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I'm just starting to get into flamenco guitar, and I have a question about the proper placement of accents.

I have a teacher and we have started with Soleares, and he says the accent goes on 3, 6, 8, and 10 beats. I have also read in a few places that this is true. HOWEVER, I have also read that there should be an accent on the 12th beat as well. Which is correct, or are they both correct depending on what the player choses?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

If by accents you mean simply the strong beats (i.e. the beats that you would tap with your foot), then it is always 3-6-8-10-12 in soleares. If, however, you mean "golpes" then these have little to do with the structure of the compas at all. They are used as accentuations of a note or chord, and therefore can be used anywhere (in the case of syncopation for instance, you can play a golpe on the half-beat between 3 and 4).

The confusion here I think is the following: if you play the basic compas of a solea, you will notice that the music between 10 and 12 is always the same. It is used as a kind of transition between two compases. If you ask a flamenco guitarist where does a remate end in a solea, they will say 12 (except the final remate at the very end of a solea, if there is one, where everyone finishes on 10). If you ask a flamenco singer or dancer, they will say 10. The reason for this is that the melodic phrase of the singer will end on beat 10, as will the dancing patterns of the dancer. The singer or dancer will then wait out the last 2 beats, but the guitarist keeps on playing up until 12. Hence the confusion.

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Most common appears to be 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12, however I have heard a few that miss out the 12 and it is still recognisably Soleares. I can't find any definitive documentation one way or the other, although Wikipedia includes the 12th beat.

I actually quite like using both forms within the same piece, for different sections.

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(Let's start by assuming that you are using the common flamenco approach of starting the cycle of 12 beats on "12". This is highly confusing to most trained musicians, but it makes sense if you think of beginning the count on a clock face, which of course starts at the top, on 12).

Keep in mind that there are number of distinct regional styles of Soleares, the Grandmother of the Palos, and I'm just an infant wandering in the great cathedral of flamenco, so I won't try and explain those differences...

But a simple place to start is just to listen - here is Juan Habichuela (accompanying the incredible 20-year old Estrella Morente!) - he is famous in particular for his solid and responsive accompaniment of cante. His introduction is a small masterpiece of clarity, atmosphere and imagination:

While he will lead to a strong 3 with the classic three chord flamenco cadence ("1-2-3" -> G-F-Emaj), He will almost always drop a golpe on 6 and 12, helping the singer keep track of the compas, even when they are singing freely over the cycle of beats. Another "flag" he frequently sends up for the singer is the characteristic Soleares arpeggiation pattern on 10-11-12 that pushes to a strong 12 accent (with golpe).

You teacher is right about 6/8/10 as well - the accents on 6, 8 and 10 serve to divide up the second half of twelve beats into groups of two, a very characteristic flamenco shift in accents. So you could think of the twelve beats as "two-groups-of-three, followed by three-groups-of-two" - (>> > >) (>> > >) (>> >) (>> >) (>> >) - speed that up and you'll start to hear the rhythm of "I Want To Live In America" from "West Side Story"!

But just listening to this roomful of master musicians is an education in itself - Ole!

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