The inventor of the Flamenco metronome tells …
The idea of the flamenco rhythm machine
Another "guitar style"
For me, playing Flamenco guitar was another “guitar style” of many in the early / mid-1970s. The main aim was to master this rattle (rasguedo) on the strings. Since this could not be mastered within a few weeks, I had to deal with this "guitar style" a little longer. If you take a closer look at this music, you quickly realize that the sweeping rhythms encourage you to rock your feet, but in many places and with many pieces, the rhythmic understanding is not sufficient to recognize a time signature. After the realization that flamenco is not just a rattle on the guitar, but also the singing and especially the dance is part of it, one notices when stepping deeper that there are many rhythms in addition to the straight (binary) rhythms with odd (ternary) time signatures. Only later did I notice that the time signatures also alternate - that is, they alternate.
If you want to play “Für Elise”, you don't really care about the time signature. You know the melody and possibly have the notes for it. This is exactly how I approached the first flamenco pieces. I just practiced and played tracks from phonograms and from the few sheet music editions that were available at the time.
When I accompanied a flamenco dancer for the first time, I tried to be in rhythm with her with my riffs and licks, which I already knew how to do. At this point in time, there could be no talk of “accompaniment”. “I can't dance to that,” she said. “Just play the rhythm passage that you play between your falsetas”. First of all, I didn't know what a “falseta” was and secondly, I thought, if that's enough for her, I'll play it that way. So - two chords over a rhythm that had the following accentuation:
1 - 2 - 3 | 1 - 2 - 3 | 1 - 2 | 1 - 2 | 1 - 2
Now she could dance, practice her steps and passages, and within a short time I felt like a machine that played the same thing over and over again. "You can of course vary a bit, then it won't be so boring," she said.
But I had to practice that first. So she did the hand clapping (Palmas) and I could practice with it. Now she was the machine. At home I then practiced with the metronome. But you could neither set the 3/4 time nor check when the 2 x 3/4 and 3 x 2/4 bars were through. My first idea was to count the bars using a metronome, i.e. speak out loud and record the whole thing with a cassette recorder. So these were my first crutches to learn to walk in Flamenco.
Even with the simplest folklore rhythms in 3/4 time, such as the Sevillanas (4-part couple dance from Seville), it is difficult for us Central Europeans to play the early chord change correctly right away. The Sevillanas, which for purists do not belong to Flamenco, are a good example of binary or ternary beat. Especially among the old Sevillanas there are some that are sung in 2/4 time and played in 3/4 time - or vice versa. This also explains the chord change on the 6th.
It gradually dawned on me what was meant by the mysterious word “Compás”. The so-called Flamenco pieces are assigned to a certain genre (Palo) and have a certain rhythm structure and are either dances, or songs, or both. If I accompany the dance, e.g. a waltz, I play any chord progression in 3/4 time. If a singer is singing, I have to follow his melody with my chords. If one of the actors omits a part of the beat, everything collapses or has to be compensated by the others, which is always annoying because the person responsible is either unable to keep the beat or has just practiced too little. Now the time signatures in flamenco, apart from the binary time signatures (i.e. 4/4, 2/4, 6/8), are a bit more complex because they alternate, as mentioned above - i.e. 2 x 3 and 3 x 2, respectively vice versa - it takes a little longer practice and also a control over whether the pattern of alternation is being adhered to.
There is also a simple pattern of time alternation in South Germany, Austria.
Compás - Compás - Compás.
Later, during my countless stays in Madrid, the compás (rhythm unit in a palo) was always a big topic, at least for us foreigners. The whole technique of the left and especially the right hand suddenly faded into the background. Dance students who were in the studios with Ciro, Maria Magdalena, La Tati had less of this problem, as they automatically learned the rhythm that was always involved in the footwork (zapateados). Our Spanish friends couldn't understand our problem at all. Especially not when we tried to count. For them the rhythm was just there - but they couldn't explain it. In the entire house of Amor de Dios 4, very few teachers were counted at this time. If so, then sometimes with adventurous ways of counting. So I still learned the Siguiriyas
1 • 2 • 3 • • 4 • • 5 •
That also gives 12 beats, but is not very helpful in didactic terms. Or the Bulerías, already in 12 mode, but starting on the unstressed 1:
With this example, or with the method of learning the Bulerías, many have failed. I as well. Both counting methods are simply wrong, as one begins on the unstressed 1 in the 12 and in the other the 6/8 time begins on an unstressed part.
