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Flamenco glossary

By Sal Bonavita,
Sal's flamenco soapbox,
Adelaide, South Australia


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A palo seco

Dry stick. Unaccompanied singing, except for the rhymic beating of an upright stick on the ground.


An enthusiast follower, fan, amateur.


Air. It describes the expressiveness, atmosphere or general character of a flamenco performance.


(Song and dance form) Alboreá is of pure Gypsy origin, traditionally sung only at weddings, being unlucky on other occasions. It is a gypsy wedding song performed to the compás of Bulerias. Alba means daybreak or dawn. The name indicates that the songs were either literally sung at dawn, or symbolically represented the dawning of a new life.

"The word alba is also defined as a 'troubadour song or poem' of lovers' parting at dawn. Troubadours were 11th and 12th century poet-musicians of southern France. The German counterparts of the troubadours, the 'minnesingers', also used the form, calling it Tagelied (day song). The words Alboreá (singular) and Alboreás (plural) are commonly interchangable and mean exactly the same thing." Britannica 2000 CD Rom.


(Song and dance form) Alegria means happiness or merriment. Developed in Cádiz, this form is derived from, and has the same compás as Soleares. Alegrías is a lively dance form normally played in the key of A major. The words Alegria (singular) and Alegrías (plural) are commonly interchangable and mean exactly the same thing.

Alegrías por Rosas

Also known simply as Rosas. This is Alegrías commonly played in the key of E Major. In contrast to the brisk, happy sounding Alegrías in A Major, Alegrías por Rosas are slower and more melancholy.


A right hand playing technique. The thumb is used to play down and up strokes across one or a group of strings in combination with apoyando single notes. It's possible that this technique developed as an imitation of the way the Arabic Ud was played with a wooden plectrum.


Atmosphere or Ambience


This is one or more steps which may be heard just before the main accent of a phrase, such as in a 4 step redoble. We can say an anacrusis is an embellishment. For example, if the last step of a redoble lands on beat 1 of a Farruca (the accented downbeat), the preceding 3 steps (the triplet) is an anacrusis. The same applies to a rapid series of guitar notes played before any main beat.


Ring finger. Right hand guitar notation symbol - indicated by a lower case 'a'.


Out. A muting technique on the guitar used to cut the sound short. It may be done with either hand. With the left hand the little finger is used. With the right hand the strings are stopped using the palm. Also referred to as Parado (stopped).


A guitar term. To play apoyando means to play notes using the classical style 'rest stroke'. After striking the string, the finger comes to rest on the adjacent lower string. All picado passages are played apoyando.


Aro means hoop. The name given to the (curved) side of the guitar


A musical term. A chord broken up into a series of single notes.


To drag. Guitar playing technique. Dragging the ring finger (a) up the strings from treble to bass.


Male dancer


Female dancer




Andalucian folk song of medieval tradition which may be Celtic in origin. The name is taken from the words Bamba (swing: noun), Bambolear (swinging) and Bamboleo (to swing). This is one of the more obscure flamenco song forms. The words Bambera (singular) and Bamberas (plural) are commonly interchangable and mean exactly the same thing.


Mouth. The sound hole of the guitar.


Although not considered Flamenco, the Bolero played an important part in the evolution of some of the more familiar dance forms. The word bolero comes from the verb volar (to fly). Jumps and leaps were an integral part of the dance as were paseo (walk) and parado (sudden stops). It developed into a set dance from a combination of folk and classical styles as well as the court dances of the late l8th century. One of the folk styles that influenced it was the old Fandangos. Another was the Siguidillas Manchegas, which also influenced the development of the Sevillanas.It goes without saying that Maurice Ravel was sufficiently inspired by the Bolero to sit down and compose his famous orchestral version, although I must confess that this piece conjours up images about arabs in the desert. The Flamenco composition Los Panaderos (the bread maker), by Esteban de Sanlucar, is a form of Bolero and has been recorded by Paco de Lucía, Juan Serrano and others. Not being an expert on the subject I can only rely on what others say and do. I also have a record with Carlos Montoya playing a piece called Bolero.


(Song and dance form) The words barullo (noise) and burla (joke, jest) both apply to the character of Bulerias, but no one really knows how the name came about. It is believed to have evolved as a faster version of Alegrías in Jerez. Full of fun and frivolity, Bulerías is considered the ultimate expression for the skills of both dancer and guitarist.Although the compás is unvarying within its 12 beat structure, Bulerías is rhythmically very flexible, and open to sudden bursts of spontaneity and melodic variations. It occupies a central position in any dance or guitar repertoire and is usually reserved as the flashy final number in performances. Alegrías and Soleá will often build up in speed and change into a Bulerias to finish off. This is referred to as ending the dance por Bulerias. The words Buleria (singular) and Bulerias (plural) are commonly interchangable and mean exactly the same thing.

Buleria al golpe

A style of Bulerias that highlights the golpe (taps).

Buleria por Soleá

A slower variation of Bulerias.


Head. The head of the guitar.


Flamenco rhythm box. This is a wooden box that looks something like a small tea chest with a round sound hole cut out of the rear face. A performer sits on this and reaches down to beat on the front face.


Gypsy word for Gypsies


Spanish Gypsy language




Bells. A musical section in Zapateado, which imitates the sound of bells.


Bell ringers. Traditional these are songs sung during religious processions that begin at dawn. They are accompanied by the ringing of small bells. The tradition of bell ringing is also connected with religious activities in monasteries. Campanilleros are not really flamenco but are nonetheless still sung and played by some artists as part of their repertoire. The words Campanillero (singular) and Campanilleros (plural) are commonly interchangable and mean exactly the same thing.





Cante chico

Means 'little song'. This is the third of the three general classifications of flamenco songs. Lighthearted, festive or folkloric style songs and dances.

Cante flamenco

Flamenco song

Cante grande

Means 'important song'. This is the first of the three general classifications of flamenco songs. These are the so-called basic songs, considered the earliest forms of flamenco. By nature, they are also Cante Jondo.

