1. Genius of the flamenco guitar
Thirteen pieces of Ramón Montoya
transcribed by C. Nelson
2. Genius of the flamenco guitar ~ Thirteen pieces of Ramón Montoya
This is the fifth draft of transcriptions begun by me in 1968 of material originally recorded by Ramón
Montoya in Paris in 1936 as released on the French Disques BAM LD5430. An exception to this, the
malagueña, did not appear on that LP and was transcribed much later and somewhat less carefully from a
different source with some reference to another transcription of this material, that of Alain Faucher, as
published in his Arte Clásico Flamenco (AFFEDIS, Paris, 1994). Note that the piece identified here and in
all recorded versions of this material as a farruca is called a milonga in that edition.
Effort has been made in most cases to be meticulously accurate to the way don Ramón played and
recorded this material but these transcriptions may contain errors in fingering, in notation and in the very
music from which they were derived. In any case, they should be treated not as canon but as sources of
ideas, traditional material and techniques. One should bear in mind that it is unlikely that even don Ramón
“knew” precisely how he did everything he did or that he would be able, or even want, to repeat it exactly.
Although this music can be played as formal, written pieces it may be better to use it as one would work
with a traditional teacher of flamenco guitar, selecting and studying individual falsetas or rasgueados as
Fingering, where shown, uses the convention of indicating fingers of the right hand by the first letters
of their names – diminuto, anular, medio, indice. Note that “d,” for “diminuto,” is used to distinguish the
little finger, commonly referred to in Castilian as the “pequeño,” from the thumb, pulgar, denoted by “p.”
In almost all cases the diminuto is used only in the four stroke “d a m i” rasgueado described below. Left
hand fingering, as usual, employs the numbers one though four to denote the index through little fingers.
Most thumb and finger strokes in this music and flamenco in general are apoyando (coming to rest on
the adjacent string). Usual exceptions are in multi-finger arpeggios and tremolos but there are others.
These will suggest themselves in certain passages as a function of the technique of the player.
There are many rasgueado (multiple strokes of a chord) techniques. Many modern players use a three
stroke roll beginning with an up stroke of the thumb followed by a single down stroke of one or more
fingers and a final down stroke of the thumb. This is repeated in a rapid rolling triplet rhythm. Ramón,
however, did not appear to use such techniques in this material.
The basic rasgueado of don Ramón and his contemporaries was a movement of four down strokes
beginning with the little finger followed by the ring, middle and index fingers in succession. Variations on
this include inserting an initial back (up) stroke of the thumb or index finger, or a final up stroke of the
index finger or down stroke of the thumb.
The notation of rasgueados is questionable. Strictly speaking, each stroke should appear fully notated
for its correct duration but this can lead to laborious and hard to read repetitions not necessary if the
rasgueado is recognized either as multiple strokes of an identical chord or as a sort of arpeggio over its
To notate rasgueados and repetition of notes such as in tremolos I use a standard convention wherein
repeated strokes of an identical note or chord are indicated by slashing its stem. The number of slashes is
applied as in normal beaming to the basic time value of the note as written. Four 16th note strokes, for
example, are notated with a double slashed quarter note. To indicate rasgueados, the vertical wavy line
commonly used to indicate arpeggiation is also placed to the right of the chord. Tuplet indications and
fingering are added as necessary to indicate the specific strokes to be played.
Simple arpeggios performed by dragging a finger or thumb nail upward or pushing the thumb
downward over the strings are denoted by a downward or upward (respectively, in the sense of direction of
tone and layout on paper) diagonal arrow under the notes involved.
The golpe (“blow”) is indicated by a bold faced “G” over the beat on which it should fall. This is
often but not necessarily done on rests. It is typically struck with the nail of the ring finger on the
3. golpeador (“tap plate”) and may be combined with simultaneous down strokes of the thumb or index
The cejilla (barred strings) is indicated by “C” followed by the number of the fret at which it is to be
placed. A partial bar is indicated by a vertical slash through the “C.” Note also that the flamenco guitar is
typically played with a fixed, wooden cejilla (capo). There are several reasons for this, the most important
of which is to pitch the music (played in traditionally fixed chord patterns) to singers being accompanied.
