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Flamenco Guitar Transcriptions
Exercises
8 May 2023
warm-up
fret
pluck
alzapúa
scales
picado

New warm-up

Among other exercises, I warm up wth both of these variations whenever I pick up the guitar. They provide a variety of situations for both hands and a low-impact workout that helps to get the juices flowing. They're meant to be played in a loop, either ascending and descending as written, or vice versa (in the first variation, start with the second staff and continue with the first staff). Both variations feature unvarying patterns that are based on thirds. For example, at the beginning, you play an E on the open sixth string and a G on the open third string (G is the third of E), then an F on the sixth string and an A on the third string (A is the third of F, etc.) In the first variation, notice the a-m-i fingering in the right hand (use this throughout), the left-hand fingering (the numbers) at the end of the first measure and the beginning of the second measure, and the index barre in the third, fourth and fifth measures (on the first, second, third and fourth strings at the indicated fret).

warm-up

This variation adds more notes to the pattern. Notice that each bass note is held for two beats. The right-hand fingering is also a little different, as the first melody note is played with the ring finger and the rest alternate index and middle (use this throughout).

warm-up

Warm-up

This exercise combines a few techniques to warm up both hands. It starts with the chords D, A, G and F sharp in arpeggios and picado and ends with a variation on this idea, using the chords B minor, A, G and F sharp. In the last four measures, I play a soleá falseta of Niño Ricardo transposed from E to F sharp. Notice that all the slurs are on the first two notes of the triplet, and be sure to play the A sharp on the third string at the end of the third staff. Keep the notes ringing as much as possible when changing from one position to another.

(click here to listen to the audio file)
warm-up

Fret

I've been told that this exercise is based on something else written for classical guitar. Move the same pattern up the fretboard until your fretting-hand tires. The suggested fingering keeps the index, middle and ring fingers on the same strings as much as possible. Try to use rest strokes and move the index barre up the neck one fret at a time until you've had enough.

Fretting-hand exercise

Pluck

This exercise strengthens thumb, index and middle. Play everything in rest strokes, letting thumb and fingers come to rest on the following string, and alternate your index and middle fingers at all times. Keep your fingertips very close to the strings. This includes the thumb, because it is the base for all the other fingerstrokes and should not be subordinate to them. In this sense, the exercise can be simplified by playing a single bass note in each measure. The number 2 at the end of the first measure of the second staff indicates that you should fret with your middle finger.

(click here to listen to the audio file)
Tresillos

The same pattern in sixteenths:

Semicorcheas

Alzapúa

This exercise can also be used to work on arpeggios. Alzapúa is a thumb-only technique that basically consists of a single rest stroke followed by a downstroke and an upstroke that brush several strings in the process. There are variations on this mechanism, and many falsetas start with the downstroke. Click here for a study of this technique. To get started, rotate your forearm in a twisting motion, as if you were turning a key in a lock. Notice that the movement involves the rotation of two bones in your forearm. In order to apply this movement to alzap˙a, your hand has to be relaxed enough to feel the effect of centrifugal force in your fingers. When you've got the idea, give up the twisting movement and do as much of the work as you can with your thumb, keeping a finger on the first string.

When alzapúa is used for sixteenth notes, the ternary mechanism (plant-brush-brush) contrasts with the binary structure, creating the offset pattern seen below. Notice that in each measure, the planted thumbstroke happens at a different rhythmic moment: beat one, first and fourth notes; beat two, third note; beat three, second note. The exercise can be simplified by playing in triplets so that each planted thumbstroke falls on the beat.

(click here to listen)
Alzapúa

Scales

Diatonic | With slurs | Blues-pentatonic | Chromatic | Dim. 7th | Octave tritone

The following scales and arpeggios are based on patterns of 48 notes and the division of this number by its common denominators 2, 3, 4 and 6, which allows us to play each pattern in eighths, triplets, sixteenths and sextuplets, as seen below. Logically, the patterns can be reduced to just 12 notes, six ascending and six descending.

