Some of you have asked for sheet music to accompany the flamenco lessons I’ve been doing, and students have asked for this in the past, so I thought I’d explain why I think it’s important not to use printed music when learning flamenco if you actually have access to a teacher (if you don’t, that’s another story altogether and you do what you can). For legal reasons I should probably say that this is just my opinion, but that I’ve been teaching for a while and my experience bears this out.

The bottom line for me is that I think printed music gets in the way of really understanding how flamenco works. This is not to say that there’s any harm in it if your goal is to learn a solo piece as if it were a classical piece, note for note, or for learning a particular falseta, but in the early stages of learning flamenco I believe you need to understand that flamenco is almost organic – it grows from understanding the pull between two chords and how they move away from and towards one another in time.

If you watch any of the videos I’ve posted so far, you’ll see that you have a million options on your way from point a to point b and back again. If you learn four compáses of Soleá and you know how to take them apart and put them back together you suddenly have tons of material that you can use as you feel it. If you just memorize four compáses you have exactly that: four compáses of Soleá.

There are some good methods out there (I particularly like Dennis Koster’s, but I’m biased, since he was my first teacher), and I think that you can make really good use of the material in them, but I’d rather hear my students play good compás with no falsetas than a bunch of falsetas out of compás. Understanding the compás will make you play your falsetas better, too, because you’ll understand why they are phrased the way they are and how they fit into the bigger picture.

And while I’m sure this would never apply to any of you guys, I’ve found that an awful lot of guitarists stop listening as soon as you put music in front of them, while forcing them to listen and memorize opens up their ears in a way that can be very liberating.

Also, it’s how flamenco has been taught forever, and I think it’s more fun, so I ask that you all bear with me without sheet music for now. If we get into any falsetas I’ll consider writing them out.

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5 Responses to “Where’s the Sheet Music?”

  1. Right on, Kai!

    In addition to classical guitar, I play irish traditional music on flute and the exact same thing applies. Until you learn it by ear, you’ll never really understand it, plus there are so many important skills that can only be acquired through attentive listening.

    It’s kind of sad how learning by ear is so taboo amongst classical guitarists. Maybe you wouldn’t want to build your whole repertoire that way but learning a few pieces by ear and imitating a good source is be a great way to learn many aspects of music.

  2. Christopher says:

    I don’t think it’s Taboo to learn by ear, but classical guitarists come out of a traditional of some 500 years of written music. Saying it’s sad that classical guitarists don’t learn by ear is like saying it’s sad that classical pianists don’t learn by ear. I think it’s sad that people don’t take the time to develop their ears, but I don’t have a problem learning from sheet music.

    All that said, Kai, I get what you’re saying. To me your explanations don’t need sheet music. But when you started talking about secondary dominants and chords progressions in one of your videos, I can follow along just fine, but it’s easy to see how that starts to get confusing. Not everyone thinks along those sort of lines of deconstructing and putting music back together.

    • Kai says:


      Exactly – I’m not suggesting that classical guitarists should change how they learn classical music. But I notice in myself and others that there’s a different mindset when you learn by ear, and I think being able to do both is the best scenario for any musician. And flamenco is a great way to develop one’s ears since that’s how it’s traditionally taught anyway.

      I occasionally use terms that I know not everyone will understand, but because the audience here is pretty sophisticated I figure it’ll help some people and it won’t really do any harm if one doesn’t understand. That said, let me know if anything needs clarification, since I’m trying to condense a ton of material/ideas into 5-7 minute chunks.


  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christopher Davis, 関永堅. 関永堅 said: RT @chrisguitarguy: Kai from the GSI blog on why you shouldn't use sheet music to learn Flamenco http://dlvr.it/Gfm2Z […]


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