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Sam Bell Acoustic 101: Part 3

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 68 **

Welcome to Part 3 of acoustic guitar 101. Over the last two instalments in the acoustic world, we've looked at pick dynamics, using particular voicings and open string to add new levels of texture, dynamic and tone to our rhythm/acoustic guitar playing.

In this acoustic guitar lesson, I've prepared a short example inspired by a couple of my favourite guitar players: Paco De Lucia and Al Di Meola. These two players (exclusively for Paco) come from the Flamenco school of playing. Paco is one of Flamenco's most influential players playing passages with pure fingerstyle in traditional flamenco settings. Al Di Meola is a pick style player taking a lot of influence from Flamenco in his note choice and rhythms. Before we get started on this column, just in case there are any Flamenco Purists reading, I'm not presenting this column as 'how to play Flamenco'; this is an entirely different subject altogether. What I hope to focus on is what we can learn from listening to these players and applying it in contemporary styles.

One of the fascinating things I find with Flamenco is how the guitar is used as both a Melodic, Accompaniment and Rhythmic Instrument. A single guitar can fill the space, even with space between subdivisions of melody. The mix of Chords, double stops, single-note lines, rhythmic displacement and some crunchy sounding harmony all create a sense of depth and drama. In this example that I have prepared, I've tried to emulate a taste of the elements in this style of playing, hopefully as an example of creating these kinds of parts, even outside of a 'Flamenco' setting. Let's dive in!

BAR 1:

We start with an F#m11 chord, we start with a power chord voicing, but then move the index finger over to the G string 2nd fret to grab the Minor 3rd of the chord. The aim is to get a solid rhythmic attack on each of these notes whilst letting the notes ring out. As this example is in F#m, the last beat of this bar I place a short single note phrase enclosing the 5th of the chord starting on the b13 descending to the 4th before resolving to the 5th.

BAR 2:

In this bar, we keep the same rhythmic information as Bar 1 to keep the theme developing. However, this time we're highlighting an Eadd9 Chord voicing. The melody at the end of the bar is less of an enclosure and more of a lead into the next bar.

BAR 3: 

Another element of the Flamenco style that I love is the use of light and shade within harmony. The first chord in this bar is crunchy! Bsus2addb13 is a mouthful to say, but it really creates some tension. There is a melody that moves from the 9 to the m3rd of the implied Bm tonality of this section. I then move to what I can describe as an A11 chord (1, 4, b7, 3) the melody stays the same over this voicing, except now those notes, function as the 3rd and 4th of the A7 implied tonality. We then end this bar on the crunchiest chord of all. C#addb9. This is a voicing I pinched from Paco De Lucia. The Open D string gives us a nice bit of dissonance in the low end. This is something that arrangers avoid having minor 2nds so low in the register. However, this element is a key stylistic feature of Flamenco and creates great contrast when used alongside more consonant chords.

BAR 4:

The example ends on a C# Phrygian Dominant phrase going from the 3rd to the 4th of C# to the Root and the b9 before ending on a D Diminished chord. This brings us back around to bar 1 again with a nice implied 5 -1 cadence.


Hopefully, this column will lead you to maybe try some new things in your approach to the arrangement of parts on the acoustic guitar. I highly recommend listening to Flamenco musicians for melodic, rhythmic and arrangement inspirations. There's a whole host of things to learn that can be applied to contemporary styles on electric and acoustic! Good luck and see you soon!

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