viernes, 20 de julio de 2012

Distinguishing seguiriyas, malagueñas, tangos and soleares

This post has been specially designed for those who are starting to become interested in flamenco. For people who find this art fascinating, but are still overwhelmed by the feeling of ignoring the basics. Who are at the moment wondering “how do you know this is a seguiriya?” or “how do you know this is a soleá and not tangos? Who for weeks or months are listening to a CD with the cover at hand, checking it over and over, looking for the characteristics that could help identify a cante. I hope this material will be useful to do just that, to learn a series of "clues" that may be helpful to quickly identify a cante, and to then devote attention to enjoying the performance at its the best.

Here we present a series of clues to help identify seguiriyas, tangos, soleares and malagueñas.


The seguiriya is considered to be the quintessence of flamenco, is one of the basic cantes, and is a prime example of tragic and heartrending singing. While the guitar maintains a certain rhythm, singing is performed ad libitum, freely, without keeping time.

To distinguish seguiriyas, just look carefully at the beginning of the guitar accompaniment. The most usual start is a strong entry that mimics the beat of the drum.

The guitar entry ends with two very characteristic notes. When you get used to it, this closing is what best helps us identify the seguiriya, since it is universally present.

The following audio contains this characteristic in a loop, so that may be better recorded in the mind.

It is very typical for the cantaores (singers) to begin with a characteristic "tiri-tiri-tiri-tiri" which mimics the bugle call that was used in many old shows to announce the start of the performance.

Here you can hear several different beginnings of seguiriyas, in which these features can be clearly appreciated.


The malagueña comes from local fandangos. Typically, the lyrics begin with the second verse, which is then repeated in its place; this is characteristic of all the fandangos. But before the singing starts, some features in the guitar beginning will give us the clue that the cantaor is going to sing a malagueña or a closely related cante.

Like seguiriyas, malagueñas are sung without keeping time. But here the accompanying guitar has also evolved, and is performed with total freedom as well. The initial guitar accompaniment in the malagueña is typically melodic, baroque, and sweeter, and ends with a very characteristic closing before the cantaor begins singing.

Here is a loop of this typical closing.

Now, several different malagueña beginnings


The tangos are a type of cante with a very marked beat. The type of rythm is binary (two strokes per time), so that every two times, three of them will be marked and the fourth will be silent:

This is the simplest form of accompanying handclaps.

A fastest time:

Often, a beat is inserted between the first two.

This marked rhythm means the guitar accompaniment is characterized by a repetitive cadence that is easily identifiable. Although the beginning may be more or less varied, this figure typically appears before the singing starts.

Here it is in a loop

And now, with handclaps accompanying:

Now, several different tango beginnings.


The soleá is one of the main basic cantes of flamenco. The singer's ability to keep naturally in time, while maintaining a long and intense performance, is particularly appreciated.

The soleá has a twelve-beat rythm, divided into two periods of three beats and three periods of two beats.

A typical way to accompany a soleá with handclaps is shown below. The stronger claps are marked, and the silent beats as well.

With respect to the guitar accompaniment there are several characteristic figures, but the most universal, that will sooner or later appear making it clear that this is a soleá, is as follows:

Here it is in a loop

Now, several different beginnings of soleares.


Now, to practice this guide for the identification of cantes, we put a few beginnings of the four types of them, for you to try to distinguish each one.

























In this TEXT you will find the key

To learn, the best thing is to have fun playing. Now you can enjoy the flash game posted by Flamenquina Kids

This post has been translated from spanish by Alex Bagney. Thank you very much, Alex!

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