Thanks to a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Culture, I had the chance to study flamenco guitar in Córdoba, Granada and Jerez. In each city, I was struck by how well the traditional method of teaching flamenco guitar fits flamenco music.
Flamenco teachers in Spain rarely use books and they don't teach 'student pieces.' Student and teacher sit down face-to-face and the teacher shows the students how to play the same falsetas and rhythms they themselves perform. You learn flamenco as it is, not as it was.
Of course, beginning students get simpler passages and advanced students get the hard stuff, but in either case the teacher expects the student to strive to play as musically as possible. Technique is taught in service of musicianship. As a result, the student doesn't sound like a student for long.
I use a similar approach in my own teaching, with one important difference. The average Spanish guitar student has been exposed to the best flamenco in the world for years before he even takes up the guitar. An American student has to learn about the world of flamenco while learning to play it. Unless they already have a strong background in flamenco, I tend to start out my students with Juan Martin’s El Arte Flamenco de la Guitarra. There are a lot of good books out there and I like many of them, but El Arte remains the best tool I know to help me get a student listening and playing like a flamenco guitarist.
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