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Right-Hand Techniques

Right-Hand Techniques

The Flamenco Downstroke

The first step in training the right hand is an easy one. The index finger strikes down to sound a chord with the back of the nail, like this:

The flamenco downstroke

In notation this is often shown with a downward arrow:

Play this now, trying to make make as close to a single sound as possible. There is no scrape involved in the downstroke, which is used to establish the fundamental beat. Notice the typical flamenco fingering of the A chord. The first finger covers both the fourth and third strings, leaving two other fingers available for added notes and for damping.


The downstroke may be allowed to ring, but sometimes the sound is cut off to accentuate the rhythm. The sound is deadened, or damped, in various ways. With the right hand, the fingers may simply be replaced on the strings after playing a chord. If the chord was played with the thumb, the side of the hand may be easily used to stop the sound. If the chord was played fingerstyle, i.e., with thumb and fingers, then it is sufficient simply to put them back on the strings as if preparing another chord.

Flamenco Damping

As already explained, the A chord is fingered using the just the first and second fingers. This leaves the little finger free, which is frequently used to cut the sound of a chord. Try playing the example again, and after each chord let the little finger touch the strings to stop the sound. The finger is straight so as to reach across all the strings.

Skilled flamenco performers can play fast successions of chords, each of which is clearly and crisply defined by this method.

The Upstroke

An upstroke with the index finger is frequently added to the downstroke when a faster tempo is desired. Like the downstroke, it should not drag across the strings, the aim being for clearsounding chords. In notation this would be shown with an upward arrow. The notation is simplified with a chord symbol because many repeated chords tend to look unnecessarily complicated. Do the upstrokes and downstrokes as indicated by the arrows.

The flamenco upstroke

Try this example with an even count of one-and two-and three-and. You will find it helps to rest the thumb on the bottom string to stabilize the hand. Now try mixing the two types of stroke in this pattern:

The Rhythmic Tap (Golpe)

The dances of Spain and Latin American make frequent use of percussive sounds to accentuate the rhythm. The flamenco guitar is protected with a tap plate for this purpose, either white or transparent, glued to the face of the guitar. Often the downstroke is accentuated with a simultaneous golpe. As the index finger moves across the strings the ring finger moves sharply down onto the tap plate.

A number of flamenco forms have rhythmic groups of 12 beats, as shown above. This pattern is known as the rhythm of bulerías. Unlike conventional Western music that would stress the first of each group of three, the flamenco stresses are commonly on 3, 6, 8, and 10, with 11 and 12 being weak beats.

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