Soleá Explained Escobilla Edition – Do I Need This?
If you’re not currently accompanying dancers or planning to do so you might be wondering “do I need this?” Soleá Explained Escobilla Edition, course. If your Soleá is solid but you want to get to that next level, then the short answer is yes. This course will improve your Soleá dramatically, whether you play solo or accompany dancers and/or singers. The reason it’s so good for you is that working with really rhythmic material will improve your phrasing, your time and your compás, as well as your ability to manipulate the material you already have.
Of course you always want to be aware of the full 12-beat compás when playing Soleá or any 12-beat compás. But you’ll often hear me say to feel the three-beat phrases. Those three-beat phrases are building blocks within each compás. They really help hear the phrasing in a slow 12 like Soleá, whether it’s compás or falsetas. I’d argue that most of the time the three-beat phrase dominates, and this is especially true in the Escobilla.
As you work with the material in the Escobilla course (or with dancers in the real world, of course) you’ll become keenly aware of these little three-beat phrases and how they work together to form full compáses. Almost without realizing it, you’ll start putting these little phrases together in ways that make sense in the context of Soleá. The building blocks will start to reveal themselves in ways that make more sense than before, and your compás will improve without your having to learn any new material.
As you play along with the escobillas you’ll be forced to really improve your time – your ability to stay in time and to keep up with an external time-keeper (the dancer, in this case). But there’s another huge benefit, which is that it will also greatly improve your freer, rubato-adjacent kind of playing.
In Soleá, along with Seguirillas and Tientos, there are moments when you’re in compás but not necessarily in strict time. It’s almost like rubato, but in compás. There’s a push and pull of the beat, which I like to envision as either pushing a large stone up a hill (everything slows either a little or a lot) or rolling that same stone down a hill (everything speeds up). There’s freedom here, but you still need a real awareness of the compás and the phrasing.
In essence, you’re saying “I’ll tell you where that beat is”. So an accent on beat three, for example, is where you say it is rather than where the metronome would have said. But there’s a catch – it has to make musical sense and compás sense. When I hear students play with this concept for the first time I can hear if they really understand the underlying phrasing when they play in this freer style or if they’re just abandoning the concept of time.
Playing the material in strict time, as you do when accompanying an escobilla, is the perfect way to truly own the material. Once you’ve played in strict time and compás for a while, you’ll have that innate sense of the phrasing. This then allows you to take some freedom with time and still be in compás, which opens up a whole new world of expression in our Soleá.
Manipulating your Material
As your command of time and phrasing improve, so will your ability to manipulate the material you have for Soleá. When your understanding of phrasing and time coalesce, you’ll start to hear all of the building blocks in a new way. It may start with hearing how all of the various 7-8-9 phrases are available in so many places as you accompany. Or you may begin to hear how you can syncopate the phrases you play by, say, starting a half beat later. And you’ll understand that when you do this you just have to adjust some tiny things so that the next three-beat phrase starts on the downbeat of that phrase. Or you may syncopate that as well.
These are the countless ways of subtly changing the material that can be so frustrating when you start learning flamenco. Why won’t your teacher play it exactly the same way they just played it a minute ago? Because those little manipulations become second nature and we don’t even think about them. It’s what I call Flamenco Brain. And few things will help you develop Flamenco Brain as quickly as accompanying dance.
A student of mine who’s currently just beginning her journey accompanying Baile was recently complaining about how boring it can get playing the same stuff over and over for dancers. I smiled. That boredom equals a mastery of the material. When it becomes so easy that you get a bit bored you find ways to make it more interesting. That constant repetition reinforces your time, but also gives you opportunities to explore. And that’s where it gets fun!
So Yeah, Do This Course
If your command of Soleá is pretty strong, I’m going to say yeah, you should do this course. It’s a pretty advanced course in some senses – it gets faster than the tempos we’ve looked at for a solo guitar Soleá, some of the variations get a bit complex, and you need really solid compás. But the benefits are really huge. So if you don’t have access to a dance studio, or if you’re preparing to start accompanying soon, this course is one of those tools that will help you become a really solid player.