Also, however, the position at which the music is played interacts with the basic resonances of the guitar
and affects the action of the instrument. The position in which Ramon recorded each piece is indicated in
parentheses at its beginning. The music is, however, written as though played on the open strings so that a
written note represents not a specific tone but rather the position which would produce that tone on the
“Natural” (unfretted) harmonics (played by lightly stopping a string at a given fret) are indicated by
diamond shaped note heads at the resultant true pitch (e. g., one octave above the open string at the twelfth
fret or a fifth above the octave at the seventh) and an “h” followed by the fret number.
Written flamenco unavoidably raises the problem of indicating accenting in the music. In this edition
accenting is shown as much as possible by using standard time signature conventions. This is best
illustrated in dance rhythms such as alegrías, bulerías and soleares. In these the traditional unit of measure
is the compás, a unit of twelve beats commonly, but not always, accented on the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th
beats. This cannot be conveyed by a single time signature but is often written, somewhat arbitrarily, as
four measures of triple time. This implies accents on the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th beats. Accents are sometimes
explicitly written to correct this impression.
A more systematic approach is to divide the music into measures with time signatures appropriate to
their accenting. The hemiola pattern (alternating duple and triple time) can convey the accenting given
above. A compás so accented may be written in alternating 64 and 32 measures. 12 beats can be counted as
1 2 3 2 2 3 1 2 2 2 3 2 beginning at the first beat of a 64 measure. But beginning a series of compáses with
a partial or pickup 64 measure of five beats allows the music to begin on the first beat of the compás (the
weak second beat of the pattern) thusly: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12. The final heavy 12th beat of the
compás falls on the down beat of the second 64 measure and the pattern then repeats.
In practice, accenting varies even in the apparently steady dance rhythms so in this approach each
measure must be written explicitly in the appropriate time signature. At first impression this may seem
over-complicated but, when one becomes used to the idea, music written in this way is probably easier to
read correctly than with any other kind of attempt (or non-attempt) to notate accenting.
In addition to the division of the music into measures as described above, I have also added indications
of the compáses of those forms having regular compás by double barring them. Recall, however, that the
traditional compás of many forms actually begins and ends within the measures in which it lies. To play a
single, complete compás in such forms, one often begins on the second beat of the “measured” compás and
ends with the first beat after it. Note also that Ramón “pushed” or introduced outright errors in compás in
some of these solos. Where necessary I have “measured” such compases by feel or apparent intention.
Joaquín Gómez was a disciple of don Ramón. He never studied with him and may never even have
heard him play, but he knew a story or two and had that spirit in his music. I do not know to this day if his
blood was gitano, andaluz or some mixture of the two. Dear, humble man, from La Línea, he had an idea
that one day he might emigrate from England to Australia and open a chop house there. But his chops
were those of the tradition of flamenco and of Ramón Montoya. It was with him that I met, for the second
time, Ramón’s nephew Carlos, who very kindly helped me twice finally to get my first flamenco guitar.
JD, not much later, when it was still a legendary rarity, found me a copy of the recording of this music.
The early drafts of these transcriptions were made from that copy. Over the years she has given me much
more, including our two children.
4. It is to my memory of Joaquín, a good guitarist and a good teacher and a good family man as well, and
of his wife, the dancer Gina Gómez, of her mother and of their son, with all of whom I spent measured
good time in London in 1962, and to Jan, a musician of understated depth and a hard worker in the
business of music, that I dedicate this work.
- C. Nelson
Santa Ynez Valley, 2001
Alegría (B5, C14, F17, S3)
Bulería (A5, C1, S15)
Fandango de Huelva (A6, C2, S9)
Farruca (B4, C13, F15, S6)
Granadina (A2, C9, S5)
Guajira (B2, C11, S11)
Malagueña (F18, C7, S16)
Minera (B6, C6, S18)
Rondeña (B1, C10, S8)
Siguiriya Gitana (A4, C4, S2)
Soleá (A1, C3, F10, S12)
Tango y Tientos (B3, C12, S7)
Taranta (A3, C5, S10)
(entries in parentheses indicate recorded tracks of these solos as follows:
“A” and “B”: the two sides of the vinyl Disques BAM LD5430 –
Ramón Montoya, Génie de la Guitare Flamenca ;
“C”: Le Chant du Monde LDX 274879 – Grandes Figures du
Flamenco, v 5: Ramón Montoya;
“F”: Stinson CD 33 – Flamenquistas ;
“S”: CD 2 of Sonifolk 20130 – Ramón Montoya, El Génio De La
Note that such releases may have been much processed and copied since the
1936 release of the material in 78 RPM form and may have widely varying