Eighth notes = 2 notes per beat x 3 beats x 8 measures = 48 notes

corcheas

Triplets = 3 notes per beat x 4 beats x 4 measures = 48 notes

tresillos

Sixteenths = 4 notes per beat x 3 beats x 4 measures = 48 notes

semicorcheas

Sextuplets = 6 notes per beat x 4 beats x 2 measures = 48 notes

seisillos

Using this arrangement, we can play the following patterns in triplets or sixteenths. In order to make the two rhythms clearer, you can accent the last beat in each measure, striking the note a little harder and following with a slight pause, for a rubato effect. The patterns are completely systematic, so you can concentrate fully on the rhythm, as the descent starts in the third measure in both triplets and sixteenths. You can reverse all of the patterns, playing them descending and then ascending.

Diatonic (E minor)

Changing notes creates different diatonic scales. For example, changing the C to C sharp will give you D major, using no sharps or flats yields C major, etc.

diatonic

Diatonic with slurs

As above, you can alter the notes of the scale.

diatónica ligada

Blues/pentatonic

You can apply this to the other "blues boxes" up the fretboard:

pentatónica

Chromatic

You can start at almost any fret on the sixth string:

cromática

Diminished 7th

You can add slurs (pull-offs) when there are three notes on one string (the first three, for example). Also, the descent can be fingered higher up on the fretboard.

disminuida séptima

Tritone octave

This can be played p-p-i. As with the preceding pattern, you can finger the descent from a higher position on the fretboard.

quinta bemol en octava

You have probably gathered by now that it is not too hard to apply this concept to many other patterns. Just play any interesting pattern in sixteenths or triplets over a three- or four-beat rhythm, respectively, changing direction when you reach the third measure. You might have to start the descent one note higher in the pattern in order to create a loop.

Picado

These exercices are designed to strengthen your picado technique, especially the movement of the fingers to a new string.

I recommend starting with Exercises 1 and 2 when you want to work on picado because the muted strings focus your attention on precise striking-hand technique. For Exercise 1, play eighth notes on each muted string, alternating your index and middle fingers and repeating the pattern in a loop. Make sure that you always alternate index and middle, use rest strokes and keep your thumb on one of the bass strings. Notice the difference between starting the pattern i-m and m-i and that it's awkward to move to a lower-pitched string with the middle finger (use rest strokes). When you can play the pattern quickly and starting with either finger, do the same with triplets, as seen in Exercise 2. If Exercise 3 is too difficult, you need to go back to Exercises 1 and 2 and look at the rest strokes.

muted picado

For Exercise 3, start the looped pattern with your index finger and notice that the new string always falls on the middle finger in the ascent and on the index in the descent. Now play the same pattern again, but start with your middle finger. It's probably going to feel very awkward, particularly in the descent, where it's very important to make use of rest strokes. Although we normally avoid the awkward fingering, there are parts of certain falsetas in which there is no other alternative. The rest of these exercises are meant to be played with the two fingerings (i-m, m-i) in order to concentrate on the way that the fingers "lie" on different sets of strings. Remember to keep your thumb on one of the bass strings.

Picado exercise 3

The descent is particularly difficult when using the awkward fingering. Exercise 4 loops the pattern in a way that repeats the same fingering for each new cycle, and Exercise 5 alternates the two fingerings.

Picado exercise 4
Picado exercise 5

Exercise 6 places the preceding pattern on different sets of strings. Each measure can be looped for practice on a particular set of strings.

Picado exercise 6

Exercise 7 distributes the same 12-note pattern in sixteenths (4x3=12, 3x4=12).

Picado exercise 7

Exercise 8 is a variation that is offset in such a way that every other beat is one note lower in the scale (beats 1, 3, 5, etc.) Of these exercises, this one is the best for working on the awkward fingering.

Picado exercise 8

You don't have to limit these patterns to the C major scale: with F sharp, it would be G major (granaínas); with B flat, it would be F major (por medio), etc.

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