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Paco de Lucía, The Only Innovator of Contemporary Flamenco Guitar

(June 2009)

Prof. Ruben Diaz, Ph.D. Contemporary Harmony and Composition


The purpose of this article is:

  1. To establish that Paco de Lucía is the only real innovator of contemporary flamenco music;
  2. To demonstrate that all of the current techniques now regarded as “general flamenco techniques”—including many practices in the harmonic, melodic, rhythmic and compositional realms—are essentially innovations of Paco de Lucia’s and should therefore be called regarded as “Paco de Lucia techniques” rather than “general flamenco techniques”;
  3. To show that, in order to be a genuine flamenco guitar player, it is essential to study and to grasp thoroughly the principles of traditional flamenco—more specifically, the flamenco style as known and practiced before Paco de Lucia—and then to study Paco de Lucia’s contributions and innovations and thereby achieve a profound knowledge of the tenets of harmony (both classic and contemporary) as they apply to contemporary flamenco music; and
  4. To dispel the notion that flamenco guitar is merely about passion and “aire” (a flamenco term that denotes  “feeling” or “emotion”) and that it should not be approached from an structured (academic, if you will) point of view; i.e., through research based on the orthodox tenets of theory and harmony as well as guitar technique.

This article is not intended to discredit or to criticize anyone—nor is it intended to present just one person’s opinion (namely mine) on the matter.  On the contrary, it is intended to present a thorough, objective and comparative analysis grounded on the standard orthodox tenets of musical theory and harmony as well as fundamental flamenco principles; i.e., those surrounding rhythm, technique and musical arrangement.


The following will serve to define some of the specific flamenco terms often used in this article:

Alzapúa:  Thumb technique

Añadido:  A conclusive phrase inserted by the musician at the end point of a melodic line which has been developed and brought to a climax.  It is akin to a remate (or emphatic end to a melodic phrase) and it can be used in cante  (singing), falsetas (melodic variations of the guitar) or accompaniment.  It is an innovation of Paco de Lucia.  He included it for the first time in the history of flamenco with cante (singing) in: Esclavo de tus besos (Calle Real, 1983, Track 2, min 01:16) and Na es eterno (Calle Real, 1983, Track 6, min 00:34, 01:53, 02:48, 03:34); in falseta  in Na es eterno (Calle Real, 1983, Track 6, min 03:59); and without cante in Tumbona  (Solo Quiero Caminar,1981, Track 2, min 03:09)

Compás:  Rhythmic cycle

Palo:  Rhythm

Parado:  Technical resource for muting the strings

Rasgueo:  Right hand technique

Remate:  Emphasized end of a melodic phrase

Tapado: Rhythm while muting the strings

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Ruben Díaz 2018