Easy Flamenco Guitar
Several years ago, I received a call for a gig at a restaurant where I was to play flamenco guitar for diners. Did I know any actual pieces in that style? Nope! Who wants to memorize all that stuff, when you can just fake it? Kidding – sort of :). Here are some secrets to playing easy Flamenco guitar.
Now, to be clear, I’m not about to teach you to play authentic flamenco guitar . I’m going to teach you some tricks to help you sound flamenco-y enough to fool most people, and have a lot of fun along the way.
C Major/E Phrygian scale – E F G A B C D
The main idea that we’ll be working on is that we’ll be playing notes from the 3rd mode of the C major scale – E Phrygian. If you don’t know anything about all that, that’s fine – we’ll work around it. Another way of saying that is that we’ll play the notes from the C major scale – which are simply all the notes without sharps or flats (C D E F G A B), and play a lot more E notes than C notes. Playing more E notes than C notes will solidify the sound we’re looking for.
Open string magic
In addition to playing the C major scale (C D E F G A B) anywhere on the guitar, we’ll combine that with the 2 open E strings (6 and 1), and the open B string (2). We’re going to add these 3 open strings because they make up 2/3rd’s of an E major or E minor chord (the 1st (E) and the 5th (B)). This will help us achieve the sound of the E Phrygian mode.
E – F secret sauce
The third idea is to play many E – F – E chord progressions. If anyone listening has any doubt that you’re playing flamenco guitar, this should settle it for them. On to some actual notes!
In the tab below, I’ve combined the E Phrygian scale on both the 3rd and 4th strings. The notes will either be on frets that are right next to each other, or 2 frets apart. When they’re next to each other, use your 1st and 2nd fingers. When they’re 2 frets apart, use your 1st and 3rd fingers. If you’ve been playing for a little while, this may be obvious to you.
When you combine the 3rd and 4th strings with the open 1st and 2nd strings, things start to come together. This idea sounds really nice if you arpeggiate each chord. “Arpeggiate” simply means to play the strings one at a time, instead of strumming it like a chord. For starters, play the strings in this order – 4-3-2-1. As you get more comfortable, you can vary the order of the strings for different effects.
If you’d like to explore this idea on the other strings (a longer term project), here’s a fretboard diagram of E Phrygian (remember, that means the C major scale) all over the guitar neck.
Video coming soon!
Check out pt 2 of this article – Easy flamenco guitar pt 2
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