Article with Marija Temo on differences between flamenco & classical guitars, & upcoming workshops & performances in Atlanta, GA 5/21-23/11

Posted by admin - May 20th, 2011

The Whole Thing is “ON”

Calling all guitarists (and other string players) to try playing in flamenco style. By Rina Menosky UPDATED MAY 16, 2011

From few yards away, they sure look the same — but they sure sound different. Is it like the famous song by George and Ira Gershwin in 1937, (popularized further by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald later): “I say ‘tomato’…you say ‘tomahto’…I say ‘potato’…you say ‘potahto’…?”

Classical guitar image on The Visual Dictionary

Are there too many differences and disputes that “two – flamenco and classical guitar players in this              case – will never be one?” As the song keeps on going, “something must be done….,”
I personally think something must be done about flamenco guitar population growth in metro Atlanta. With two national-chain guitar stores and notable music boutiques peppered throughout town, I know there is a great interest in guitar-playing here. So, where are all of those talented people? We have tons of beautiful dancing students, but just a handful of aspiring flamenco guitar players. So I wonder…can they not try crossing over to the flamenco side, just to see what it is like? You know, it is okay to say “pajahmas” and not “pajamas” sometimes!


Flamenco guitarists at a workshop in Atlanta

“Goodness knows what the end will be” for my recruiting efforts, but I asked tons of questions to a lady who is about to land in Atlanta for a week-long stay. This isn’t her first time here and won’t be the last either, as she has been a friend and a teacher to Atlanta’s flamenco scene over the years. This Peabody Conservatory of Music graduate with a master’s degree has crafted the dispute and differences between classical and flamenco guitar playing into an advantage over the last few decades, and she is ready to share her knowledge and artistry with Atlantans yet again. Marija Temo, an Ohio native known as a “triple threat” (modestly), is widely-recognized as a virtuoso classical/flamenco guitarist. Yes, I said “modestly,” because if I am counting correctly, the proper identifier should be more like “quintuple threat,” as she is also a flamenco vocalist, dancer, and conductor.identifier should be more like “quintuple threat,” as she is also a flamenco vocalist, dancer, and conductor.

But wait — she is not a threat! She is a wonderful, information-loaded, experience-rich teacher. Just look at how she educated me on the differences and similarities between classical and flamenco guitar in a mere 15 minutes over the phone:

Anatomy:
Generally speaking, flamenco guitar is lighter in weight, traditionally made with cypress (though others construction materials exist, such as a spruce top), and has a brighter sound. Strings are set much closer to the body, which makes it easier for the right hand to do the strumming technique. It creates a more percussive, “buzzy” sound. The neck is wider, but thinner, which makes it easier on the left hand for maneuvering. Traditionally, the flamenco guitar used to have wooden pegs for tunings. The distinctive “golpeador” (tapping plate) is placed on the body of the guitar to allow percussive sound and rhythmic effects to be created.

Classical guitar is totally opposite of that. Again, generally speaking, the classical guitar is heavy in weight, and many of them are made with various types of wood, such as spruce and cedar. The neck is narrower, but thicker. It has mechanical keys (“machine heads”) for tuning. Over all, it has deeper sound. The action — where the strings are set — is much higher and away from the body of the guitar, unlike flamenco guitar strings, which help the sound to be sustained longer and to resonate more.

Similarity? Both have nylon strings and many flamenco guitars also have mechanical keys now these days…

Techniques:
Good news! All techniques in classical discipline are used in flamenco. However, flamenco has few more:

- different types of “rasgueados”
- “golpes” (tapping technique)
- variety of strumming techniques (i.e., some differences in tremolos and a few other techniques not in the classical world)

The hand/fitting position (the way a player would sit/hold the guitar) is different between the two, which changes the tone and color of the sound. Furthermore, flamenco’s left hand is said to accompany singers (chords) and the right hand can be utilized to accompany dancers’ intricate and percussive movements and footwork.

Gist:
Flamenco guitar playing is based on a strong rhythmic pulse to accompany singing and dancing. Traditionally, the structure of how the music is formed depends on those elements — singing and dancing — as well as “falsetas” (melodic passages) that guitarists choose to introduce in-between — all in an improvised manner, again traditionally-speaking. Conversely, the focus for the classical guitar is to interpret the composed masterpieces with the concept of harmony, theory, development, repeating of musical themes, etc. In a way, a solo flamenco guitarist has approached their solo guitar playing (without the other elements, like singing and dancing) in a classical way. But in the end, the biggest difference is that a flamenco guitar player’s ultimate goal is to have one’s own style after learning from others and to strive for the improvisational moment whereas a classical guitar player’s focus is to master the artistry to best express the composer’s intention — and in some cases, with an individual’s own interpretation. Of course, both are musically very different!

Advantage (“the plunge”):
For classical player of guitar and other stringed instruments (electric, acoustic, banjo, ukulele, shamisen, etc. — whoever they are), Temo suggests to cross over between the varying techniques without fear! Diving into flamenco will only broaden a player’s style and techniques. For classical players in particular, flamenco rasgueados can be incorporated into their pieces (i.e., classical Spanish pieces). Also, learning interesting strumming patterns and making improvements rhythmically can’t hurt anyone for that matter. And for some players, this can liberate their fingers and get rid of the little plastic pick!

Best of the both worlds:
So, can a guitarist have his/her cake and eat it too? Why not? Ask Temo personally, who plays a “Marija Temo” model flamenco/classical hybrid™, which she designed with luthier Tom Rodriguez. Women — you know we get our way! But even if you say “eether,” and I say “eyether,” or I say “neether,” and you say “nyther”…”eether,” “eyether,” “neether,” “nyther…” The whole flamenco “thing” is still going on, and I hope talented guitarists (and other string players) will cross over to the world of flamenco, even if just for a moment.

Wednesday, May 18, 7-10 PM
Marija Temo will be performing with AIRE Flamenco at Fanoos Persian Cuisine. Reservation: 404.256.2099 www.aireflamencolive.com

Saturday & Sunday, May 21 – 22
Flamenco guitar and voice workshop with Marija Temo / Contact: Rina Menosky 404.457.3775 / bailerina@att.net info (jpg)

Monday, May 23 @ 7:00 p.m.
Marija Temo and guest dancer José de Guadalupe with AIRE Flamenco @Peachtree Ridge High School. Admission: $3.

 

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