With Spotify and other streaming services anyone can listen to all the flamenco in the world without having to bring LPs back from Spain in their guitar cases!
I started traveling to Spain for flamenco in 1988 and started buying flamenco records that year.
I would scour the discount bins for flamenco and buy anything that had a guitarist I had heard of or was clearly flamenco (if it was people I had never heard of but the names of the palos were next to the names of the songs that was good enough for me). Like an idiot, I would cut off the corners of the the LPs so they would fit in my guitar case for the flight home. I discovered tons of great music this way (and a bunch of crap, too) and built what would become a pretty comprehensive library of flamenco music from the 20th Century.
I’m always saying that the only way to really learn flamenco is to listen to tons of flamenco.
What people born into flamenco have that the rest of us don’t is a familiarity with the music that comes from constant exposure. So it makes sense that you’re just not going to ‘get it’ if you don’t listen a lot. I have hundreds and hundreds of CDs and records, but now of course all of that is outdated (this makes me a little sad, but I’m dealing with it).
The good news is that with Spotify and other streaming services anyone can listen to all the flamenco in the world without having to bring LPs back from Spain in their guitar cases! The only downside is that it can all be a bit overwhelming. To that end we’re creating some Spotify playlists to help get you started on your listening journey. We’ll start with some basics – an Intro to Flamenco Guitar playlist, playlists of the various Palos and some of my favorite guitarists, and some that I hope will get you interested in the Cante.
Lots of you will be coming to flamenco from a love of the guitar music and may not yet be so into the Cante. Maybe you’ve heard a lot of us talk about how important the Cante is to understanding flamenco but it’s just not your thing (yet!). The truth is that I started this way myself, and I fell in love with flamenco singing by accident. I would scour those 99 Peseta record bins for old flamenco records, and if there was a guitarist I had heard of on the record I would buy it, whether it was a guitar record or a Cante record. Either way, I wanted to hear the older players doing their thing. At first I sort of tolerated the singing, but in time I started to search out the great singers, regardless of who was playing for them. I never really noticed when I started liking the Cante, but nowadays I’m just as likely to to listen to Cante as to solo flamenco guitar.
I should also add that while directed listening is great, just listening to flamenco all the time is what will really make the difference in your understanding.
And if you want to learn to accompany, there’s simply no better way to become familiar with the music than listening all the time. It’s great to count and try to understand what’s happening in a given piece of music, but it’s just as valuable to just enjoy the music and get to know it the way we get to know the pop music all around us in our daily lives. You need to just feel it, and that only happens when you listen. The music will begin to feel familiar because it is familiar!
So enjoy the playlists and let us know if there’s anything you’d like us to add. Or share your own playlists with us – we’d love to hear what you’ve been listening to!
For other flamenco resources that take listening to flamenco to good use by learning to play flamenco guitar, please visit our resource page. In the mean time, enjoy this “Old School” playlist we’ve created for you. Check out our Spotify playlists for our others!