now we have lightweight cantaores singing canciones por bulerias y tangos. In Blues, we had Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, now we have talented musicians such as Robrt Cray or Robben Ford writing little songs por blues

Motorcycle racing used to be on great street circuits such as Dundrod, Isle of Man, Nuremburgring. Now enclosed in Mickey Mouse circuits with 50 metre runoffs, where the promoters can charge entrance to every spectator.

We have flamenco light, blues light, motorcycles light, Coca Cola light,

Thankfully we still have toros: you can´t have toros light, you either have them or you don´t.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 1 2015 18:48:33
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12383
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Morante

quote:

Thankfully we still have toros: you can´t have toros light, you either have them or you don´t.


That will eventually be made illegal, or at least "fake" for TV and live stream pay per view like WWF boxing and FIFA...

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 2 2015 4:21:06
 
Brendan

Posts: 216
Joined: Oct. 30 2010
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to payaso

Use of a mirror will be one of the ten:

http://www.foroflamenco.com/tm.asp?m=8495&appid=&p=&mpage=1&key=mirror&tmode=&smode=&s=#8495

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 2 2015 23:05:38

payaso

 

Posts: 81
Joined: Dec. 7 2014
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

Thank you, Brendan, for your generous comment. The use of a mirror is a really excellent tip, which I did not include because I have seen it recommended in a method book, and you had set yourself the difficult task of finding things that you won’t find in books. But who cares? The same can be said for my very unoriginal remark about the fundamental importance of the cante, but it’s so crucial that it’s always worth repeating, and it’s good to see the acknowledged cante expert Morante emphasizing the point even more strongly. My remark about the possible risk of excessive playing for dancing was ridiculed by jshelton5040. I’m afraid I didn’t make myself clear. Of course very many great players have played for dancing and Sabicas’ remark about the ideal pathway for a would-be soloist is very well known. I was first alerted to the possible danger by D.E.Pohren who described the incapacitating damage to his third finger – and I had understood that PdL’s father forbad him to play for dancers I think some fine players prefer not to play for dancing, but I may well be mistaken. BarkellWH disapproves of lists of tips, as unimaginative, superficial and trite, so perhaps your 10th tip should be a challenging paradox – avoid all tips and rely on your initiative and imagination. Perhaps if you asked people to name their five favourite tips you might get more responses from the usually generous and helpful members of the foro – and surely no credits needed. It’s hard to see that educational tips can be both superficial nonsense and at the same time so precious and special that they can only be imparted with the promise of acknowledgment.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 5 2015 18:41:50
 
Brendan

Posts: 216
Joined: Oct. 30 2010
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to payaso

Right so. I took Payaso's list, tinkered with it, tried it on some friends and tweaked it some more. It remains, of course, superficial and derivative--it is a listicle to appear in a newsletter. Anything deep or original would violate the norms of the genre.

Payaso: to be fair to our detractors, the accusation of superficiality and the anxiety about attribution came from different quarters, so no individual is guilty of contradiction.



Tips for beginning flamenco guitarists

There are no original ideas on this list. These are all suggestions that you will hear eventually if you play flamenco guitar for long enough. Thanks for help in compiling this list go to the participants in the Foro Flamenco (www.foroflamenco.com) and the London School of Flamenco Guitar Seville 2015 field trip. Special thanks to Foro member Payaso, who provided a list of tips on which this is based.

1. Soak yourself in flamenco singing. Cante is the roots and trunk of flamenco. Flamenco guitar originated as accompaniment to Cante and takes its style and structure from song. This, rather than any of the distinctive techniques, is what makes flamenco guitar flamenco. It's possible to play flamenco on the piano or the saxophone, provided you stick to the forms and rules established in Cante. Guitar-playing that ignores those rules is not flamenco, no matter how much rasgueado and alzapua it has. So learn to appreciate flamenco Cante for its own sake. Listen to lots of it, old and new.
2. Use what you know about other styles of music. Your wider musical knowledge will help you to understand what makes flamenco distinctive. Besides, flamenco may have grown in the soil of Andalusia, but its heartland has a sea-coast with major ports such as Cadiz and Malaga. Flamenco has always been open to other influences, including Spanish folk music such as Sevillanas, styles from the Americas (notably the palos de ida y vuelta), and now flamenco artists collaborate freely with every possible genre of music. Flamenco is different to other kinds of music, but it isn't completely alien. Besides, if you want to play the purest flamenco, you will need a wider view to decide what ‘pure’ means.
3. Learn some music theory. A basic understanding of chord construction and function will help you to learn new material faster and remember it for longer. Patterns familiar from other genres, such as secondary dominants and the circle of fourths, are present in flamenco and it is useful to recognise them.
4. Don't get hung up on theory. This is not jazz. Flamenco guitarists traditionally learned by copying, and did not elaborate general notions about harmony or composition. Some flamencos still speak proudly of having never had a formal lesson, of having learned their craft from family elders or from the street.
5. Don't try to learn from exclusively from books and the Internet. Like all traditional music, flamenco has subtleties of rhythm and tone that cannot be written down. Its techniques require precise hand positions that books cannot convey. You need someone to correct your bad habits. Go to a teacher.
6. Read books. There are some excellent tutorial books, collections of falsetas, scores of long pieces and written discussions of flamenco style and harmony. Besides, making your own transcriptions can be very instructive. Traditional flamencos did not learn from books, but those of us who were not born into a flamenco family need the extra help that books provide.
7. Practice in front of a mirror. Check that your positions and motions are correct. Look for superfluous movement and signs of tension. Striking or plucking a string requires a brief moment of muscle-tension. It is essential that the muscle you just used relaxes fully afterwards. Video yourself playing so that you can analyse at leisure.
8. Practice with your eyes shut. Rely on your senses of touch, position and movement to know where your hands are relative to the guitar. When you play with others, you will need to look away from your hands to know what is going on and what is about to happen. So teach your hands to find their way without your eyes helping.
9. Play for dancers. Outside Spain, dance classes are the most common form of flamenco activity. Sitting in with an experienced guitarist is essential at first, but there is no substitute for accompanying a dance class on your own. You will quickly learn to anticipate what the dancers will do and you will learn to communicate with dancers, who have their own idiom and don't normally speak guitarist.
10. Don't play for dancers without proper amplification. Three dancers in dance shoes on a dance floor will easily drown your guitar, and if you strain to play louder, you may injure yourself. The flamenco writer and guitarist Donn Pohren permanently damaged his hand this way. Since his day, small, lightweight and cheap amplifiers have become available. Buy one.
11. Do all your daily drills to a metronome. This builds accuracy and discourages cheating. Don't neglect your left hand, and make a special effort to develop its third and fourth fingers.
12. If you're at a stage where any of these tips are useful, you're playing your guitar for fun. Don't allow tips 1-11 to interfere with that.

