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Playing for dancers

In summary, the traditional steps to learn how to successfully accompany are these:

Find a guitar teacher who accompanies dancers and learn some basic rhythm chord sequences of the main dance forms. This usually involves regular and ongoing private lessons.
Sit with this guitarist as he plays in classes and at dance rehearsals. The main guitarist usually uses an amplifier so the student can practice quietly in the background with muffled strings. Recording lessons and classes is also useful.
The student provides simple accompaniment as second guitarist in dance classes. He will also play on his own for beginners classes and plays basic rhythms sequences to things like Sevillanas, Soleá and Alegria.
The student sits with the main guitarist on stage and supplies basic second guitar rhythm accompaniment.
The student plays on his own in more classes and rehearses with students and goes into the field doing performances in cafes, private parties and other gigs. Eventually he is called upon to play on his own in more advanced dance classes and to create suitable music for dance choreographies
Through this process, he learns as much as he can from recordings, books and videos. The best CDs to learn accompaniment from is those that highlight singers and also those that feature live dance performances where the steps are audible. I shamelessly say "he" rather than the more politically correct "he or she" because I have only met two female flamenco guitarists in my life. Both of these preferred to remain low key regarding performances. To my knowledge female guitarists are rare even in Spain.

All this could take about a year, but it is a most satisfying experience and you end up walking away with all you need to arrange half decent dance accompaniments in the privacy of your own home with no dancers in sight. But even so, the results will still need to be tested, and usually further customized to suit the individual dancer. Serious dancers don't usually dance to "off the shelf" music. This may happen in some dance schools that use tapes and CDs in class, but I would not send anyone to learn dance in one of these schools.


Most "serious" dancers prefer to play a part in it's development.

I probably haven't helped you that much. I just wanted to emphasize that fact that flamenco is about interaction with others. You can't do it on your own. I dare say that anyone who has been actively involved in performing flamenco will tell you the same thing. Despite what I say, my hope is that you will go ahead and create some arrangements anyway and try them out with dancers. The bottom line is that music and dance are personal expressions that need not be necessarily limited to traditional rules. I worked with one dancer who had a background in modern jazz style dance. She liked to freely improvise flamenco steps without any regard to specific compás. That was fine by me. We both knew the "rules" but for a bit of fun, we sometimes made a conscious decision to disregard them. In other words, I could play any style of music (classical, ragtime or whatever) and she was happy to dance to it. That was kind of liberating but we both knew it wasn't flamenco. We just enjoyed what we did.

With kind regards,

Sal Bonavita



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Rafael Marin - Free flamenco guitar method 
Rafael Marin
Flamenco guitar method 1902