What Does Soleá Feel Like?

What is Soleá, and what does Soleá feel like? This is a big question, and I get pretty regular reminders that learning to play Soleá on the guitar and really knowing what Soleá is are two different things.

On paper, Soleá (or Soleares – you can say either and always be understood) is one of the slower Palos, with a 12-beat compás and played in a Phrygian key, usually Por Arriba. Often called the mother of flamenco, Soleá holds a sacred place among the Palos of flamenco. Most guitarists start their flamenco journey with Soleá – indeed our Beginner Course focuses on Soleá exclusively. For guitarists it’s a great choice, as it’s slow enough that beginners won’t fight too much with tempo, and most of what you need to know about the 12-beat compás can be learned through Soleá. Dancers and singers, however, work their way up to Soleá, as it takes great experience and control to dance or sing slowly and with the emotional depth that’s expected of this Palo.

But of course none of this tells you what a Soleá actually feels like. So if you’re ready to get a better sense of what Soleá is, or can be, I’ve put together a bunch of videos of Soleá performances for you below to watch that in sum will give you a the beginning of a sense of what Soleá is and how it feels.

Watch then watch some more

There’s no way I can be comprehensive about this, of course. These are simply a bunch of performances that speak to me. The first bunch are solo guitar pieces. The next bunch are Cante, and I encourage you to watch these too, even if you’re not yet a fan of Cante! Quite a few different styles of Cante are represented here, so you might find your way in to the Cante through one of these singers. And even if you’re not yet a fan, hearing the accompaniment and the role that the guitar plays with the Cante is super helpful in understanding how the solo guitar is grounded in that.

And finally I’ve included some dance, as one of the very best ways to see/feel/hear the totality of a Palo is through the dance, which includes Cante and guitar, of course.

And if I missed a Soleá performance that you particularly love, just let us know in the comments!


Ramon Montoya 1936 – There’s no video of Montoya that I know of, but he’s credited with essentially inventing the concept of solo flamenco guitar, and also wrote tons of what we consider ‘traditional’ melodies for Soleá. A giant in the history of flamenco guitar.

Niño Ricardo – together with Ramon Montoya and Sabicas, Niño Ricardo was one of the great virtuosos of the 20th Century and by all accounts was idolized and emulated by the young Paco De Lucia. He also contributed greatly to the guitar vocabulary of Soleá.
Sabicas – The third of the Big Three pre-Paco 20th Century trailblazers. There’s not much good video I can find of him playing Soleá, so here’s one minute of video from 1945, and then just the audio of his classic Soleá Bronce Gitano from his groundbreaking 1959 album Flamenco Puro (which everyone should own).
Diego del Gastor – Diego is a bit controversial in that some consider him the pinnacle of what flamenco “Puro” can and should be, and others, well, don’t think that. While not nearly as influential as the Big Three above players, I thought I’d include him here as an example of a rawer style that clearly appeals to many.
Of course, after the Big Three above, Paco de Lucia is by far the most influential guitarist of the 20th Century. In the first, older, video you can easily see the connection between his music and that of his predecessors. In the second video – his Soleá aptly titled Gloria al Niño Ricardo (Glory to Niño Ricardo) from his 1987 album Siroco, you can start to see how Paco changed the vocabulary, the swing, and pretty much all but the very essence of what came before him.
Young Paco de Lucia:
Paco de Lucia plays Gloria al Niño Ricardo
Vicente Amigo – And if anyone is generally recognized as the successor to Paco, it’s Vicente Amigo. Vicente was the first of the great virtuosos who grew up already with the influence of the mature Paco de Lucia. This is his Soleá Tio Arango from his debut solo album, De Mi Corazón Al Aire.


Antonio Mairena with Manuel Morao – I guess you could say that Mairena was to Cante before Camarón what Sabicas was to the guitar before Paco. The difference being that Mairena was consciously trying to preserve a style of Cante, as well as specific Cante, that he feared were being lost. He was a hugely influential singer and is still for many the reference for how many Palos should be sung.

Fernanda de Utrera with Paco del Gastor – Fernando and her sister Bernarda were proteges of Mairena himself, and Fernanda is widely regarded as one of the best singers of Soleá ever. Listen to her and her sister sing Bulerias, too, or anything else, really.
Camarón with Tomatito – For me it doesn’t get much better than these two together. As perfect as Camarón’s records with Paco were, there is something magical about these two together. The good news is that I feel that this spirit is alive today in Israel Fernandez and Diego del Morao (see below). Camarón, of course, was the most important flamenco singer of the second half of the 20th Century. (Though more and more, people are putting Enrique Morente up there with him, which I’m all for).
Diego El Cigala with Diego del Morao – Before winning Grammys and launching a career as a singer of Cuban music, Tango and Rancheras, Diego seemed to be the natural heir to Camarón. Without begrudging him his massive success, some of us wish he had continued singing flamenco. Diego’s performances with Niño Josele and later with Diego del Morao are legendary. If you search his name you’ll find a lot of not-flamenco, but don’t be fooled – El Cigala is the real deal.
Israel Fernandez – Seen by many today as the current Camarón-level talent, I’d have to agree. Here he is singing a Soleá A Capella, but check out his recordings with Diego del Morao. As I mentioned above, they capture some of the incredible chemistry and artistry of Camarón with Tomatito.
Enrique Morente with Rafael Riqueñi – Morente was the other great innovator of the 20th Century, along with Camarón. They were very different singers, but more and more people are looking back and placing Morente in the same category as Camarón. Morente’s lifelong guitarist/friend was Pepe Habichuela, though in this video he’s accompanied by Riqueñi.
Carmen Linares With Paco Cortes – One the most important Cantaoras of the last 50 years, Carmen Linares is also known as a reference – in other words a singer other singers look to as an example. Check out her album Antología which features her and just about every great guitarist alive at the time on a double-album of Cantes originated by women singers. Also Paco Cortes is one of my all-time favorite guitarists for Cante accompaniment.
And to wrap it up, here’s the great Eva la Yerbabuena dancing a Soleá, accompanied by her husband Paco Jarrana, who just might be the best living guitarist who hasn’t recorded a record of his own (he seems to have no interest, and certainly performs non-stop both as a soloist and accompanist).

There are a lot of dancers I could have chosen, but I was lucky to see the young Eva perform quite a bit in Granada back when she was just starting, and I think everyone should know more about Paco Jarrana.

Soleá Material

Now that you’re inspired, you’ll probably want to play some Soleá! For more material and tutorials you can browse our Soleá Compás and our Soleá Falseta categories to see what moves you.