We got a comment today from a subscriber basically asking this question, but in a more specific way.
The person asking had just finished our Beginner Course and was starting the Tangos course, which is generally what I recommend for people to do after the Beginner Course. The question had two parts: How do I integrate material from the Beginner Course into the Tangos material, and how do I not forget everything I’ve learned so far?
I’ll get to the not-forgetting part in a minute. But first I want to answer the first part of the question about integrating the material from the two courses. The short answer is that you don’t. In our Beginner Course we cover a “Palo” called Soleares or Soleá (the two word are used interchangeably), so you would only integrate the material with other Soleá material.
A Palo is a form or style within flamenco. Each Palo has its own characteristics of mode (meaning that the various Palos are either in Phrygian, Major or minor modes), meter (many are in a 12-beat compás and others are in 4/4 time or 3/4), and tempo/mood. Soleá is a slow 12-beat Palo in Phrygian that’s generally played Por Arriba (in E Phrygian, assuming no capo). Tangos is a generally upbeat 4/4, also in Phrygian, but generally played Por Medio (in A Phrygian, assuming no capo).
That’s a lot to take in, and I’m not expecting you to memorize it 🙂
As you learn various Palos in flamenco, though, the process of taking the time to learn them means you’ll be spending enough time with each Palo that you won’t really have to think twice about those characteristics. The act of learning them will make that all second-nature.
All of this means that Soleá and Tangos are not really so closely related, so you wouldn’t be very likely to integrate the two. Rather, your Soleá will be one piece, and your Tangos will be a separate piece to play. Different keys and moods and meters and all that. Variety!
Our Beginner Course aims to teach you some really important elements of flamenco, including a lot of essential guitar basics, the most important techniques specific to flamenco, and most importantly, how flamenco works. Once you understand how one compás flows into the next and the many options you have to mix and match what you know, you can take those skills with you to other Palos.
You don’t have to choose Tangos after the Beginner Course – I just think it’s a nice transition into new Palos after opening so much time with Soleá. But no matter what Palo you choose to look at after Soleá, you should now have the understanding to navigate all of the new elements that you’ll learn every time you encounter a new Palo. And as you learn more Palos, part of the fun is learning new material for Palos you already know.
As for not forgetting your Soleá material, this is something I call Maintenance, and it should become an important part of your practice routine.
The basic idea behind Maintenance is to not forget any of the material you’ve spent so much time and energy learning. It’s a little different from practice in that you’re not really trying to necessarily play anything any better than you already can. You’re really just trying to not forget it or backslide. And the safest way to achieve this is to simply play everything you know at least a couple of times a week. If you’re just starting out, it won’t take very long to play everything you know, so you may be able to just play through all of your Soleá material every time you sit down to play, and it might just take a few minutes. Plus, if you’re new to playing music in the first place (as opposed to experienced players who are new to flamenco but not to music or practicing), you’ll want to develop your memorization skills, and this is a great way to do that.
So just play all of your Soleá as often as possible, let’s say a minimum of twice a week. And one of the important things is that you don’t have to stop and fix every little mistake or trouble spot – that’s what we call Practice. In maintenance you just want to play it all at whatever level you were at when you started working on new stuff. If you want to take some time out of your Practice every day to work on Soleá, well that’s even better! But no need to feel guilty about not getting it better. The idea is to not backslide, so that when you do go back to clean stuff up you’re right where you left off, and you don’t have to waste time remembering what you’ve already spent time learning.
And an added bonus is that you’re also basically developing your repertoire. So when it’s time to play with friends or at a gig, your material is all ready to go! As you learn more material your Maintenance will take longer, and that’s when doing it every day may become impractical. At that point you can choose a day or two a week to play through everything you know, which eventually becomes playing a concert for yourself or whoever’s nearby a couple of times a week.