Archive for the ‘flamenco’ Category

All of the hours that I’ve spent practicing recently are starting to pay off. I can hear a real difference in the strength and clarity of my playing over just a month or so ago. My tremelo, in particular, has gotten stronger and cleaner. Some of that is due to changes I’ve made in my right hand nails.

I’m still fiddling with my nails to find just the right compromises in length and shape to support both classical guitar tone production and make flamenco rasgueos punchy. It’s a bit tricky, but I’m almost to a solution that minimizes string click in very precise nail/flesh techniques like tremelo (in which I need to have my nails fairly short and place my fingertip with a combination of flesh and nail on the string) and still leaves enough nail length for decent rasgueos. I have not been able to find a way to use longer nails for tremelo – as in a nail only technique – and still maintain the tone quality I want.

One major improvement is that I’ve gotten better at getting the acrylic nails to stay on and minimize the separation between the natural nail and the acrylic overlay. What seems to work best for me is to do the fills on a weekly basis. Over the course of a week, no matter how carefully I prepare my nails, I get some separation between the nail and the acrylic. I now suspect this has more to do with skin oils, showers, and doing dishes, than my previous theories of poorly prepared pytergium and Dremel overuse.

The nail doesn’t grow out all that much in a week, but by carefully grinding back a small amount of acrylic near the base of my nails, I can get beyond the area that has separated. Then, I fill just as I would normally. If I go longer than a week, the separated area gets to be too large and I risk having the nail tear or the acrylic part pop off from additional water getting into the gap.

I did not have good luck with trying to lift the edge of the nail and glue it back down with epoxy. It’s hard to make enough of a gap to get the glue in without further damaging the underlying natural nail, and I’m concerned that it might lead to potential hygiene problems as well. I could never be sure if the gap was adequately dried and disinfected before gluing, and felt it might lead to nail fungus problems.

On the down side of my recent modifications, it is tricky to grind that small of an area back without occasionally nicking your cuticle or nail bed with the Dremel. You need to very careful and really take your time to take it down gradually. Good lighting is a must, and for all of us geezer guitarists, magnifying lenses are quite handy.

One other refinement to my nail routine is that I have changed which grinding bit I use on my nails. I started out using a small, fine-grain tapered bit, but with experience and confidence have gone to a larger, coarser, cylindrical bit. The larger bit lets me take down the acrylic layer faster and cover a larger area when doing the final shaping which leads to a smoother finish over the surface of the nail. When I started out, it would have been too hard for me to control the larger bit, but now it minimizes the time spent and the heat buildup on both the nail (another potential source of separation) and the tool.

After several months of tinkering with my nail routine, I finally have an SOP (standard operating procedure)! Hopefully, this will provide some ideas for those of you who have commented on your own nail trials and tribulations on previous “Guitar Nails” posts.


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I am now a music teacher at Gilbert Music in Gilbert, Arizona.  Talk about timing – they did need another instructor, as their one classical guitar teacher is one slot shy of a full schedule.  In I walk, resume in hand…

I’ve been busy today getting all of my ducks in a row for a major promotional push. I got a local cell phone number this morning, my updated business cards are getting printed this afternoon, and I’m revamping my teaching methods and materials in light of my “Guitar Scale Meltdown” of several months ago. About all that’s left to do is get my flyer together (tonight’s big project) and then it’s pound the streets distributing them.

These days I’m practicing Christmas songs, my flamenco lesson materials, and some tunes for a new recording.  I’m back in contact with the sound engineer I worked with on the “Romanza” CD and ready to take a tour of his new studio (to me, anyway – he’s been there for several years) in another week in preparation to doing some recording in January.

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My more usual optimism has returned this evening, leaving the melancholy of midday to fade away into memory. As I drove to Flagstaff to have dinner with my friend Margie, I realized how reclusive I have become the last few months – two trips to Flag in a week feels positively extraverted. Between the novel edit and the intense effort on developing the Drupal-based websites, I’ve spent many, many hours at the keyboard lately. Despite Elmo the Wonder Cat’s attentions, I was in real need of human contact.

I realized some other things today, too. As one of my correctives to the earlier mood, I looked back some more over the last year and thought of all that has happened. It wasn’t so much a “count your blessings” sort of thing, though that was part of it. It was more of an evaluation, an assessment of how far I’ve come, in an effort to have more perspective on how far I have yet to go. I’ve been so busy projecting into the future and seeing how far I had to go to reach my goals that I was a little overwhelmed. The glance behind gave me a much needed shift in point of view.

Wow! A year ago I weighed 37 pounds more than I do now (down another pound this morning, in fact) and I still had several areas of complete numbness on my right leg and foot. Today, there’s only one little spot left on my big toe and even that has some feeling that has come back. I still have to work around the residual nerve damage at times, but it gradually continues to improve.