Cante intermedio

Means 'middle song'. This is the second of the three general classifications of flamenco songs. It is an arbitrary 'middle' classification between Grande and Chico. Some would argue that this somewhat grey area is an academic fabrication and has no real meaning in the true scheme of things. This may be so, but it does make flamenco forms a little easier to understand.

Cante jondo

Deep song. A style of singing. To the untrained ear, the sounds of Cante Jondo seem harsh and primitive and are not everybody's cup of tea to be sure. The powerful emotion expressed by a singer at close range is frightening. I, for one, have never gotten used to it, despite it's important role in flamenco, and prefer the more lyrical and melodic song forms. Jondo style songs are passionate and profound and can be found in both 'Grande' and 'Intermedio' classifications.


A family of song forms from Cádiz which include Alegrías , Romeras , Mirabrás , Rosas and Caracoles. According to Donn Pohren, "the word was originally used to describe medieval songs from Galicia, in Northern Spain. Today, it's meaning is extended to signify popular song.....The cantes listed above therefore, are no longer referred to as Cantiñas (but by their specific names). The notable exception is Alegrías, which many cantaores and aficionados name Alegrías or Cantiñas interchangeably." We'll have take his word for it on this last point. The way I see it, it can be a little confusing when you consider that Cantiñas is also the name of a specific form of Alegrías played in the key of C, whereas Alegrías is played in the key of A and can sound quite different. Furthermore, Alegrías is the only one from this lot that has a silencio section. Structurally, Cantiñas (the family of songs) are the same as Soleá, except for subdued accent on the count of 12. Depending on who you speak to, some consider this classification of these Alegrías style songs outdated and meaningless. A post on the flamenco list sums it up: “...I recalled a conversation where people were debating whether Alegrías was a generic name for a family of cantes which include Cantiñas -- or vice versa. With el cante, I often find that the 'answers' to questions like this are more confusing than I bargained for. So I think the real answer is just to keep listening and enjoying.”


Abbreviation of Capotasto. Italian word. (Capo = at the beginning, Tasto = guitar finger board). A transposing device fixed across the strings to raise the pitch. Traditionally, its purpose is to pitch the guitar to a singers voice.


(Song and dance form) One of the group of songs known as Cantiñas. Caracoles means snails, which gives an indication of its lighthearted nature. It was developed in Madrid in the 19th century. It is rhythmically identical to Alegrías, the only difference being the key (C Major), different chord sequences and nonsense verses.


One of the oldest flamenco song forms originating in the prisons of Andalucia. The cante describe the singer's loss and freedom and jail life. See also TONAS

Carlos Montoya

Carlos Montoya (1903-1993) was a gypsy born in Madrid. Around 1940 he became an American citizen and went on to record a multitude of records, gaining himself a huge following the world over. He began playing when he was 8 years old. His famous uncle Ramon refused to teach him so he took lessons from the local barber for 3 years. At the age of 14 he started playing in the local Café Cantantes.Throughout his career he was highly criticized for the roughness of his playing and the apparent liberty he took with compás and speed variations. He was well aware that aficionados rarely appreciated his music. The usual complaints were that he used excessive left hand legato, his playing was choppy and he used too much tremolo. But as he quite rightly pointed out in his own defense, (in conversation with Brook Zern after a concert) I have filled the Houston Astrodome. No other flamenco artist will ever do that. He said proudly that he owed absolutely nothing to his uncle and simply refused to assimilate any of Ramon's immeasurable contributions to flamenco. It is easy to criticize the man, but the fact remains that Carlos Montoya played a significant role in raising international awareness of flamenco.

Carmen Amaya

Carmen Amaya was one of the best known flamenco dancers. In the '40s and '50s, this exotic Gypsy woman won international acclaim performing for such notable people as Roosevelt and Churchill. From the age of four she performed alongside her father in the taverns and music halls of Barcelona. By the time she reached her teens, she was already well known to audiences in Madrid and Paris. During the 1930's, she traveled the world and performed to enthusiastic audiences everywhere she went. The people of North and South America fell in love with Carmen Amaya-the embodiment of Spanish pride and passion. She went on to make films in Hollywood and appeared on Broadway, often accompanied by the great guitar virtuoso, Sabicas. And though she triumphed on stages all around the world, she always remained true to her Gypsy heritage. Throughout most of her performing life, her huge company was made up almost entirely of her extended family, and they traveled together in the traditional Gypsy way, sharing their luck as well as their hardships. And hardship indeed fell on Carmen Amaya. In 1963 at the age of 50, she died in her native Barcelona of kidney failure.

Adapted from the essay by Robert Withers and Meira Goldberg


(SONG FORM. TOQUE LIBRE) A Fandangos based song taking its name from the area of origin, Cartagena. One of the songs known as Cante de Levante. It is believed to have evolved from the Tarantas.


A pair of wooden plates held together in one hand, which provide rhythmic accompaniment during a dance. Also called Castanuelas


(SONG AND DANCE FORM. CANTE JONDO) A song form with exactly the same compás and accompaniment as Soleá. The only difference is it's distinct Ay Ay Aye's and the melodic line. It's significance lies in the widely accepted theory that this early song form helped give birth to Soleá. True to the tradition of inconsistency in flamenco, there are those who believe that the Caña came after Soleá.


The Spanish word for Capo. Ceja means little eyebrow. The traditional cejilla has a curved top, resembling an eyebrow, to accommodate the wooden tightening peg.


(Song and dance form) A carefree style of Tanguillos with the emphasis on spontaneity and humor.


Tablature notation


Traditional wooden tuning pegs on the guitar. Clavija means bolt.


Modern geared machine heads for tuning the guitar.


(Song and dance form) A delightful song form based on the melodies and rhythms of Colombian folk music. This form was brought to prominence by Carmen Amaya and Sabicas. For those who like a good argument, it has been suggested that Colombianas, like Rumba and Guajiras, is a variation on the Argentinean Tango.


