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From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Majjick) Subject: The Art of Rasgueado (long) OK folks, The rasgueado article I was asked for follows. It's completely new. The copyright notice is just for my protection: you're free to copy it and pass it around as much as you like, as long as you don't sell, plagiarise, fold, spindle or mutilate it, or do any other nasty thing I should object to. Hope it helps, but please don't e-mail with requests for additions or clarifications: I simply don't have time to respond to individuals. If you post to rec.music.classical.guitar, however, I will try to respond PM The Art of Rasgueado ==================== (c) Paul Magnussen, 1995 All rights reserved Rasgueado means "strummed" in Spanish, but in English the word is usually used only to denote the rhythmically complex kind of strumming that is characteristic of flamenco guitar. There are two completely distinct kinds of rasgueado, each with its own subtle variations: one produced by the fingers alone, and one produced by a motion of the wrist. Classical guitarists are typically taught (and are sometimes aware of, even) only the first. The profound influence of Flamenco on the classical guitar repertory, both directly and indirectly (through transcriptions of pieces by Albeniz, etc.), means that a knowledge of these techniques is of great benefit (indeed, is indispensable) to the guitarist who wishes to have a complete vocabulary. The following is the result of observation of, and interviews with, most of the leading flamenco guitarists, with the notable exceptions of Ramon Montoya, Nino Ricardo and Paco de Lucia. In particular, I had long discussions at various times with my teachers, Paco Pena and Mario Escudero. Nevertheless, the responsibility for any errors remains my own. One thing that emerges very clearly is that each major flamenco guitarist has his own preferred way of doing rasgueado, so that there is no single "right" way" (although there may be "wrong" in the sense of untraditional, or dysfunctional, ways). 1. The Basic Rasgueado ====================== 1.1 Mechanics ------------- The simplest rasgueado is performed from the basic (normal) hand position. 1) The fingers are curled (but NOT held tightly) into the palm of the hand. 2) The little (x, sometimes written e) finger is allowed to fall downwards across the string, followed in turn by the a, m and i fingers, thus producing in principle four strummed chords, thus: x a m i ----------- |-----------| | | | | A A A A | | | | (The "A" is meant to denote an upward-pointing arrow (bass to treble), and a "V" will be used for treble to bass.) Note the following points, which are often the subject of misconceptions: - It is NOT necessary for one finger to finish its travel before the next one begins. - The fingers are NOT held tightly in the palm and "fired" across the strings. It is indeed possible, and legitimate, to play a rasgueado in this way; but this it is not the basic rasgueado, it is used when a particular percussive effect is desired. 1.2 Timing ---------- There are two distinct ways to use the basic rasgueado, and these are often confused: 1) The chords may be played evenly, with each taking up (in principle), the time of a semiquaver (16th note), as shown above. All rasgueados occurring in BASIC flamenco forms may be represented this way, e.g. Bulerias: i i i i x a m i i i --- --- ----------- | | | | | | | | | | | | | |-----------| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | V | | V A V A V A A A A V | V | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | x x | x x | x | x | | | | | | x | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Here the x's are taps (golpes) on the body of the guitar. This shows the modern way of playing bulerias. e.g. that of Paco Pena. Note that beat 10 is an upstroke of the index finger (following a rasgueado); we shall come back to this in a minute. 2) However, the rasgueado may also be used as an ORNAMENT. In this case, the first three strokes will precede the beat slightly, and the final stroke will be ON the beat and take the emphasis: the first three strokes occupying, (again in principle), theoretically no time, as in an acciacatura. (It defeats my ingenuity to notate this in ASCII. However, an example from the classical repertory would be the 7th-fret barre B7 chord in Leyenda.) Now let us return to the first case. We said that the rasgueado occupied beat 9, with an upstroke of the index for beat 10. In older times -- up to and including that of Sabicas -- the upstroke was generally not played. The timing of the rasgueado was extended, so that the final downstroke (with the index) fell on beat 10. We might then represent the first part of the rasgueado as a triplet, thus: | v 3 i i i i x a m i i --- --- ------- | | | | | | | | | | | | | |-------| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | V | | V A V A V A A A A | V | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | x x | x x | x | x | | | | | x | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Here, though, the link between notation and reality is starting to blur. the important thing is that beat 10 should arrive on time; one could delay the rasgueado by as much or little as one liked; could in fact, play it as an ornament to beat 10, as described in 2) above. Here, I think, is the source of the confusion between the two forms of rasgueado. Nevertheless -- even though in this particular case one could use either -- they are distinct. 