Sometimes, when I do Alzapua, I can not produce clean sound, there're still I heard my thumb's nail picking. Usually, I use it while I'm playing (or learning with) some regular chord, like E major. Well, I do have long thumb nail because I want to learn that flamenco technique, because I think it'll be easier doing it while you have long nail.

Am I doing wrong step? If so, is there any method that I can try with?

  • I don't have enough experience with this technique to give a solid answer, but I can say it sounds like you would need to REALLY develop the right hand thumb for that technique, for instance by slowly alternate-picking with the thumb over single-string patterns. It can be easy to underestimate how much time you really have to spend to master a new technique. Good luck! – Grey Jun 30 '14 at 9:45

It is a difficult technique to acquire. For clarity's sake, let us break it down as following:

(1) The base note

(2) The downward stroke

(3) The upward stroke

If your issue is failing to get a "clean sound", I'd recommend the following:

  1. Always bear in my mind that (1) is the melody, the rest is just rythmic filling. The melody should always stand out and not be drowned out by the rythm added by (2) and (3). Focus on making the (1) stand out and that should go a long ways in cleaning up the sound.

  2. Learn to control (2) and (3). Say you're practicing alzapua on a basic E chord. Instead of simply doing (2) and (3) across all strings or an indeterminate amount of strings, try limiting it to specific strings. For instance, start out with (1) on the sixth string, then do (2) and (3) only on the fifth string. Focus on not touching any of the other strings! Practice this, then move on to (1) on the sixth string and (2) and (3) across the fifth and fourth string. Then (1) on the sixth string and (2) and (3) across the fifth, fourth and third string, etc. etc. This will help substantially increase the precision of your alzapua.

  3. Play with your wrist, not with your thumb. At high speeds, the thumb may in fact move a little bit but for the purposes of practicing, it shouldn't. The strength of the alzapua comes from a lateral movement of the wrist, not from moving the thumb. Extend your thumb so that it is slightly arched backwards. Then maintain that position all throughout the alzapua. The rest is done by turning your wrist. If you bend your thumb forwards, you're doing it wrong. Some also advise to slightly extend your pinky finger, the idea being that it strengthens the balance of your hand (the pinky serving as a counterweight to your thumb).

  4. Mix up the rythms. Because the alzapua consists of three movements, many people practice it as triplets. This is good practice, but you can also learn a lot by using other rythmic patterns. For instance, play an alzapua on a sixteenth note pattern, either by doubling (1) (to the effect of (1)-(1)-(2)-(3) and repeat) or by leaving a pause on the second sixteenth note (to the effect of (1)-pause-(2)-(3) and back to (1)).

  5. Practice using your thumb as a pick. Practice on one string always alternating between a downward and upward stroke. Work on evening out the sound (which in this case means making sure your upward stroke is as loud as the downward stroke). This is good practice for alzapua but it is also a technique in itself used widely in the Jerez style of flamenco.

  6. Don't play too fast! If your sound isn't clear playing triplets at 70 bpm. Bring it back down to 60 bpm. The key to a clean sound is slow practice. There's no jumping the gun here. If it doesn't sound right at 40 bpm, it will sound even worse at 180 bpm. I regularly use alzapua at buleria speed (160bpm and above) but I sometimes still practice at the lowest setting on the metronome.

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Some Tips:

  • Hire time with an actual Flamenco guitarist if you are interested in true flamenco technique. This will answer most of your questions.
  • Make sure that you thumb nail is properly trimmed.
  • It's ok in the beginning steps if you hear some nail with this technique. If you are doing this to play the lightning fast scales that Flamenco guys like to do, it's going to be more about aggression and physicality than utter perfection and cleanliness.

As a master of the technique says in his youtube comments:

"as far as I do not see you actually playing it, I can’t advise nor say even one word about it, "

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  • I would advise some caution as to the teachings of Mr. Diaz. 80% of what he teaches is on point, but some of is not. He presents himself as a disciple of Paco de Lucia but Paco de Lucia's inner circle, when asked about him, described him as a stalker. That he is a shrewed businessman who has managed to fare well on the internet is one thing, to call him a master is another. This video seems legit, but others have been altered to give the impression that he is playing faster than he is. For beginners, it may be difficult to sort out which teachings are good, and which aren't. – user26571 Feb 14 '16 at 22:06

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