Rhythm, beat, meter. The basic element of flamenco rhythm. Specifically, Compás is a recurring pattern of accented beats analogous to a bar of music. This dictates the unique rhythmic structure of any given song form.

Concert pitch

The international tuning pitch - For the guitar this is A = 440 oscillations a second. It's amazing how many guitarists refuse to acknowledge that there is such a standard. There is nothing more annoying than rocking up to a rehearsal or performance venue to find that the other guitarist(s) are out of tune for whatever reason. All you can really do sometimes is grit your teeth and whistle, 'Don't worry, be happy'. Attempting to tune your instrument to the non standard pitch while dancers and palmeros are making lots of noise is no fun, especially when you take on the aura of the villain, because you are holding up proceedings while you tune. Life is so unfair.

Contra tiempo

Syncopated rhythm. Counter rhythms.


A verse from a song. The word colpa is also used to describe the various sections of Sevillanas and Fandangos.





Danza Mora

(TOQUE LIBRE) Literally means 'Moorish dance'. This form is heavily influenced by the Arabic style of music and dance. See also ZAMBRA


Of or from. Many artists have stage names which mean something like 'Jack from London'. Paco de Lucía explains that when he was young there were so many Pacos in the neighborhood, that the convenient way to tell them apart was to call then after their mother's names. His mother's name was Lucia.


Dance steps which indicate an approaching break in the dance. A climactic point in the dance which is usually introduced by a llamada.


Fingerboard of the guitar. Possibly from the Greek 'Dia Pason Chordon' (through all the strings.


The trance like fixation, or haunting feeling one may experience while enjoying a flamenco performance. Duende is an inner spirit, which is released as a result of a performer's intense emotional involvement with the music, song and dance. Read the complete esssay.




Entry or beginning


The word escoba means broom. Escobilla can mean either: 1) Brushing steps 2) Footwork 3) A section of dance in Alegrías or Soleares, in which the dancer improvises around a repetitious musical phrase. 4. A dance step/turn executed with the train of a dress, which imitates the brushing motion of a broom.


Study. Exercise.


Little finger (pinky). Right hand guitar notation symbol - indicated by a lower case 'e'. Extremo means last. The 'e' symbol has become the standard today but it wasn't always so. In the flamenco guitar method by Ivor Mairants (1958), the right hand little finger was indicated with a lower case 'p'. This stood for 'pequeno' which means 'little' finger. The problem was that he also used the lowercase 'p' to indicate 'pulgar' for the right hand thumb. In Juan Serrano's series of Mel Bay books a lower case 's' is used to indicate the little finger and in Paco Peña's "Toques Flamencos" book (1976) a 'x' is used. Thank goodness for standards eh!


A musical variation played on the guitar

Fandango grande

(SONG FORM. CANTE JONDO. TOQUE LIBRE) An abstract song form which evolved as a serious version of the original Fandangos and is sung without compás. This song form may also be referred to as Fandango naturales. Most of the toque libre are derived from Fandango Grande.


An ancient Andalucian folk song and dance with roots going back at least as far as the Arab invasion (711AD). It is believed to have derived from the JOTA, a lively paired dance from Aragon in the north. Almost every region of Andalucia has it's own version of fandangos. There are two types. FANDANGO GRANDE (great fandangos) and FANDANGUILLOS (little fandangos). For general performance, we are mainly interested in the more popular Fandanguillos such as FANDANGOS DE HUELVA and VERDIALES, the fandangos of Málaga.

Fandangos de Huelva

(Song and dance form) A popular regional species of Fandangos from the province of Heulva. A lively dance for couples reminiscent of Sevillanas. Like the Sevillanas, copla melodies follow a standard harmonic pattern set within a strict rhythmic structure. Fandangos de Huelva (plural) are also commonly referred to by their generic name, FANDANGUILLOS.


Little Fandangos. A 'group' name for the regional styles of festive Fandangos. These include Fandango de Huelva , Fandango de Lucena, Fandango de Almeria and so on. Verdiales , which could also be called Fandangos de Málaga by the same naming system, are also Fandaguillos by definition.


(Song and dance form) A dramatic male dance in 4/4 time. Originally a song from the northern region of Galicia. Andalucian gypsies adopted it and changed it to suit their own tastes. The Farruca is usually played in the key of A minor. Although the rhythm is strong and strictly defined, some passages begin slowly and gradually build up speed, especially in the final stages. Although this form is considered a man's dance, women have also performed it to great effect (dressed in a man's costume of course). It seems a little strange to me that a dance sometimes referred to as La Farruca, a. very feminine sounding name, should have such a male aura about it. One would think that the masculine name 'El Farruco' would be more appropriate (and logical), but who am I to argue with tradition.

Federico Garcia Lorca

(1898-1936) Spanish lyric poet and dramatist. His work reflects the spirit of his native Andalusia and his own passionate response to life. Gypsy Ballads (1928) made him the most popular Spanish poet of his generation, while Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter (1935) and The Poet in New York (1940) evidenced his growing maturity of thought. His plays, notably the tragedies Blood Wedding (1933) and The House of Bernarda Alba (1936), ensure his continuing international reputation. Garcia Lorca was shot by Franco's soldiers at the outbreak of the Spanish civil war.






What flamenco is

Flamenco history

Flamenco puro

Pure flamenco. (whatever that is) A confusing term which supposedly means genuine or traditional flamenco. On the other hand however, the concept of pure flamenco implies interpretations that are old, static and without change. Although it may suit the older aficionados who fondly reminisce about the good old days, the term nevertheless carries with it an unwelcome hint of snobbery. Paco De Lucia puts it like this;People tend to confuse the pure with the old. The old for me is the art in the museum, and the pure is what the artist feels at the time of playing. Flamenco has too much personality, character and emotive force to stay in the same form all its life. (Guitar International Magazine, April 1976)


A pretty pink bird which has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of Flamenco. Other common mis-pronunciations are 'flaminco' and 'flamengo'. Flamenco - origin of the word.

Free stroke

A guitar playing technique. Also known as a 'tirando' stroke. After plucking a string, the finger follows through to clear the adjacent lower string.