A guitarist, I think it was the very young "El Bola" at the time, explained to me that the Bulerías weren't any more difficult than the Rumbas. He played me a rumba and went seamlessly into the Bulerías. I asked him if he could count - he couldn't. But his foot apparently kept going in 2/4 time. I later realized that he was changing from 2/4 to 3/4 time.
In the studios of the Amor de Dios * the guitarists who accompanied the class were asked if they could sit next to them so that they could “play along” a little with the strings muted. My Australian friend called it "muted strumming". Now you could play all sorts of palos hour after hour, often with different maestras, in different classes, or better said, you pretended to play along. At some point you dared to remove the foam damper on your guitar in order to play "properly". With the Cierres and Llamadas, however, they held back as a precaution. Outside in the corridors you could sit down to signal that you can accompany for dance. At first you did this for free because you were happy to be asked at all. But later you could ask for a few pesetas.
Now you went with the dancer to a studio that she had rented for an hour. Often there was a big discussion about whether the passage went like this, whether the Llamada was missed and of course it was always about the Compás. Logically, the dancers always chose the guitarists who were already compás-safe.
Outside of the studio, in the nearby guesthouse, or in the evening in the Candela*, we always talked about our beloved Flamenco, how long we were here and always about the tiresome topic: Compás. Everyone, no matter where they came from, had the problem. In order to practice the compás of the various palos, one always needs someone to control them. Because - an incorrectly rehearsed rhythm for hours could be devastating. It takes twice as long to iron out this mistake or to get it out of your head.
I can still remember the heated discussions that lasted for hours at the counter in the Candela*, where everyone revealed their own method and advice to always play the compas correctly.
Much was explained with 3/4 or 6/8 time. Some speak of a 12/8 time. Palos such as Alegrías, Soleá and Bulerías were ascribed to this. With the Bulerías, the opinions were divided. Something prevented me from understanding the whole thing, since the Soleá and the Alegría could start on the 1, but something was wrong with the Bulerías. The way of counting in the clock, starting on the 1, prevented me for years from correctly understanding the Bulerías. Now there were also the first sheet music editions in which this counting method was used.
Years later, after some long stays in Madrid, I came across Andrés Batista, not far from the Amor de Dios, in C / de la Libertad. He always talked about the "Reloj del Flamenco". A clock with the 12 at the point where the 12 is on a clock. And this is exactly where the Bulerías' first beat should be, i.e. the downbeat on 12, followed by 3, 6, 8 and 10.
Later, when I brought him to Flamenco Guitar Workshops in my hometown, he taught and explained the compás of all palos using this clock. At last you could get it right and everyone, including myself, loved Batista's flamenco clock. If there were now a pointer that would jump to the respective digits, one could actually see whether one was always correctly on the accents 12, 3, 6, 8, 10.
At the beginning of the 1980s, a large number of so-called drum computers came onto the market, i.e. machines that were supposed to replace a drummer. For the most part, they sounded stupid and were frowned upon for a long time because they sounded very machine-like. Many were of the opinion that you can't play with it. But those were the same ones who couldn't play to a click, to a metronome. Musicians like the world-famous drummer Phil Collins, who recorded his world hit "In the air tonight" with the Roland CR-78, then proved the opposite. I bought the TR-808 from Roland, which could also be programmed and used as a kind of sequencer. While working with this very complex device, I noticed that when it came to timing, I mostly used the LEDs as a guide. Especially when I was programming a flamenco rhythm, the flashing LEDs were a huge help.
With the specification of the flamenco clock and the continuous LEDs on the Roland TR-808 drum machine, I had the brilliant idea - to build such a device myself. It had to be a clock with running lights on the digits, combined with the click of a metronome.
