17 Flamenco Etudes by Jose Luis de la Paz

Youtube Playlist of all etudes here: https://youtu.be/6BkO8F7Mv6g

Etude no.1
- C shape speed bursts (Difficulty level - 3-6)

This is an etude designed to take one of the most recognizable scale shapes and move it chromatically up the neck while employing speed bursts. Based off of the CAGED system where each chord has a scale built around it and is used as a roadmap for improvisation and scale practice. One thing to notice in this exercise is the hemiola rhythm (time signature change from 4/4 to 3/4, and the last one from 3/4 - 2/4, back to 3/4). As he progresses through the etude you will notice that he speeds things up and there are a few "next level" speed bursts mainly the 32nd notes in measure 8. The trick with this etude is to keep your tempo constant while playing the different subdivisions and make sure to switch your focus from your right hand back and forth to your left hand to make sure things are syncing up properly. Hopefully this etude will give you your own ideas of how to take the C shape scale and create your own subdivisions and speed bursts!

Etude no.2 - Picadillo (Difficulty level 3-? )

This is one of the studies that molded Jose's hands into becoming one of the best Flamenco players in the world. He practiced for hours as a child this exact study and you get an idea of what it did for him when he speeds things up towards the end of the study. The first thing to watch for is the hemiola rhythms (changing time signatures) throughout the piece. The second thing would be to work out what right hand fingering you're going to use. Which brings up the topic that many guitarists struggle with- "strict alternation versus slip finger"??? Well, let's break down the difference:

"Strict Alternation" would lead to a different finger starting the group of 6 because of the slur. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage would be gaining familiarity and stability starting the group with either finger. The disadvantage of strict alternation would really depend on your i,m finger length and what your comfortable doing. And ultimately I doubt you will ever be able to play it as fast as Jose does with strict alternation.

The Slip Finger" method is based upon the idea of pulling the finger back and playing the string below hence repeating whichever finger you slip. It is a technique that for many is a no-no and is not really taught in many schools as well as something that is a personal choice dependent upon the player. Many guitarists who pick up the guitar without consulting a teacher to begin with have the tendency to develop this technique naturally. However, this is one of those techniques where you should make a conscious decision to employ rather than it just be the way you play your descending scales. Many students have spent years in trying to undo this technique once it is ingrained. It can be a hinderance but like I said earlier, if you make the conscious decision to employ it combined with alternation it can be a great tool.

So now that you know the difference between these two techniques, let's break down how he employs the Slip Finger. Essentially every time he goes from the 2nd string to the 3rd string he slips with the index. He also slips the 1st string to 2nd string but not all the time. Sometimes he uses strict alternation on 1st and 2nd strings but always slips to the 3rd string. I don't think he really thinks about it to be honest. He's so comfortable with this etude that he doesn't have to get caught up in the technical portion. Which is why he is a master, he doesn't have to think about what he plays, he just wills it to happen however he wants. We can all aspire to this I think!

Etude no.3 - Picado Cmajor/Cminor (Difficulty level 3)

This étude is not only fun to play, it is also nice on the ears. Rather than playing chromatic stuff that will drive your family crazy, this one will get stuck in your head and everyone else's! The main thing with this one is to make sure your left hand is syncing properly with your right hand. You might want to write out some different right hand fingerings to experiment with before you try to bring it up to tempo. Jose uses slip finger for some of this, but it can also be a great chance for you to write out a strict alternation plan for this as well. Once you get this wired, see if you can move it up a whole step to D major just for fun!

Etude no.4 - Beethoven (Difficulty level 3)

This étude is an excerpt from an unknown Beethoven piece. Here Jose shows off his use of free stroke scales and rest stroke thumb. Most Flamenco guitarists do the exact opposite! Usually people play free stroke in the bass and rest stroke scales but here is an example of what using the rest stroke in the bass can do for your hand position. By using rest stroke in the bass he maintains the perfect angle for free stroke scales mainly due to the smaller size of his hands. I can only play this free stoke both thumb and scale. Experiment what works for you and if you think you can adopt his fingering then go for it! His unique way of playing has obviously reaped some major results!

Etude no.5 - Picado por Canizares (Difficulty level 3-?)

This étude "excerpt" is something that Juan Manuel Canizares showed Jose once of how he practices scales. As we all know, Canizares is a monster technician having played next to Paco de Lucia all those years. Who knows, this might even have come from Paco! Essentially it is all about synchronization and feeling the subdivisions correctly (8 notes per beat with your foot). I think personally it is an incredible study that forces you to maintain the amount of pressure your left hand uses in order to move it up chromatically "all the way" up the neck and back down (how Canizares plays it!). The secret for me is to play a bit buzzy by lightening up how hard your pressing in the left hand especially when your hand starts to cramp, and it'll do just that! If you can make it playing this pattern to at least the 5th fret successfully without cramping then you doing it right! If not, then maybe it's time re-evaluate how much left hand pressure you use!

Etude no.6 - E Major Arpeggio to Picado (Difficulty level 3-5)

This étude is designed to help you transition from an arpeggio into a descending picado. An all too popular device many Flamenco guitarists employ in their compositions. This is one of those studies that sparks all kinds of ideas of creating your own patterns once you start picking it apart and repeating certain measures. I've personally created 3-4 variations that lead into measures 6-14 based off of different pattern type scales. One thing to note here is that you should experiment with maintaining a free stroke when the scales start and then transition to rest stroke once you reach the 2nd to 3rd string. Its another trick that not many teachers show their students but it is definitely a great way to transition the hand placement. Also, note how he uses the slip finger technique in measures 10-13.