Hard, or loud.


A traditional folk dance in the region of Galicia and Asturuis in the north of Spain. This is not considered flamenco. Sabicas decided to sneak this one into his guitar repertoire with the title Piropo A Galicia. Piropo means compliment or flattery. The dance is kept alive in local festivals of the region.


(Song and dance form) A sensuous and happy song and dance in 2/4 time. Like the Farruca, it originated in Northern Spain. Also like the Farruca, it has slow sensuous sections, sudden stops and starts, and sections which start slow and build up to a furious pace.


Spanish name for female Gypsy


Spanish name for male Gypsy


Tapping plate. Protective plastic sheet attached to the face of the guitar.


The tapping on the top of the guitar with the tip of the 'a' or 'am' fingers. In musical notation, the golpe is represented as a cross or a small square.


(SONG FORM. TOQUE LIBRE) The word implies 'something from Granada'. The name Granaínas, which is simply the Andalucian pronunciation of the same word, is also commonly used. Granadina is normally played in the B Phrygian mode, which is ideal for producing the rich, oriental sounding passages that characterize this introspective flamenco form. MEDIA Granadina means 'half Granadina' and relates to the style of cante. For the solo guitarist there is no difference.




(Song and dance form) Originating in Cuba, the Guajiras was brought into Spain in the 16th century by the returning Conquistadors. This cheeky dance form is normally played in the key of A major and notated with alternating measures of 6/8 and 3/4. The 12 beat compás is identical to Bulerias, but much slower. Guajiras is one of the more uplifting flamenco forms and a classy showpiece in any solo guitarist's repertoire. The words Guajira (singular) and Guajiras (plural) are commonly interchangable and mean exactly the same thing.




Gitano Gypsies played a major role in the development of flamenco. It's generally agreed that they originated in the area of Northern India and Pakistan. There are those who maintain that Gypsies reached Andalucia from Egypt after sailing along the coast of Africa. In their wanderings they traveled far and wide and made a home for themselves in many countries including the Middle East. Since there were no real records to prove or disprove their true origins, Egyptian Gypsies themselves came to believe they were descended from the Pharaohs.Traditionally, they worked as blacksmiths, horse traders, musicians, dancers and fortunetellers. Although they also worked at other jobs such as bar tending or helping out in the bullrings, Andalucian Gypsies generally lived a day at a time. Flamencosongs reflect centuries of hardship. Perhaps this might explain why some of the singing can sound more like a tortured primal scream than a song. Read the complete esssay.


Bridge bone in the saddle of the guitar


Departure. To take leave. Dance steps that signify an approaching change from one rhythm to another as when a dancer moves out of Alegrías and enters into Bulerias.


Index finger. Right hand guitar notation symbol - indicated by a lower case 'i'.




(SONG FORM) An offshoot of Fandango Grande, it is closely related to the Malagueñas. The Jaberas is supposed to be Toque Libre, without compás and un-danceable. As if to confuse the issue, Carmen Amaya claimed that her grandfather introduced the Jabera as a dance form. She called it a kind of Soleá. So be it! Why not throw one more contradiction into the bucket of flamenco mysteries.


Shouts of encouragement. A person doing this is called a JALEADOR (male) or JALEADORA (female). These players also provide rhythmic effects such as palmas (hand clapping) and pitos (finger snaps) and act as a sort of cheer squad for the up front performers.(HELL-AYE-OS)


A festive binge of drinking and merrymaking.


The lyrics of a song. A section of a dance equivalent to a verse of a song.


This is a geographical area stretching from Almeria in eastern Andalucia up around to Valencia. This area gives its name to the so called Cantes de Levante (songs of the Levante). These are MINERA, TARANTA, MURCIANA and CARTAGENERA.


In musical notation, this is the same as the Italian word 'Legato'. It means tie or bind together. A slur.


(Song and dance form) This song evolved from being a Toná Liviana, a song without accompaniment or compás, to a style with guitar accompaniment performed to the compás of Siguiriyas.


Call. This is a series of steps which alert the guitarist that the dancer wishes to end a section, or an entire number.


1) (Regional style) (Song and dance form) These danceable, lighthearted songs evolved from the Verdiales and have a similar rhythm and form. According to Juan Serrano, the well known semi-classical Malagueña by the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona is based on the regional style of Malagueña. Donn Pohren however, believes it was influenced by the Flamenco style. What can I say? Take your pick. 2) (flamenco style) (Song form. Cante jondo. Toque libre) This style of Malagueñas was created and developed by singers such as Juan Breva, and became very popular in the café cantante circuit in the late 19th century. Unlike the happy and lively style of the regional Malagueña, this freer style has a melancholy mood about it.


Hammer. A rarely used alternative meaning the same as GOLPE.

Martillo stroke

Hammer stroke. This is a variation of the supported stroke (rest stroke) in guitar playing. While the rest stroke is executed with a curved finger, which flexes straight at the first two joints while playing a note, the martillo stroke begins with a straight finger and snaps down forcefully to the next lower string. The result is a strong sound of much greater volume than the traditional classical style rest stroke.


Songs of the blacksmiths. Songs accompanied by the sound of the blacksmiths hammer (martillo ) striking the anvil.See also TONAS


Guitar neck, handle.


Major key


Half. Middle finger. Right hand guitar notation symbol - indicated by a lower case 'm'.


Minor key


(SONG FORM) This song form originated in Argentina. Played in 4/4 time in A minor, it is similar in some ways to the Farruca, except that the falsetas are more lyrical. It has syncopations and a mood of controlled passion reminiscent of the Tientos. The compás is variable: sometimes free, sometimes well defined. The song modulates from minor to major at certain times and in places displays distinct rhythmic and melodic reflections of the Argentinean Tango.


(SONG FORM) The word comes from Minero (miner) and deals with mining themes as one would expect. It is one of the group of songs known as cantes de Levante.


