Ravenna Flamenco

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Sevillana in E Phrygian

difficulty ★★☆☆☆

Another arrangement of a traditional sevillanas, this one a bit on the dark and moody side. The melody here is pretty typical of sevillanas, but you’ll notice that it is played on the bass strings – and that the harmony is played on the trebles. This allows it to have a "more full" sound, but still stay low and moody. As always, pay attention to the compás – it is accented in the notation.

This particular transcription gives a couple variations of common rasgueado patterns for sevillana. The pattern in bars 2-5 of the introduction is the standard sevillana rhythm. You should be familiar with this (and with where the chord changes fall within it – see bars 2 and 4), but you should also feel free to vary it (even if only for the sake of your sanity).

One possible variation is written into the first bar of the tercio (bar 11). Pay close attention, though, to the accent: it is common in flamenco for the last beat in a quadruplet or quintuplet group to be the accent beat (as in the opening measure of this piece), but here the accent comes on the first note in the group. This means that you’ll be playing it with your pinky finger. For most of us, the pinky finger is the weakest finger, rasgueado-wise, so be sure to really dig in here otherwise your compás may start to go flat.

The other relatively tricky passage in this piece involves the harmony (played on the treble strings) mentioned above. The transition from bar 17 to bar 18 (the 7th and 8th bars of the tercio) requires you to jump from fretting your pinky finger on the fifth (A) string, fourth fret (C#) to fretting your ring finger on the second (B) string, third fret (D) (this is the way I play it, anyway).

I found that it was hard to make this jump without a gap in the melody and that, playing it "straight," my ring finger’s placement on the 2nd string usually wasn’t all that great. I like to try to keep my fingers curved on the fretboard whenever possible – it’s more comfortable, feels better, and is a stronger left hand position to be in – and trying to go directly between these two notes usually put my ring finger in a "bent back" position.

The solution I came up with for this shift is to put my ring finger down on the second string during the D (open string) that’s played on the second beat of bar 17 – one note before the C#. This way I can play the C# – an easy reach for the pinky – and then the high D is already fretted: I just have to hit the string.

This is, of course, just a simple exercise in thinking ahead. Fretting a note two beats before you have to play it can be a little counterintuitive (particularly when it’s not otherwise part of a standard chord form), but in this case it makes for a smoother transition and an easier and more confident rendering of the melody.

tags: phrygian
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