1.3 Variations -------------- When a very fast rasgueado is wanted, the stroke of the little finger can be omitted. One hears this not infrequently (for example) in the playing of Paco de Lucia. Conversely, the rasgueado may be expanded by following it with a downward stroke of the thumb. Or, the thumb may be allowed to travel downwards with the final (index) finger, but not touching the strings, and then brought UP across the strings (treble to bass) to complete the rasgueado. 2. Continuous rasgueado ======================= Things really start to get complex when a continuous rasgueado is desired. The first thing that occurs to one's thought is naturally to repeat a single rasgueado multiple times. Here, though, we begin to hit a problem: at the end of a single rasgueado the fingers are spread out, and it's necessary to curl them into the palm again. However, the delay in doing this nullifies the whole effect. The solution is: 1) not to straighten the fingers entirely, but only as much as is necessary to complete a downward strum. 2) To bring the little finger back into the palm AS THE FIRST FINGER IS MOVING FORWARD, and vice versa. This is not easy, and takes considerable practice. When mastered, however, it produces a beautiful drumroll rasgueado of amazing evenness. This is the method preferred (for example) by Juanito Serrano, who was one if the "fenomenos" of the 50's and 60's. (Juan is currently professor of guitar at UC Fresno.) Another solution is to follow the final downstroke with an upstroke of the index finger, which also brings the other fingers with it, preparing for the next repetition. This makes five strokes per rasgueado, and a single beat is thus a quintuplet. This is the method favoured by Paco Pena. e.g in soleares -- here are the first three beats: 5 5 x a m i i x a m i i i i --------------- --------------- --- |---------------| |---------------| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | A A A A V A A A A V A V | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | x | 1 2 3 More complex variations are also possible (Nino Ricardo apparently used to START his rasgueado with an upstroke), but that would take me beyond the scope of this basic explanation. 3. Triplets ============ There is another completely distinct form of rasgueado which is produced by the wrist. It is extremely fast and powerful, and consists of one upward motion and two downward motions. However, there is possibly even more variation in execution between guitarists than with finger rasgueado. In all cases, the hand departs from it basic position. I'll start with what seems to me to be the simplest method, and then describe some variations. 1) Curl your fingers loosely, and rest the ball of your thumb on the index, as if you were holding a plectrum (flatpick). 2) Make an upstroke with your thumb BACKWARDS (from treble to bass) across the strings of the guitar. 3) Now open your hand, strumming down with ALL the fingers at once across the strings, but leave your thumb where it is. 4) Now bring your thumb down across the strings to join the fingers. This completes one iteration. The up and down motions of the thumb should be made with a relaxed rotation of the wrist, the opening of the hand being the third stroke. Now you can try playing three of these triplets in a row, followed by a final upstroke of the thumb, thus: p h p p h p p h p p --- --- --- --- --- --- | | | | | | | | | | V A A V A A V A A V | | | | | | | | | | This is a very common sequence (for example in bulerias, being substituted for beats 7-8-9-10 show above. A more subtle variation, capable of more light and shade, is used by Paco Pena: 1) Up with the thumb 2) Down with the little (x) finger 3) Down with the first finger p x i p x i p x i p --- --- --- --- --- --- | | | | | | | | | | V A A V A A V A A V | | | | | | | | | | Paco also sometimes does a further permutation, substituting an upstroke of the index for the first beat -- so that thumb is not used at all. I seem to remember that Serranito uses thumb, index, middle: p m i p m i p m i p --- --- --- --- --- --- | | | | | | | | | | V A A V A A V A A V | | | | | | | | | | Conclusion ========== Of course, much more could be said. And I am not especially an authority. What all this goes to say is that you should experiment with all of these methods; not just for a day or two, but until you can produce them ALL fairly comfortably. Then pick the way that suits YOU best. For printed music with rasguedos well notated, try: Joseph Trotter's transcription of Sabicas and Escudero. The Gendai Guitar (Japanese) series of Flamenco books. Paco Pena's "Toques Flamencos" (this is out of print, but there are still copies floating around). Good luck! Paul Magnussen Paul Magnussen
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