Flamenco Accompaniment: Everything Else
We began this series with some general guidelines and tips for helping you navigate the social space of recreational flamenco dance. We then looked at the most structured flamenco form (Sevillana) in detail and learned how to recognize and work within the parts (especially those that are important for dancers). In part 3 we added some complexity with a less rigorously structured form, Alegría, and then moved in part 4 into a palo that has no "standard" structure, the Soleá.
In the process, you learned to how to begin and set the temple for these different forms, how to recognize and play coplas (verses), and how to integrate falsetas naturally into an arrangement. You also learned how to recognize and play specific dance accompaniment parts like llamadas, subidas, desplantes, redoblados, castellanas, and escobillas. We discussed throughout how you can interpret each of theses pieces to best suit an original arrangement – either for a dancer or for solo guitar.
Now you might be wondering, how could one last article possibly prepare you to accompany "everything else" in the incredibly diverse and nuanced world of flamenco? It can’t, of course. But: you should find that, having spent some time with this series, you’ve got a set of tools at your disposal that equips you to venture out into the wide world of flamenco with a bit more confidence. You’ve seen how to listen for and interpret the underlying song structures that dancers count on to build their performances.
Now it’s just a matter of applyng these principles to other palos.
I won’t claim that this is an entirely trivial task – but it’s also likely not as hard as you think. Let’s look at a few examples.
Here’s a Tangos accompaniment I performed with Zamani Flamenco. Notice at minute 1:05 the use of chords to fill out the passages of marking compás and falseta. This is a "standard" progression one might use to accompany traditional letras. Tangos coplas, being por medio (A phrygian), tend to move through a progression of Dm, C, Bb, and A. You can also add some embellishment (as I do with alzapúa here), or passing chords to make a more complex progression: Dm, G7 to C, Fm7 to B, and Gm7 to A (you can hear this at minute 4:00).
This same progression is also common in other por-medio forms, such as buleria. You can hear it below at minute 1:13.
As you might suspect, you wouldn’t want to just drop a chord progression into an arrangement willy-nilly. It’s important to pay attention to the song’s overall structure. You’ll get a sense of this by listening to canté accompaniment and noticing how the letras come in – and how the guitar paves the way for them.
You’ll also notice the desplante at the end of the passage above at minute 1:25 (it’s related to the displante we saw in the discussion on soleá). This is how the dancer wraps up her phrase and transitions to her next piece of footwork, so it’s important to account for that in how you structure your music.
Fandangos de Huleva
The same basic principle – listen and interpret – applies as you play por arriba. In this fandangos do huelva, for instance, I’ve used the song’s basic structure and a common canté chord progression to build out a dance accompaniment. The progresseion here is E7, C, G7, C, G7, C, then Am, G, F and back to E. You hear it the first time starting at minute 0:36.
You’ll notice that in this example I don’t just move through the chords, but "hang out" on and between certain chords. This emulates how I might move through these chords when accompanying a singer – which, in this case, I can use to create more variety for my dance accompaniment.
The last example we’ll look at builds on the idea of blending marking compás, falsetas, and chord movement, this time in a major key. The chords I use at 1:50 are similar to how I might accompany a singer, but aren’t an exact translation. In this case my goal was to emulate the feel of the copla, but not copy it direclty, so I used the cante accompaniment chords as a starting point, and let the progression build up and resolve on its own.
This particular Guajira arrangement is one I’ve adapted for solo guitar. Do check out the tab and accompanying video to see what’s going on here note-for-note.
And Now Go Play!
Hopefully by now you’re eager to find a dancer (or three), take apart some of your favorite songs, and then put them back together again into accompaniments of your own. You’ll surely make mistakes along the way – and will surely encounter people who will tell you "you’re doing it wrong" – but keep your ears and eyes open, look for as many examples as you can find, and don’t be afraid to experiment and none of that should matter.
In any case, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’ve met the most important requirement of all.