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on October 27, 2010
Mr Koster -- a New Yorker -- is (like myself) a former pupil of Mario Escudero, and since 1965 has had a lengthy career of concerts, broadcasts and teaching in the United States, Spain and Japan.
The present work, along with Volumes 2 & 3, was previously published by AIG Music. The author has taught from it for several years, but in this form it is now out of print. With its republication by Mel Bay, Mr Koster has (he tells me) taken the opportunity of correcting various misprints, revising the text (including the restoration of some passages deleted by the previous publishers), and adding fingerings and fingerboard diagrams. (The last-named are especially helpful in showing when particular chord-shapes should be held.)
Like many other Flamenco guitar methods, this one assumes a basic grounding in finger-style guitar (of the order of one to two years' playing). All the examples are presented in staff-notation and tablature; I suppose one could in theory manage by copying the timing from the accompanying CD, but the ability to read would be a definite plus.
After enthusiastic forewords from Pepe Romero and Eliot Fisk come explanations of the notation, plus notes on the guitar, playing position, fingernails and the cejilla (capo). The tutor proper then explains compás and rasgueado, and passes from easy strumming patterns in the forms farruca, soleares, alegrías and tangos, to rasgueado versions of the same.
We then move to simple thumb and arpeggio falsetas, along with explanations of the different sections of a flamenco composition (llamada, escobilla, etc.). Other rhythms covered include verdiales, rosas, siguiriyas and bulerías, with examples drawn from the simpler falsetas of Sabicas, Mario, Ricardo, Diego del Gastor and Lucía. Further techniques described include the golpe (tap) and alzapúa (strumming with the thumb).
Towards the end there are some intelligent notes on the vexed question of how best to notate bulerías (to start on beat 1 or on beat 12, that is the question).
The accompanying CD is properly treated as a didactic aid rather than as a recital. The playing is clean and accurate, at appropriate speeds (both slow and fast), and with interpolated comments as required.
But above all, simple though they are, the examples all sound like real Flamenco.
The most obvious improvement over the old edition is the nice photo of the author on the cover of the new one. But the thing that impressed me most was the exhaustive thoroughness of the fingerings, for both right and left hands -- nothing has been left to chance. In addition, the compás count is indicated for most of the pieces.
The old version was, however, spiral bound to open flat, which the new one is not. Still, I was able to flatten it with a minimum of brute force.
If most of the above terms are gibberish to you -- as they may well be, if you're a beginner to Flamenco and thus in the market for this book -- don't worry. This is an excellent introduction to the flamenco guitar. I particularly like the fact that the aims of the book -- and with them its size and cost -- have been kept modest, while still establishing a firm and thorough foundation to be built on in the subsequent volumes.
If you're a teacher of classical guitar then, and your students express an interest in learning the basics of Flamenco, this would be a fine starting point.