Is Flamenco Guitar Hard to Learn? Guitar Tutor Compares Different Styles

I spent a few years learning flamenco guitar from a traditional Flamenco teacher from Spain, and I also learnt some other styles. So, I thought I’d summarize whether Flamenco guitar is hard to learn and how it compares to other styles. Here’s what I found.

Overall, learning flamenco guitar is hard and more difficult than other styles. Playing flamenco guitar uses the right hand as a percussion instrument more so than other guitar styles which makes it more difficult. But, with enough practice flamenco guitar can be learned by anyone.

There are lots of examples of techniques that flamenco and other styles have in common, as well as techniques that are unique to flamenco. So, below I will explain how the techniques differ, as well as, whether the music theory is the same for flamenco and other styles. 

That way you’ll have a very good idea of what’s involved in learning flamenco guitar and whether it’s right for you.

Can a Beginner Learn Flamenco Guitar?

I learnt flamenco guitar as a beginner and I must say it was quite difficult to say the least. Now that I’ve been playing for over 5 years, I would say that learning flamenco as a beginner is perfectly fine.

However, if you start with learning an intermediate or advanced flamenco guitar song, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed, not make much progress at all, and you can get discouraged. 

It’s important to start with easy songs, and easy techniques. That will provide you a ‘quick win’ that gives you motivation and makes playing guitar more fun. 

The reason is that flamenco guitar songs use a range of individual techniques that each need isolated practice. This is more true of flamenco than other styles such as classical.

In classical guitar there are some difficult finger positions, and picking patterns. But, overall 

Flamenco guitar techniques that are difficult

There are a range of techniques that take a while to learn, but generally make up most flamenco guitar songs. They are:

  • Rasgueados – with and without tapping with the thumb or finger
  • Tremolo – precise and fast picking using 3 fingers on one string

Hard technique – Rasgueados

The most well known example is the ‘rasgueado’, which gives the characteristic sound of flamenco guitar. Each flamenco guitar song can have complex and different rasgueados. That requires slow and deliberate practice.

They also include tapping with the fingers in between rasgueados or at the same time. The combination of up strokes, using different fingers, and tapping make them very difficult and at first feels like you’re playing left handed.

Paco Pena is a famous flamenco guitarist who worked a lot with the classical guitarist John Williams. Here’s an example of how complex rasgueados can be. And the speed and dexterity required to play them:

This technique isn’t found in other guitar styles like classical and rock. In classical guitar the fingers are kept in pretty much the exact same position and you simply pluck each string with the same finger each time. This makes it very simple because you are only using one technique.

The same is true of rock guitar where you always exclusively use a pick. Your pick arm should always rest in the exact same position. And you simply play up and down, as well as individual notes.

Hard technique – Tremolo picking – 3 fingers one string

There is a technique in both flamenco and classical guitar where three fingers play notes independently while the thumb plucks the bass notes. It creates some of the most beautiful melodies you can hear on flamenco guitar. 

But, it requires a lot of coordination. More so, than the style of tremolo picking used in rock guitar. Only one string is played when tremolo picking is used in rock guitars.

Here’s a video showing a simple tremolo in flamenco that sounds really good:

This technique is used in classical guitar as well, however, not nearly as often. And it is mostly limited to individual classical guitar pieces such as the famous Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega. 

Tremolo picking is used in virtually all flamenco guitar songs. It is quite difficult to learn but not beyond what anyone can play given enough practice. 

But, overall it is a core part of flamenco guitar that is hard to learn, whereas, with other styles you can pick and choose hard and easy songs.

A common question people getting into learning flamenco guitar is that whether or not learning guitar is worth it. I explained what I’ve found from learning guitar and the many people who play guitar have found. I describe it and article about whether learning guitar is worth it. Definitely, check it out if you want to know what to expect when learning guitar.

How long does it take to learn flamenco guitar?

Since, I’ve spent a few years learning flamenco, as well as, some classical guitar at the same time I thought I’d describe how good I got after how much practice. As well as, what I have found to be how easy and hard it is to learn flamenco for my friends.

As a general rule, it would take 3 to 6 months to learn flamenco guitar. An average flamenco guitar song takes roughly 1 month to learn if you practice for 30 minutes each day. After 3 to 6 months you will be able to play 3 flamenco songs all the way through.

From there you would have been exposed to all of the techniques in flamenco guitar, and can play them competently. From there, there are more rhythms to learn. In fact, in flamenco guitar there are 6 overall rhythm patterns. They are:

  • Solea
  • Alegria
  • Buleria
  • Siguiriyas
  • Tangos
  • Fandango de Huelva

Solea is typically the easiest to learn, and the rhythm you will learn first. Solea has tremolo picking even in beginner songs, which is what makes flamenco guitar harder than other guitar styles. Together, with the complex rasgueados.

Can I learn flamenco by myself?

I took a few flamenco guitar lessons, as well as, studied from a flamenco guitar book that a friend of mine gave me. I would say I’m mostly self taught. So, then would I say that you can learn flamenco guitar by yourself?

Generally, it’s possible to learn flamenco by yourself. There are many high quality online courses, as well as books that a person can work through on their own at their own pace. Learning via a video is almost identical to having a guitar teacher teaching you in person.

Learning flamenco guitar is not so difficult that you need someone to correct your mistakes. Through playing flamenco guitar on your own you can hear when you make a mistake or when it doesn’t sound the way the person in the video plays it.

Through comparing the way you play with the way a person playing in a video plays it you can see how you can improve, or where you need to practice a certain section or technique slowly on it’s own. To make sure you’re moving your fingers correctly.

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