_____________________________

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 18 2015 13:49:44
 
runner

 

Posts: 353
Joined: Dec. 5 2008
From: New Jersey USA

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Morante

"Flamenco is cante." Morante, as usual, is right on the money. When this is forgotten, flamenco ceases.

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The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 18 2015 20:33:32
 
Sr. Martins

Posts: 3050
Joined: Apr. 4 2011
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Morante

quote:

Thankfully we still have toros: you can´t have toros light, you either have them or you don´t.


Isn't the "sawed off bull horn tips" the light version?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 18 2015 21:21:10
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12383
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

Several of your "tips" are contradictory...or perhaps should be combined? For exemple, 1 and 2...how can you focus on cante and then involve yourself with outside influences? If it is worded such that one can explore outside influences while maintaining focus on the traditional cante form... it could make sense as a single tip. Same goes for 3 and 4....either the tips are contradictory or you combine them and say "learning theory is ok, but dont' get hung up on it...". Same for 5 and 6, read books but don't learn exclusively from them...etc.

Just my observation.

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 19 2015 7:56:41
 
Brendan

Posts: 216
Joined: Oct. 30 2010
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Ricardo

Yep. Someone mentioned in a talk I heard recently that proverbs often come in contradictory pairs (e.g. Look before you leap / He who hesitates is lost). it struck me that this is true of much of the good advice for guitar beginners (which is why we get so much back-and-forth on here). In the original version, I had six pairs of outright contradictions, but I couldn't make the scheme work all the way through.

You're right, the result looks a bit confused. Maybe I'll do something with the numbering.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 20 2015 17:48:28
 
Ricardo

Posts: 12383
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

Probably too late but I offer one important top tip not in the method books. For new students, any level but new to flamenco guitar, don't get hung up on the COUNTING and seeming complexities of Compas and especially, compas notation. Dive in to learning and mastering some basic compas strumming patterns and internalize and FEEL the rhythm physically as you might be able to in any other type of music. Flamenco music has an underlying beat like any other music with rhythm, and need not be intellectualized or read about to understand.

Ricardo

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 21 2015 23:16:23
 
Brendan

Posts: 216
Joined: Oct. 30 2010
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Ricardo

it's not too late, and that's well worth saying. Thanks.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 22 2015 10:47:36

payaso

 

Posts: 81
Joined: Dec. 7 2014
 

RE: Top Tips (in reply to Brendan

Yes, that’s very good. I remember the quote below in a method book (Juan Martín’s ‘El Arte Flamenco de la Guitarra’, p. 12). Intellectual awareness of the compás is not enough:

“[The player] may ‘understand’ the compás in the sense that he knows the theory about the ways the beats of the rhythm are structured and accented in different kinds of pattern, but a feeling for the compás ultimately demands something much more than an intellectual awareness if one is to communicate its physical energy and momentum. It has to become a part of one’s whole being, an inner bodily sense that is translated into musical expression through the movements of the hands and the fingers. This kind of physical identification with the rhythms of Flamenco comes fairly readily to some people. Most often, however, it has to be worked for with patient persistence by continual self-awareness as one plays and by absorbing as much Flamenco as one can, in all its forms.”

Different words but a similar sentiment to Ricardo's tip. Well worth including something along these lines in the Top Tips. (And thank you, Brendan, for the very generous attribution. Hardly deserved when you have done so much to express the ideas in a better way)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 22 2015 16:03:29
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