A year ago I had a regular job that I enjoyed and which paid alright. It only used a fraction of my skills, however, and would prove to be short-lived. Today, I work for myself. That demands every bit of skill and knowledge I have to grow my business. It’s fun, exciting, worrisome at times, and definitely a challenge. By the hourly rate, it’s great compared to my job a year ago. Now I just have to get more hours…

A year ago, I was into the fourth week of the beginning flamenco dance class at Coconino Community College and having a blast. I’d just been down to Tlaquepaque to see Mosaico Flamenco perform; I came back all enthused and determined to study guitar again. This past Friday, I accompanied the class for the first time, using what I’ve learned in taking guitar lessons from Gaetano, the lead guitarist of Mosaico. I had some trouble keeping the Sevillanas even at the slow speed and I’ve got quite a ways to go before I will feel comfortable accompanying the baile, but it’s a start and something I had no idea would come out of signing up for a dance class. I’ve gotten my guitar dreams back and even had a couple of performances in the last few months.

A year ago, I had a bunch of scenes strung together in a somewhat confused and disjointed screenplay and no idea what to do with, about, or to it. Today, I have a novel written and the first few chapters out to an online critique group. I’ve received some encouraging feedback and concluded that it’s less than half bad. The hours and outlines and preliminary writing on the other novels in the series start to look like a semi-reasonable investment as opposed to an insane waste of time.

A year ago, I never would have guessed at all that has happened since. As I look ahead to my move and all the uncertainties of the coming year, reason tells me that I am in the same position once again. Who knows what the year ahead will bring? After seeing how far I’ve come in the past year, the distance ahead doesn’t look that far after all.

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Things are starting to take shape over at Flamencophile.com, even though I didn’t get the header graphic done today as planned. I got sidetracked into web usability and accessibility issues, which was fine. Better to work on that than the eye-candy right now anyway.

One tool that I like to use is Vischeck. It lets a web developer check how their pages look to someone with a deficiency in color vision. The tool has less than perfect support for CSS at the moment, but it is great for checking graphics and the developers are continuing to move the project forward.

They’ve also included an “About” page full of great links to research and information on color-blindness, and accessibility design in general. With one in twenty viewers having some form of color vision deficiency, it’s worth taking the time to Vischeck.

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This just in from Yumi and I figured I’d post it here since Flamencophile isn’t scheduled for public release until the end of the month:

Flamenco Show at Pepin Restaurant
September 1, 15, 29
Saturdays: 7:15 and 8:45 p.m.
Pepin Restaurant
7363 Scottsdale Mall
Reservations: 480-990-9026
Info: www.pepinrestaurant.com

Discover why Scottsdale’s oldest Flamenco Venue is still around. The restaurant offers great Spanish food (not Mexican). Flamenco Pasión (Jon Newton- guitar, Javier Hernandez- singer, and various Dancers) performs every Friday and Saturday in an intimate setting.

Flamenco Spirits at the Hyatt Scottsdale
September 1, 8, 14, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29
Tuesdays: 9 and 10 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays: 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Hyatt Scottsdale Resort
7500 E. Doubletree Ranch, Scottsdale, AZ 85258
Info: Scottsdale Hyatt, Gainey Ranch

Mosaico Flamenco (Gaetano, Monte Perrault, Max Perrault, Simon Aimes, Emerson Laffy, Ioannis Goudelis and various dancers) has been performing at the Hyatt Scottsdale Resort since August of 2000. Yumi’s performance dates are shown above, but Mosaico plays flamenco music and dance every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday at the above times. Staccato footwork, soaring voices and amazing musicians harmonize in an elegant setting. Feel the power!!

Flamenco Show at the Kazimierz World Wine Bar
September 2 and 16
Sundays: 10:15 and 11:15 p.m.
Kazimierz World Wine Bar
7137 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale
Reservations: 480-946-3004
Info: www.kazbar.net

Chris Burton Jacome Flamenco Ensemble is performing at the Kaz every Sunday in September. As soon as you step in to the bar, you will be transported to a old wine cave/cellar. It is truly a unique place to go and enjoy great food, wine, and entertainment. ¡Que mas quiere!

More on Yumi La Rosa at yumilarosa.com, including some great photos, instruction information, and more flamenco links.

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As I walked across the cobblestoned parking area shaded by tall sycamores, I could hear rasgueados on flamenco guitars and the punctuated taconeo of a bailora’s dance floating out of the Patio del Norte.

September 8, 2007 was the 34th annual “Fiesta del Tlaquepaque” (pronounced: “ta – lockee – pockee”) which celebrates Mexican Independence Day with art, music, dance, and food of Mexico and the Southwest. There were musicians and dancers scattered throughout the maze of fine art galleries, courtyards, and shops, that makes the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village in Sedona, Arizona such a popular destination. Less than an hour’s drive from Flagstaff down the scenic switchbacks of Oak Creek Canyon to hear flamenco…hey, life is good.