(Song and dance form) One of the group of songs known as Cantiñas. This is in many ways identical to Alegrías, but lacking the dynamic quality and grace.


(Song and dance form) One of the group of songs known as cantes de Levante.


An exclamation of approval or encouragement. Probably from the word 'Allah'.

Paco de Lucía

Paco de Lucía was born Francisco Sanchez Gomez on December 21st, 1947 in Algeciras, a sea port in Cádiz. He was surrounded by flamenco song and dance since he was born. He was already familiar with compás when his father began teaching him to play the guitar at the age of seven. Between 1962 and 1964 he toured the United States, along with his brother Pepe, with the Jose Greco Dance Company. There he met the great virtuosos Sabicas and Mario Escudero. Sabicas encouraged him to develop his own ideas. His greatest influence however was Niño Ricardo whose style he imitated from an early age. Since his first recording in 1960 with his brother Pepe, he has gone on to record many ground-breaking albums. All of his solo albums (and those with his sextet and the singer Camaron) are full of musical innovations which others soon began imitating, spawning a whole new generation of young virtuosos. His collaborations with non-flamenco artists such as John Mclaughlin, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea and Bryan Adams allowed him to extend his musical horizons even further. His amazing virtuosity and unprecedented popularity as an international artist have elevated him to almost messiah-like status in the eyes of many of his peers.


Little sticks.


Hand clapping. Various terms are used to describe loud or soft clapping. FUERTES: (loud, strong) or SECO: (dry) or CLARO: (clear) SORDAS: (soft). From the word sordo meaning muted or muffled


Palo means stick. A Palo seco is unaccompanied singing, except for the rhythmic beating of a stick or walking cane on the ground. It also means a flamenco style. There are around 50 palos split roughly into 4 family groups. For example, Soleá, Alegrías, Bulerías are palos.


Walk. A walking step that connects two sections in a dance. Walk. A walking step that connects two sections in a dance. The dancer may walk around striking arrogant poses without losing the timing in the steps. It is also the opening ceremony at a bullfight.


Non Gypsy


(SONG AND DANCE FORM. CANTE JONDO) The general mood of this form is one of sadness. The slow measured rhythm is notated in alternating bars of 6/8 and 3/4 like Guajiras. Also like the Guajiras, its 12 beat compás is identical to the Bulerias, but very much slower.The name is taken from the village of Paterna de Rivera, near Jerez de la Frontera. The superstitious legend connected with its origin endows Peteneras with a certain mystique. According to this legend, a beautiful young prostitute called Dolores died a violent death at the hands of one of her lovers. For some authors, the word prostitute is a little severe and they prefer a more poetic description such as, a beautiful young temptress who stole men's hearts. After her death, songs were created around the story. The superstition surrounding Peteneras is directly connected with the misfortunes that followed later public performances.One account is of a dancer who played the part of Petenera and died a choreographed death on stage, following the story line from the legend. The four male dancers involved in the show carried her off stage on their shoulders singing, La Petenera has died and they are taking her to be buried... Backstage they discovered that the dancer really was dead, apparently from a heart attack. Every year in July, the people in the village of Paterna pay homage to this form of cante and to Dolores by hosting a national Peteneras song competition. There are some who believe that Peteneras was originally a song of the Sephardic Jews. The evidence comes from a verse which makes reference to a beautiful Jewess on her way to a synagogue. This would date the song back as far as 1492, which is when the Jews (and the synagogues) disappeared from Spain.


Flamenco club


A guitar playing technique. Playing scale passages by alternating the index and middle fingers. Normally executed apoyando (with rest strokes)..


Finger snaps


(SONG AND DANCE FORM. CANTE JONDO) Exactly the same as Caña and Soleá, except for it's distinct melodic line. The ay ay ayes are also a different length.


Toe of the shoe.

Por arriba

Arriba means up or above. Without actually naming a specific key, the term 'por arriba' is taken to mean a flamenco key based on the E chord. The word 'arriba' alludes to the physical position of the hand on the finger board. The hand reaches 'up' towards the bass strings to play an E chord.

Por medio

Medio means middle or half. The term 'por medio' is taken to mean a flamenco key based on the A chord. The hand position for this chord is 'around the middle' of the finger board.


Bridge of the guitar.


Thumb. Right hand guitar notation symbol for both flamenco and classical music - indicated by a upper case 'P'.

Ramon Montoya

Ramon Montoya (1880-1949) was a Madrid born gypsy and is best known for his creativity and virtuosity. He is considered a pioneer of the flamenco guitar, much like Segovia was for the classical guitar.He was the first tocaor to create a repertoire for flamenco guitar as a solo instrument, the first time he played alone in front of a big audience was in Paris in 1934). In this way the flamenco guitar became a lead instrument, not just an accompaniment to the voice. Echos of his original falsetas are still played today.Since then Ramon Montoya generated an unstoppable interest in flamenco guitar and its new technical and compositive possibilities. He was the first to introduce musical virtuosity to the world of flamenco.He is credited for introducing the five stroke tremolo and arpegio techniques into the flamenco playing style as well as creating the guitar solo form Rondeña. (from Flamenco-world.com)


Also called Rasguedo. From Rascar, meaning to scratch. Right hand strumming technique.(RAH-AY-OH)


A series of four or five beats compressed into one or two beats. Redobles can be used anywhere in the dance to provide dynamic accents. They are commonly used in a LLAMADA or in the end of a section.


Finish. The closing phrase of a dance.

Rest stroke

Also referred to as a 'supported stroke' or 'apoyando stroke'. The technique of stopping a right hand finger on the next lowest string after playing. The finger is arched at the first joint to begin with but straightens as it plays the string, coming to rest gently on the adjacent lower string.


The ROMA. Gypsy language word for the Gypsy race(s).


The Gypsy word for the original (non-Spanish) Gypsy language. (ROM-NESH)


(Song and dance form) One of the group of songs known as Cantiñas. Almost identical to Alegrías. Like the Mirabrás, Romeras was probably artificially conceived and created to add variety to the repertoire of songs sung in the Café Cantante of the late 19th century.


