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Could someone help me understand this passage about flamenco guitar theory?

Secondary Dominant Scales

It is well known that scale patterns are used in Flamenco, and are related in their layout on the guitar neck. For the key of A Phrygian, the pattern corresponds to F# (D Major) at the 3rd position and G# (E Major) at the 1st position; the sequence is important because of its relation to the Andalusian cadence. This means that if you derive melodies using these patterns at these positions, you'll be playing in strict Phrygian Mode (resolving to C ( = >"A" at 3rd position) and Bb ( = "A" at 1st position), respectively.

However, the use of secondary dominants has a subtle effect on melodic phrases in Flamenco. Modern Flamenco guitarists will often use the scale patterns of the secondary majors at positions III and I. This means (in the context of the A Phrygian Mode) the use of the A major patterns at the 3rd ( = C Major) and 1st ( = Bb Major) positions, respectively, instead of the above, finally resolving the sequence to A Phrygian at the open positions. This means that you'll actually be changing key relative to the chord in the progression; the key at III will now be C Major, and the key at I will now be Bb Major. These accidentals give a different "flavor" to the melodies than the use of straight Phrygian. These relationships can be transposed to all the other positions and/or keys of the Flamenco guitar, of course.

What is the author trying to say here? In A phrygian there is no F sharp or G sharp.

What do they mean by "resolving to C ( = >"A" at 3rd position) and Bb ( = "A" at 1st position), respectively"?

Thank you.

Source: https://www.flamencochuck.com/files/Music%20Theory/Theory.pdf

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2 Answers 2

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I think this is not very clearly explained, but I provide some guesses.

It is well known that scale patterns are used in Flamenco, and are related in their layout on the guitar neck. For the key of A Phrygian, the pattern corresponds to F# (D Major) at the 3rd position and G# (E Major) at the 1st position; the sequence is important because of its relation to the Andalusian cadence. This means that if you derive melodies using these patterns at these positions, you'll be playing in strict Phrygian Mode (resolving to C ( = >"A" at 3rd position) and Bb ( = "A" at 1st position), respectively.

Let's start with noticing that A phrygian is a mode of F major (in the book the author uses expression relative to F major). I understand the paragraph above as: flamenco guitarist think in terms of scale patterns. In order to play in A phrygian, they may use patterns from D major scale, but shift them three frets up. Then D major becomes F major, and F# becomes A. Similarly, E major shifted one fret up becomes F major, and G# becomes A.

However, the use of secondary dominants has a subtle effect on melodic phrases in Flamenco. Modern Flamenco guitarists will often use the scale patterns of the secondary majors at positions III and I. This means (in the context of the A Phrygian Mode) the use of the A major patterns at the 3rd ( = C Major) and 1st ( = Bb Major) positions, respectively, instead of the above, finally resolving the sequence to A Phrygian at the open positions. This means that you'll actually be changing key relative to the chord in the progression; the key at III will now be C Major, and the key at I will now be Bb Major. These accidentals give a different "flavor" to the melodies than the use of straight Phrygian. These relationships can be transposed to all the other positions and/or keys of the Flamenco guitar, of course.

I think this paragraph refers to reharmonization techniques; possibly to be used during improvisation and briefly. By using different scales, one can alter the original harmony. In the example the original harmony of A phrygian uses a single flat (Bb), while C major uses no flats or sharps, and Bb major uses two flats (Bb and Eb). Playing C major or Bb major instead of A phrygian, one introduces tension, to which the author refers to as secondary dominants. Then going back to A phrygian resolves this tension, just as secondary dominant resolves to a relative tonic chord.

The author doesn't specify, what are these secondary dominants. Let me make a guess. The Andalusian cadence in A phrygian is Dm-C-Bb-Am. The scale of C major introduces B natural, which may suggest the sound of G7 dominant chord, which would be a secondary dominant to C. Similarly, Bb major may suggest the sound of F7, a secondary dominant to Bb (or possibly also to Em or E, as tritone substitution).

But my guess might be an over-interpretation, biased by classical music theory. Later the author writes

Because of its strong relation to guitar patterns and their relation to the Phrygian Mode, this is a very guitaristic effect, and fairly unique to flamenco.

Perhaps this means you don't need to think about it too hard.

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The key word here is scale patterns and positions. My understanding is that he means that you'll use the fingering of the scales he mentions in another position on the neck.

See also page 1 of the document you linked

Blockquote The guitar is normally tuned to a pitch of A=440 cps; the 5th fret of the open E string. However, for the Flamenco guitar all further discussion of theory will be relative to the position of the capo (or cejilla); which functions as the new nut of the guitar. The strings are considered to be in open tuning (E, A, D, G, B, E) from this point.

I'm not too guitar savvy myself and am a bit puzzled by this. I haven't yet managed to put to notes what he writes, because it's all relative to the fretboard how you play scales on the guitar. I'll follow up when I get the exact solution.

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