Yumi La Rosa at Tlaquepaque I headed straight for where I could hear Mosaico Flamenco playing. (Full disclosure: I take guitar lessons from Gaetano and dance instruction from Yumi La Rosa, so don’t expect an impartial review here – I’m definitely a fan.) The monsoon clouds gathering along the Mogollon Rim were out of sight within the high, stuccoed walls of the rectangular courtyard.

Blazing blue above, bright white surround topped by red tile – my overall impression was of vibrant, sunlit color. Striped serapes hung from the balconies and the walls of the patio and from the poles of the canopy over the band. The dancers and musicians wore red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple…

Flamenco Music and Dance at Tlaquepaque, Sedona, Arizona

The beat and energy of the music was infectious. There’s no doubt that these guys play together often and they like what they do. They were having fun, so were the dancers, and so was the audience. There was even a little girl of about three who liked it so much she joined in right down in front of the stage.

Amusing Antics by Gaetano

The musical selections ranged from the familiar Gipsy Kings rumba “Bamboleo,” to a traditional Guajiras in which dancers Yumi La Rosa and Lolita used fans, to a Mosaico original, Gaetano’s “Ven, Ven Gitanita.” One of the real crowd pleasers was another Mosaico original, Max Perrault’s “Beautiful,” which featured Max on the flute.


Guajiras with Yumi and Lolita Guajiras with Yumi and Lolita Lolita Dances Guajiras
Lolita Dances Guajiras Lolita Dances Guajiras Lolita Dances Guajiras

But the best was yet to come…Angelina Ramirez stole the show with her energy and intensity in a Tientos por Tangos.

Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos
Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos

During the performance the clouds continued to build, and the first few drops of rain spattered the courtyard just as the show was ending.

It was fun and a great show, as always. I also had the good fortune to meet another middle-aged flamenco fan who struck up a conversation with me. Her take on it all:

“I was so totally captivated by the vitality and energy of the music and the artistry of the performers that I found myself sitting through two sets of their performance when I had no intention of spending more than a half hour walking through Tlaquepaque.” ~ A. Lee

Mosaico Flamenco plays in the lobby of the Hyatt Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale three times a week and features dancers Yumi la Rosa, Angelina Ramirez, and others. (related post)

Mosaico’s band members are:

Gaetano – Guitar and Vocals
Monte Perrault – Guitar
Max Perrault – Flute and Percussion
Simon Ames – Bass
Emerson Laffey – Drums and Percussion
Ioannis Goudelis – Piano

Also: Allan Ames – Violin, Mario Mendivil – Bass, Eric Zang – Percussion


Yumi La Rosa
Angelina Ramirez
And others…

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Rasgueado Redux


In the several posts I’ve done in the last week on guitar technique, I’ve purposely avoided mentioning rasgueados. I am not including those in my 30 minute technical program, as they are not maintenance activities for me at this point, but a major focus of development.

I’m trying to get in a minimum of least fifteen minutes a day on flamenco strums, and much more when I can. I’d like to get to the point where I was spending 30 minutes a day on just rasgueos, but that may just be the old way of thinking, of obsessing on progress and perfection. I’m getting fairly good results when I do at least 15 minutes consistently.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much time I’m getting in each day on various rasgueos. I tend to grab the guitar as I walk by the guitar corner, do five to ten minutes, or just play until my forearm gets tired. Some days I may do that once or twice, some days, four or five times or more.

In the spirit of the rest of my deconstruction process: I have been taking each rasgueo apart and breaking it down into its simplest elements, being very careful to keep my timing and accents correct. Slow, loud, one finger at a time. I’m finally starting to see some results from that effort. Last night I was working on a five stroke rasgueo – thumb up; a, m, and i down; thumb up – and it finally had evenness and power to it. That was fun!

Of Compás and Contratiempos

Then I got cocky and thought I’d carry that success over into working on some contra-tiempos, using foot taps, tongue clicks, and handclaps. It was one of the most ridiculous looking/sounding things I’ve ever done. I could do any two in combination, but every time I put in the third one, no matter how slow I went, the whole thing fell apart. Pretty funny, actually. Elmo sat in the middle of the living room and stared at me, probably because I kept making so much noise. That or the way I kept laughing maniacally. I can do counterpalmas if I stand and use my feet, doing “right foot planta, tacon; left foot planta, tacon” but if I sit down like a guitarist and just use one foot, forget it.

So, I now have a new task for my nightly practice – five to ten minutes of seated countertimes, until I get them up to the same level as the basic compás structures I have been working on. Those are not great, but they are passable and are gradually improving, and at least they don’t crash and burn like the contratiempos!

Guitar Nails

The good news on the “guitar nails” front is that I haven’t lost a nail in two weeks. The new method of multiple, thin layers seems to be working quite well. More care in preparing the ptergyium seems to be doing the trick.

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