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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 27, 2010

The comments on presentation I made in my review of Volume 1 of this Method apply equally well to Volume 2, so I shall not repeat them.


The preliminary explanation of signs is missing from Volume 2. I presume that anyone buying Volume 2 is expected to have obtained the other first -- which is borne out by the fact that the examples for both volumes are contained on the CD that comes with Volume 1.

Techniques addressed include arpeggios, tremolo, picado and alzapúa. As before, the coverage is detailed and thorough; in particular, Lucía's technique of playing picado from the middle joint of the finger (rather than the large joint) is described: "If it is played differently -- it's just not Flamenco" (tell it to Sabicas).

The music is supplied throughout in both staff notation, and tablature with time values. I did find a few fairly self-evident misprints, e.g. the arrow directions in the Alzapúa III exercise (p.59) are wrong, although correct in the previous one. Triplet is once confused with triad (p.57).

The sole place I found the text confusing was in the description of bulerías rhythm (p.39). To quote:

"Many players count


[Accents on beats 3-6-8-10-12: no easy way to represent this in straight ASCII (PM)]

which you will also find in most guitar methods. Someone invented this way of counting a long time ago, and many others just copied it without questioning it. It is not really wrong, but it isn't the best way either, because on the one hand, most coplas and falsetas don't start on the 1 [...] It is much easier to start on the accented 12 and to notate the whole the whole thing with alternating time signatures."

This gives the impression that the stated way of counting was invented by some long-forgotten flamenco loony; but of course, it is, and as far as anyone knows has always been, the standard and logical way of counting soleares. The explanation given obscures the vital connection between the two rhythms.

In point of fact, it is bulerías that were invented by a loony -- specifically, by the 19th-century singer El Loco Mateo (according to legend), as a way of finishing his soleares.

It may indeed be "much easier to start on the accented 12". But the example in the book labels beat 12 as beat 1, which I have never heard a flamenco do. I've found it useful to tell people that they should regard the numbers as the names of the beats, so that beat 12 is still beat 12 even if it is first. The author does indeed switch back to conventional numbering later).

It's true, too, that "most coplas and falsetas don't start on the 1", but some do: and some start on beat nine-and-a-half!

In short, while it may be best on balance to notate starting on beat 12, the rationale given is suspect, and it has disadvantages as well as advantages.

The book continues with full-fledged versions of soleá, alegrías, bulerías, tarantas and tangos. They have the advantage of being attractive and very flamenco-sounding, but still within reach of students with only moderate technique. Next there is a catalogue of styles, including some pretty obscure ones, with a few brief musical examples. Finally, there is a short history of Flamenco, from antiquity to the present day, and a bibliography. The history is well-written and not just a regurgitation of other accounts; although I was a trifle startled to learn (p.122) that:

"The Thirty Years' War, the Spanish wars of succession, the War of Independence started by Napoleon, the Civil war under FRANCO and the transition to democracy in 1976 were of no cultural importance, compared with the former history of the country."


As previously mentioned, the English throughout both books is generally very good, the use of German-style quotation marks being trivial. However, there may well be those interested in Flamenco -- especially classical guitarists -- who as yet speak no Spanish, and so I feel obliged to quibble over the use of Spanish terms where accepted English ones exist: in particular, the consistent use of Spanish note-names, and terms like modo dórico for Phrygian mode.

This said, the author's explanations, both visual and textual, are very clear. However, I have several reservations about what is not explained. What they boil down to is that this is, by itself, nowhere near an adequate flamenco guitar method. The omissions are understandable: the size and price would be quadrupled if all the relevant material were to be described in the same detail.

If the title were "Modern Flamenco Guitar Technique", then these two books and DVDs would fulfill their function very admirably, and on that basis I recommend them.
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