(1) (Song and dance form) These are songs from the mountainous area of Ronda, in Málaga. If Verdiales are the fandangos of Málaga, then Rondenas are the of Ronda. There are those who believe the name comes from the word 'Rondar', which means 'to patrol' or 'to prowl around'. In this context, Rondenas were probably originally the songs of young men serenading their loved ones from beneath their windows. For the guitarist, the rhythm and chord sequence of Rondenas are identical to Verdiales. This traditional song form has no connection with the guitar solo Rondeña of Ramon Montoya.

(2) (TOQUE LIBRE) A musical form created specifically for the guitar by Ramon Montoya. He is said to have developed it from yet another form called Rondenas which is different to the one described in the previous definition. Are you confused yet? If you haven't been keeping count, this makes three very different classifications of Rondenas.

(3) (Song and dance form) This third one is believed to have been the toque of the bandits who practiced their trade in the mountains near Ronda. This obscure musical form is rhythmically reminiscent of the Taranto. In recent times, Ramon Montoya's Rondeña has developed from a purely musical form to one which is also sung and danced.


(Song and dance form) A popular rhythm originating in the sugar and banana plantations of Cuba. The gypsy adaptation is called Rumba Gitana (gypsy rumba), or more commonly, Rumba Flamenca. This is a lively, festive dance in 4/4 which is good humored and tastefully seductive in nature. The guitarist borrows the rhythmic slapping techniques from the South American style of playing. The Rumba, in all it's various styles, is very popular with guitarists. Paco de Lucía's early recording of a Rumba, Entre dos Aguas (between two waters), was largely responsible for bringing him to the attention of the wider, non-flamenco public. The Gypsy Kings, although not considered a flamenco group, have built their entire career around the Rumba Flamenca styles.


Sabicas was one of the greatest guitarists of all time and a legend in his own lifetime. With his dazzling speed, clean technique and musical creativity he had it all. He was born Agustin Castellon in Pamplona in 1912. He started playing the guitar at the age of 5. The story on an old record sleeve relates how his mother took him to a local music teacher who was deeply offended by the fact the poor kid could not put together a decent scale. They were told to leave and never come back. The result is that he taught himself. His family moved to Madrid a few years later where he began his artistic career using the phonetic form of his nickname 'las habicas' (little beans). He was very fond of broard beans and always had a pocketful. Between 1925 and 1935 he played all over Spain and then went with his family to Buenos Aires, where he caught up with Carmen Amaya. They originally met when they were children in Barcelona. They performed together during the next decade and when Miss Amaya returned to Spain in 1945, Sabicas stayed in Latin America for another ten years. In 1955 he moved into the Spanish speaking district of Manhatten, New York, three bocks from his cousin Mario Escudero. By 1982, he was not able to recall how many records he had made ("fifty two, fifty three, something like that"). He died in 1990, leaving behind a legacy of unmistakable brilliance and inspiring artistry. Adapted from an article by Paul Magnussen - Guitar International magazine, 1982.




Folk dance. No connection with the flamenco form Siguiriyas.


(Song and dance form) Serranas was probably originally a 19th century folk song. It made it's way into the flamenco repertoire courtesy of the famous singer Silverio. It is a style of song-story with the same compás as Siguiriyas and is related to Livianas and Caña. Its verses tell of life in the mountains among the bandits and smugglers. It is danced in a similar style to the Siguiriyas.


(Song and dance form) A Castilian folkloric dance adopted as the regional dance of Seville. The Sevillanas originated from the 19th century style of classical dance known as Seguidillas Boleras. Going even further back, the Boleras evolved from the dance form known as Seguidilla s Manchegas, popularized in the southern Castilian region of La Mancha (Don Quixote country).Sevillanas is a popular festive dance all over Andalucia. It evolved into a structured format consisting of a group of four short dances. Within each dance there is a melodic theme which is sung (or played) three times. These four dances are called coplas, or verses and they each end with a sudden stop as the dancers strike a pose.


Seville. Regional capital of Andalucia.


(SONG AND DANCE FORM. CANTE JONDO) The word may be a gypsy dialect variation of the word Seguidilla, a classical Castilian folk dance. These two dance forms have absolutely nothing in common with each other except for this historical accident of similar sounding names.Siguiriyas is dark, mournful and desolate in character. It is considered the greatest test of a singer's ability. The reaction of the uninitiated to hearing a deeply felt Siguiriya sung at close range would probably be to step back a few paces and cover the ears. From the guitarist's perspective, it has a counting structure which may be difficult to grasp at first. If you were counting around a 12 beat cycle, the counting would start at 8 in order to preserve the basic accent sequence of 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12. Since the traditional playing key is the same as Buleria, this allows the guitarist the option of modifying a falseta from one and adapting it to fit the other.


Literally, silence. Strictly speaking it describes any section in a performance when the guitar remains silent, such as when a dancer builds up speed in his or her footsteps. Silencio also traditionally refers to a section in Alegrías, which is played in a minor key at a much slower pace. It may be characterized by slow and dramatic sweeps of the thumb across the strings to imitate the sound of campanas (bells). The silencio in Alegrías therefore could more correctly be called campanas (bells) for this reason.


A method of designating the musical notes in a major scale which dates back to the 11th century. The notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B are called Doh, Re, Mi, Fah, Sol, La, Si. The English version uses 'Te' instead of 'Si' for the note 'B'. This system is sometimes used in books on flamenco, either on it's own, or beside the 'ABC' system. Various cultures may refer to this method of ear training and sight reading as Solmization, Solfege or Solfeggio.


(SONG AND DANCE FORM. CANTE JONDO) Soleá is often referred to as the mother of flamenco because other important forms such as Alegrías and Bulerías are derived from it. The name is derived from the word soledad, which means lonliness or solitude and reflects the general mood of this song form. The words Soleá (singular) and Soleares (plural) are commonly interchangable and mean exactly the same thing.