Etude no.7 - Picado with Bass (Difficulty level 3)

This étude has was also one of Jose's favorites growing up as a young guitarist in Spain. Pretty straight forward Classical etude in the style of Matteo Carcassi with emphasis being on being able to play polyphony on the guitar. The things to watch for here are being able to execute and hold the bass notes down for their entire duration while maintaining the picado. Additionally there are a few left hand position shifts to watch out for (measures 5-6). Feel free to re-finger these notes to the second and third strings if you like, but just know that they are there ON Purpose to force you to work on developing a legato feel during the shifts.

Etude no.8 - Pentatonic scale Nino Miguel (Difficulty level 3-7)

This étude was another one handed down to Jose from his teacher the late great Nino Miguel. I know you all probably know this popular minor blues scale and are probably wondering why it is included here. Well, it is not as easy as it looks. This one is all about maintaining a steady sixtuplet and moving the pattern down chromatically to the 5th fret. It is probably one of the easier ones in this series but don't be fooled, there are lots of benefits to practicing a scale like this. One thing to focus on would be your finger placement of your left hand. Make sure you are duplicating the exact same spot on each finger when you press. Many guitarists overlook the left hand which usually results in poor synchronization between both hands.

Etude no.9 - Diminished arpeggio pattern (Difficulty level 3)

This étude outlines the 4-note diminished chord in an arpeggio played with picado. The pattern starts on an E diminished and then on the "and" of beat 2 it then goes down a half step to a descending D# diminished arpeggio. In measure 2 the pattern begins again but up a whole step with the same sequence beginning on an F diminished arpeggio. An interesting side note to the diminished chord is that there are only 3 of them. This is because a fully diminished chord (4 note chord) is constructed by stacking minor 3rds. Let's look at the first chord for example: an E Diminished is spelled 1-E, b3-G, b5-Bb, bb7-C# (or Db). Each one of these intervals is exactly a minor third apart, which means that if you build the chord starting on G, Bb, or C# you will come up with the same 4 notes just in different inversion. So essentially the E Diminished is the same as the G dim, Bb dim, and the Db dim chord. The D# dim is the same as an F# dim, A dim, and C dim. The F dim is the same as an Ab dim, B dim, and a D dim.

Etude no.10 - Pattern study (Difficulty level 1-2)

This étude is designed for synchronizing both hands and also for the student to see a simple 2 note per string pattern to work on developing picado. Things to watch for are to keep track of what right hand finger starts the group. Being that we all have different finger lengths some people have an issue with keeping strict alternation of (i,m or m,i). This is mainly on the descending part of the scale where this issue comes into play. When playing ascending scales the fingers will generally always alternate but with descending scales many find it natural to use a slip finger technique which would involve dragging the finger back to the string below and repeating the finger. This is also an ok technique to use but not when first learning to play picado. It is always advised to make a conscious choice which technique you are going to use.

Etude no.11 - Quartel Scale (Difficulty level 3)

This étude is mainly designed to work out the weaker fingers (3,4) on a 2 note per string pattern. It is a tremendously effective study also to synchronize the right and left hand together.

Etude no.12 - Quartel Scale Double Time (Difficulty level 6-8)

In this study, the student gets a glimpse of how to take a pattern study like this to the next level. It is essentially the same as the previous no.11, but with different rhythmical subdivisions all throughout the score. Jose improvised a lot of this so I challenge you to come up with your own variations using the different subdivisions shown. (16th's to triplets or sixtplets to 32nd notes)

Etude no.13 - Double Arpeggio Variations (Difficulty level 3)

This étude is along the lines of the famous Villa-Lobos Etude no.1 but with more Flamenco type chords and a sixtuplet arpeggio. I'm going to break down the right hand fingering used within the 3 groups of sixtuplets here: p,i,m,a,i,m - a,i,m,a,m,i - a,m,i,a,m,i.

Etude no.14 - Chromatic 8'ves for Left Hand (Difficulty level 3-7)

This étude was created in order to develop independence in the left hand fingers. There are many sequential patterns like this found on the guitar and using a chromatic scale is one of the best ways to work out every type of left hand fingering combination. You should be able to do this hopefully without the use of the score by keeping track of the octaves.

Etude no.15 - Alzapua (Difficulty level 3)

This is a basic exercise to develop the Alzapua technique. This isn't exactly a great example of how alzapua is used in a real musical situation rather for the student to get the basic mechanism working of playing a single rest stroke with the thumb followed by a downstroke and upstroke of the thumb.

Etude no.16 - Thumb and Index (Difficulty level 3)

This étude involves the index as a counter balance with the thumb which is a very common technique in Flamenco guitar. All thumb (Pulgar) notes should be played rest stroke and the index played free stroke.

Etude no.17 - Thumb and Index Double (Difficulty level 3)

This étude is essentially the same as the previous no.16 but with a slight variation using a double time 32nd note speed burst towards the end of the measure (beat 6 to be exact). All thumb notes should be played rest stroke and the index played free stroke.