I told an electrical engineer friend by the name of Ernst Neidhardt, who had been coming to my class in Schorndorf from Guenzburg in Swabia for years, about this idea. As he was aware of the problem, he was immediately enthusiastic and constructed a prototype within a short time. The next requirement was to pack this technology in a device that fit in the guitar case. I looked for a suitable housing and designed the front panel on the drawing board. Ernst laid out the template for the circuit board and after all the components had been procured, production could begin in the workshop of my guitar shop. In 1986, sales began. After a modified new edition in the nineties, in which a headphone or AUX connection and a socket for a power supply unit were implemented, Mundo-Flamenco (Flamenco guitar shop in Freiburg, Germany) took over the distribution.
Since the device was always handcrafted in Schorndorf and Guenzburg, the selling price was simply too high. At that time it cost 250 D-Marks. We couldn't do mass production because the demand was just too small.
When I started computer programming in the late 1990s, I developed software for Windows and later also for the Mac. This sealed the end of the analog device. Production was stopped in 1999. When the iPhone came up, I immediately set to work to program an app for it as well.
Amor de Dios
Donde Gades encontró a Carmen - Where Gades found Carmen.
The “Amor de Dios”, in the center of Madrid, was the hip dance studio in Madrid for 35 years, the “Mecca” for the entire flamenco dance scene in Spain. In the very old building in need of restoration on C / Amor de Dios, 4 dancers from all over the world learned from the absolute flamenco elite. Over the decades, Maria Magdalena, La Tati, Carmen Cortés, La China, Merche Esmeralda, Paco Romero, Tomás de Madrid, Manolete, Ciro, El Güito and Joséle and many others have taught there. Many productions and productions were also practiced in the various studios, at first the Spanish National Ballet even rehearsed in-house. In 1993, after a long back-and-forth, it was over after the long-time landlord and founder had the mirrors smashed in all studios. Today the studio is located under the same name on Calle de Santa Isabel 5, Madrid.
In 1983 Carlos Saura shot a scene at Amor de Dios that not only gave flamenco dance a real boom, but also revealed the existence and importance of this studio to the whole world. Antonio Gades comes to the Amor de Dios with Paco de Lucía to look for the protagonist of Carmen in the class of Maria Magdalena.
Scene from the film "Carmen"
Carlos Saura 1983
«El Candela era la referencia para todos los trasnochadores, y punto de encuentro obligado para cuantos artistas actuaban in Madrid. Era un sitio del que nadie quería marcharse ». (The Candela was the point of reference for all night owls and an obligatory meeting point for all artists performing in Madrid. It was a place that no one wanted to leave).
Miguel Aguilera created a "location" in the Spanish capital at the beginning of the 80s, which was visited by many famous flamenco figures in the following three decades. It is impossible to list all the artists who could be found in the Candela: Bernarda y Fernanda de Utrera, Camarón, Paco de Lucía, Mario Maya, El Güito, Sabicas, Joaquín Cortés, Sara Baras, Niña Pastori, Capullo de Jerez, Remedios Amaya , Rafael Riqueni, Tomatito. Great personalities from the non-flamenco world such as Pina Bausch, Rubén Blades, Sade, Compay Segundo, Pablo Milanés, Chick Corea and Alicia Keys also visited the Candela.
In the adjoining building, many artists rehearsed with their groups that later became very famous. The legendary Mario Pacheco - producer of Nuevos Medios, the label of "Flamenco Nuevo" - discovered many talents there, including Ketama, Gerardo Núñez, Juan Manuel Cañizares etc.
Every evening they met at the Candela. No matter if professional, alumnos, aficionados - everyone: r was welcome - after class, before or after work.
There is no better way to express it than Alejandro Luque *) - here in the original: «Bajando por aquella escalera estrecha hasta el reducto del talento compartido en la intimidad, donde los artistas siempre estaban a gusto y la ausencia de ventanas abolía el tiempo. En la cueva sabías a qué hora y qué día entrabas, pero no cuándo salías »
Well, our folk music in German-speaking countries has nothing to do with Andalusian folk art. But they have one thing in common: Alternating time signatures. The double consists of an alternating 3/4 and 2/4 time. The main distribution area of the Zwiefachen is Lower Bavaria, the Upper Palatinate and Middle Franconia. But it is also known in the Black Forest, Alsace, the Czech Republic and the Sudetenland.
© Copyright 1995 - · Gerhard Graf-Martinez