Soleá por arriba

Aribba means 'up' or 'from above'. This is a traditional reference to the upper playing position. This would be a Soleá played in the 'E Phrygian' mode using the E Major chord (upper fret board) position. Because this is the traditional and assumed key for Soleá, the 'por Arriba' reference is ignored. It would normally only be relevant when a singer wants to indicate to the guitarist that this is the key most suited to his vocal range.

Soleá por Bulerias

This is a hybrid form combining elements of both Soleá and Buleria with a speed somewhere in between. It should not be thought of as a faster Soleá or a slower Buleria. It has it's own character and dynamic 'feel' about it. The compás is the same as Bulerias (starting on 12), and the guitar chords are similar to Soleá. Soleá por Buleria, like Soleá, can end with a section of 'straight' Bulerías.

Soleá por medio

Medio means 'middle'. This is a traditional reference to the middle playing position. This would be a Soleá played in the 'A Phrygian' mode, using the A Major chord (middle fret board) position.


Soft, or muffled hand claps.


A low stage. Also a nightclub or café where flamenco is performed.






Drum. A drum like effect produced by pulling on the 6th string downwards so it ends up resting against the 5th sting on the treble side. This sounds very much like a snare drum when playing a rasgueado. Another drum like effect can be produced by bouncing the length of the thumb off the strings close to the bridge.


(Song and dance form) A lively, infectious dance in 4/4. Although it is generally performed in a light style, it has an inherent, yet subtle tone of seriousness about it. While some believe it has connections to the Argentinean Tango, others emphatically insist it is of purely gypsy origin, having distinct similarities to the Tientos. Arguments about whether Tientos came before Tangos or vice versa are best left to musicologists and purists. Tangos is one of the most impressive and dynamic dance forms and like Buleria, is nurtured and developed as a show piece to be performed near the end of a performance.


Means little tango. A light, cheeky aire developed in Cádiz from the Tango.


The top of the guitar. Soundboard.


The Arabic equivalent of flamenco's Duende, a state of ecstasy brought on by the singing. They would break jars on their heads, rip their clothing, and roll about on the ground. Wow! These Arabs really knew how to party. (paraphrased from the magazine: JALEO - VOLUME VIII, No. 1) FLAMENCO: THE EARLY YEARS by Paco Sevilla.


(SONG FORM. CANTE JONDO. TOQUE LIBRE) Taranta is the song form of the miners. Originating in the province of Almeria, these songs are also associated with the neighboring provinces of Jaen and Murcia. Tarantas reflects a sense of tragedy, deprivation and sorrow. The dark sounding discordant melodies and open chords used in Tarantas give it a distinctive Oriental character. This doesn't mean Chinese. In flamenco speak, the word Oriental is taken to mean Arabic. The world is full of wonders, is it not?


(Song and dance form) A danceable form of Tarantas with a steady compás in 2/4 time.


Rapidly alternating heelwork executed without body movement and producing a trembling sound.


Tempering, tuning. The vocal warm up at the beginning of a song consisting of repeated ayes. This is so the singer can tune his or her voice to the guitar, and also to get into the mood and rhythm of the song.


(SONG AND DANCE FORM. CANE JONDO) Tiento means touch. Those who believe that Tientos came before Tangos would probably say something like; If Soleá is the mother of flamenco, then Tientos is the father.Tientos is usually notated in 2/4. It has a character which is jondo, majestic and sensual, and much slower than the tangos. It is normally played in the A Phrygian mode. Although the compás is the same as tangos, some beats are prolonged and others are cut short. This can look really messy and confusing in music notation. The best way to learn the compás of Tientos is by listening and imitation.

Tientos por zambra

(Song and dance form) This is a faster version of Tientos. This is normally notated in 4/4.


Treble strings


This means 'pulling'. Same as the classical style 'free stroke'.


Male flamenco guitar player


Female flamenco guitar player


To touch. With music it means to play.


(SONG FORM. CANTE JONDO) From the word Tonada, meaning tune or popular song. They are widely believed to be the earliest flamenco song forms. Included in this group are the MARTINETES (songs of the blacksmiths), CARCELERAS (songs of the prisoners), DEBLA (of obscure origin) and perhaps even an early form of Siguiriyas. Tonás are song-stories that were neither played of danced. They were sung 'a palo seco', which means unaccompanied except perhaps with the rhythmic beating of a palo (stick) on the ground. In the case of the Martinetes, the song would be accompanied by the sound of a blacksmith's hammer striking an anvil.


Tone or key


1. Guitar playing. 2. Flamenco interpretation on the guitar. 3. A flamenco form or specific piece, such as Alegrías.

Toque libre

This is a guitar term which means to play freely, without compás or time signature. Most toque libre are derived from the FANDANGO GRANDE and include Malagueña, Granadinas, TARANTAS and Rondeña. There may be passages within any toque libre, which follow some sort of compás for a while, at the discretion of the guitarist, before returning to a freer mood. This style of playing lends itself well to improvised experiments in melody and rhythm as a piece progresses.




A guitar playing technique. A bass note is played, followed by three or four strokes of a single treble note, giving the illusion of two instruments playing together. The classical guitar style tremolo 'pima', uses 4 notes to the beat, pulgar (thumb), anular, middle and index fingers. The flamenco tremolo commonly has 5 notes to the beat and uses the sequence of: 'piami'. Ramon Montoya is credited with introducing this technique. It may also be successfully executed with the sequence: 'pmami'.


A genre of Spanish song, dating from the 15th century. It is a poetic and musical form and was sung with or without accompanying instruments. Originally a folk song, frequently with a devotional song or love poem as text, it developed into an art music genre. The Villancico of the 17th century has a sacred text, often for Christmas. In the 18th century this form expanded into a dramatic cantata with arias and choruses. In the 20th century the use of the term is restricted to the Spanish Christmas carol. Although not real flamenco, it would not be unusual to see this song form on a flamenco recording.


