The Myths of Learning Flamenco Guitar
Can ‘just anyone’ learn flamenco guitar?
One of the questions we’re asked all the time is whether or not someone not born into it can really learn flamenco. My answer, of course, is a very enthusiastic, YES! I have some really good reasons for believing and knowing this. Read below about the myths of learning flamenco guitar, along with my rebuttals.
Myth Number 1 – Flamenco is too hard
The number one myth of learning flamenco guitar is: Flamenco is too hard of a style to start with. I need to be a really good guitar player in some other style first.
This is obviously a very common myth and one that I hear about the most.
My rebuttal for that one is easy!
Choose your favorite flamenco guitarist – it’s probably Paco De Lucia, but maybe it’s Vicente Amigo or Tomatito or Sabicas or Pepe Habichuela or whoever. Guess what? They didn’t play folk music or pop or jazz first. They started with flamenco. And they became legendary players. So there is nothing wrong with starting out with flamenco.
Myth Number 2 – You have to be Spanish
All you have to do is look around and listen to see that this one isn’t true. There are so many really amazing players who were not born in Spain. Some went to Spain and became steeped in the culture. Others just listened to the music and soaked it in the way any musician soaks in the music they love. Today there are world-class players from just about every country and continent in the world. Some of them are my friends! Music is music, and if you dive in to this music you will get to know it. With the right guidance (Hi!) it’ll go even faster.
Sure – it helps a lot to grow up hearing flamenco, and even more to grow up playing it. But the difference is simply exposure. For example: If you grew up in a household that listened to jazz all day you’d grow up knowing jazz, whether or not you played it. And if your family members all played jazz and encouraged you to do so also, you’d have even more of an advantage. But as a result, we don’t therefore think that you can only learn jazz if you grow up in a house where everyone plays jazz.
Myth Number 3 – It just can’t be taught
Obviously if I believed this I wouldn’t have started Flamenco Explained and devoted myself to teaching this amazing music.
I think that it’s true that in the past there have been ‘teachers’ who didn’t really want to share their knowledge, though this is pretty anecdotal. I think there are also a lot of great players who aren’t the best teachers simply because they haven’t thought about flamenco from the point of view of someone who didn’t grow up with the music. They’re happy to share what they know, but they haven’t put too much thought into teaching. I’ve studied with people like this and it can be an amazing experience if you have the background to understand what they show you. And sometimes just being in the presence of a true master can be inspiring and motivating. This was certainly true for me in my time with Enrique Melchor.
But just like any other style of music, flamenco is about learning the chords and the notes and the compás (time). If you haven’t listened to much flamenco it can seem a bit foreign at first! But if you want to learn flamenco it’s because you’ve heard it and it speaks to you. So what you need is to keep listening, and then to understand how it all works. To understand what you’re hearing so you can do it yourself.
I’ve spent years honing my approach to teaching flamenco, and almost every day I get a couple of emails or comments on YouTube or on this website, telling me that someone has been trying to learn flamenco for X-Amount of years and now they finally understand. This is what I live for! With the right foundation, learning just gets easier and easier as you go.
Myth Number 4 – I’m too old to learn something this hard
This of course depends on your goals in life. If you want to become the next Paco, then welcome to the club – we all do! And we all know that we won’t be, and we love flamenco anyway so we keep at it. Some of us do it for a living, some do it as an obsessive hobby, and some just play a bit for fun. And we all want to get better. That’s the nature of pursuing something like this. The learning is half (if not more) of the fun! It’s a bit of a cliché, but the truth is that you’ll get out of it what you put in. It takes some dedication to get good at just about anything, and if you’ve read this far then I suspect you really want to learn, or get better at, flamenco guitar. So get started!
What do you think about this?
If you have any questions or comments about any of this feel free to email me, or leave a comment below! I love hearing from you.