(Song and dance form) A lighthearted style of Fandangos from Málaga which takes its name from a village called Los Verdiales. It is Málaga's equivalent to Fandangos de Huelva , performed at a slower pace with the accent on the first beat of every bar. Verdiales is considered to be folklore and thought to be the oldest existing Fandangos in Andalucia.There are two types of Verdiales. The 'regional' Verdiales is the folkloric style accompanied by tambourines, violins and other instruments as well as the guitar. The 'flamenco' Verdiales is accompanied only by the guitar.


(Song and dance form) An old Andalucian folk song in 3/4 time which seems to have sneaked it's way into the flamenco repertoire. The distinctive melody line is preserved by the few artists who have recorded it. Paco de Lucia for one, has recorded a couple of different versions. It also frequently appears in sheet music published in the 1950's. Like the modern recordings, the interpretations are different but the melody line remains unaltered.


(Song and dance form) A festive dance of the gypsies of Granada. This is one of the most typically gypsy flamenco dances. It is notated in 4/4, with accents on the first and third beats. Zambra is Arabic for 'flute'. It was originally a lively Moorish dance and dates back to the 15th century. It is closely related to both the Tientos and the Tangos, with a speed somewhere in the middle. Juan Serrano prefers to call the Zambra Tientos por Tangos because it is, in effect, a combination of the two styles.The distinction should be made between the Zambra and the very Arabic sounding Danza Mora. To be sure, they are both Moorish dances by definition, but the distinction is very clear. The Zambra, although developed from a style of Moorish dance, is pure gypsy flamenco. The Danza Mora on the other hand, bends over backwards to sound Arabic. The confusion arises when an recording artist labels an Arabic sounding composition 'Zambra' or 'Zambra Mora'. This would sound nothing like the gypsy Zambra one might be expecting. Strangely, the same does not seem to occur in reverse. A Zambra is apparently always a Zambra, and can never be confused with anything else.


1. (DANCE FORM) An ancient virtuoso dance for both men and women involving a lot of fancy heel work, as well as many sudden stops and starts and accelerating passages. At times, the melody matches the footsteps. The dancer and guitarist must be perfectly synchronized at all times and great skill is required from both. 2. Footwork. An interplay of heel, toe and sole to produce elaborate sounding rhythms.




This is an old folk song resurrected by Garcia Lorca. In recent years it has quietly made it's way into the flamenco repertoire. It has a 12 beat compás and sounds almost like a sensual, more lyrical version of Peteneras. Near the end it takes on the compás of Bulerias. This sequence of slow and fast may also be alternated. Paco Peña plays a Zorongo on his album Fabulous Flamenco.


Barbara Thiel Cramer - Flamenco: Remark, Sweden 1990
Claus Schreiner - Flamenco: Gypsy Dance and Music of Andalusia: Flamenco: Amadeus Press 1990.
Dennis Koster - The Keys to Flamenco Guitar: (2 Books)- American International Guitar Publications, New York, 1992,1994
D. E. Pohren - The Art of Flamenco: Society of Spanish Studies, 1962 and 1967
Guitar International Magazine - May 1973 - Dec 1985: Articles contributed by: Tomas Jimenez, Ray Mitchell, Paul Magnussen, D.E. Pohren, Paco Peña, Philip John Lee, Ian Davies and Marcos.
Ivor Mairants - The Flamenco Guitar: London, 1958.
Jack Buckingham - El Arte Flamenco: Spanish Music Center, New York, 1957
James Woodall - In Search of the Firedance (Spain through flamenco): Sinclair-Stevenson, London 1992.
Juan D. Grecos - The Flamenco Guitar: Sam Fox Publishing Company, New York, 1973.
Juan Martin - El Arte Flamenco De La Guitara: United Music Publishers, London 1978
Juan Serrano - Flamenco Guitar: Basic Techniques: Mel Bay Books, 1979
Marianne Barrucand Achim Bednorz - Moorish Architecture in Andalusia: Taschen, Germany
Mariano Cordoba - Traditional Flamenco Guitar: (3 Books) - Sunnyland CA, USA 1982.
Paco Sevilla - Paco de Lucía - "A New Tradition for the Guitar"
Teodoro Morca - Becoming the Dance: Kendall Hunt Publishing. Iowa USA 1990
The Guitar Review - Nos 19 and 20: Society for the Classical; Guitar. New York, USA, 1956
Bernard Leblon - Gypsies and Flamenco
D.E. Pohren - A Way of Life: 1980
D.E. Pohren - Paco de Lucía and Family: The Master Plan
D E Pohren - The Lives and Legends of Flamenco: Society of Spanish Studies, 1964
F. Guitierrez Carbajo - La Copla Flamenca y Lirica de Tipo Popular: (Spanish text)
Gerald Howson - The Flamencos of Cádiz Bay
Irving Brown - Deep Song: Harper and Row, New York, 1929
Irving Brown - Nights and Days on the Gypsy Trail: Harper and Row, New York, 1922
Juan D. Grecos - The Flamenco Guitar: Sam Fox Publishing Company, New York, 1973.
Manuel Garcia Matos - Sobre el Flamenco Estudios y Notas: (Spanish text)
Merrill McLane - Proud Outcasts, The Gypsies of Spain: Carderock Press, Maryland, 1997
Paco Sevilla - Paco de Lucía "A New Tradition for the Guitar"
Paul Hecht - The Wind Cried
Rafael Manzano - Cante Jondo : Barcelona, c. 1960.
Ricardo Molina - Cante flamenco: Madrid, 1965
Ricardo Molina, and Antonio Mairena - Mundo y formas del cante flamenco: Madrid, 1963.


Flamenco glossary - El viento flamenco
Flamenco glossary - from Flamenco pasion
Flamenco glossary - Oscar Nieto
Flamenco glossary - Flamenco.org
Flamenco glossary - Fiesta pavilion
Flamenco glossary - Flamenco.org
Flamenco glossary - Kara's flamenco page
Flamenco glossary - Kansas city flamenco
Flamenco glossary - Flamenko-web (In Spanish)
Flamenco glossary - Flamenco Note website glossary
Flamenco forms - Es Flamenco

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