The Alpha finger on the Flamenco Guitar

The comparative finger term “Alpha” in flamenco guitar refers, metaphorically, to the hierarchy that is established in the animal world when a group of members live together in the same habitat: for the common good, the herd is led by the male and the “Alpha” female.

In this comparison, I recognize that something surreal, the hand becomes the natural habitat of the fingers, so that the position of each one of them plays a very important role in conjunction with all the others. The gearing and synchronization of movements must be impeccably orchestrated in order to achieve a precise and sensitive execution in this peculiar “musical hunt” of ours.

Finger “Alfa” is the term I have coined as “warning notice” to warn, and, as far as possible, correct and prevent the student from a widespread defect that is difficult to correct, and also so that the student becomes aware of a technical misplacement, either of the middle or ring fingers, or good of both. The technical vice to which I allude occurs when, after the attack of the pressed note of turn, for example, with the ring finger or ring and a half finger together, these end up meeting after pressing at a higher level, above the index and “very close to the palm of the hand”. At the same time, the index finger has consequently been noticeably removed from the palm of the hand, thereby losing its function as the “Alpha” finger.

This way of executing certain techniques involves an excessively costly expenditure of energy, since it involves excessive gesturing without meaning to some movements that are totally unnecessary, which has a negative impact on good interpretation. It does not help to distance them from the meeting place of their next attack, since, on occasions, they have to rush back to respond to the continuous demand for the consecutive or alternate notes that have to continue sounding. All a wasted waste of energy that contributes to a continuous overload for the hand and fingers. This usually happens especially in the execution of arpeggios, hairpins and tremolos:

Video 1: Fork Technique

Farruca, Punta y Tacón; Sabicas

Video 2 Arpeggio Technique

“Arpeggio Cañizarista”; Rafael Cañizares

Video 3 Tremolo

Taranta, “Bordón Minero”; Rafael Cañizares

From an anatomical point of view, the index finger is shorter than the adjacent middle and ring fingers, but its position next to the thumb gives it a privileged position. With the thumb resting on any of the snares as a support anchor, the forefinger is responsible for facing a large part of the rhythmic weight in toques a compás such as bulerías, tangos, etc., of course together with the percussive and invaluable of the contiguous fingers of his right flank, especially the little finger and ring finger, through alternate blows on the lid or in unison. By the way, this alternating technique of index while hitting the top with middle and ring (some hit with a-m) is difficult for the novice guitarist to perform, as it requires a degree of skill to combine antagonistic movements at the same time.

Vídeo 4 Bulería

Impetus, Bulería; Mario Escudero

In my view, the privileged position of the index finger allows it to ally with the thumb when they are next to each other. This proximity determines a constant game of complicity and cooperation that is decisive in Flamenco Guitar music, because, due to this joint action, good melodic and rhythmic interaction is achieved at the same time.

This “Alpha” finger remains most of the time resting on the prime, as if it were always on the lookout, incessant in its leading role or in support of the rest of the other fingers. The problem of most of the alzapúas that do not walk or that lack power and speed is usually due to this distancing of the “Alpha” finger, which loses its footing on the first string. Again, more energy waste.

Video 5 Brush

Alegrías; Rafael Cañizares


­­ The construction of a house begins with the foundation: trench, rods and concrete.

These three elements constitute the bases to build the entire weight of the construction on its structure and avoid the dreaded aluminosis of the building in the future. In the same way, a good instrumental technique will serve as a support to build on its deep-rooted foundations all the scaffolding of the different techniques: arpeggios, alzapúas, tremolos, etc.

I have always thought that poor scaffolding in instrumental technique, and, in the case at hand, in Flamenco Guitar technique, is the main cause of certain “interpretative aluminosis” suffered by some performers, and that makes them not technically evolve in their role as instrumentalists.

On the other hand, this malpractice is usually one of the main causes (perhaps the biggest) of the frustration that afflicts the musician and that determines him to abandon musical learning.

In this regard and as regards the finger “Alfa”, I like to think that, just as we use the index finger to indicate the correct direction of some place, this same finger will also serve as a compass to guide us in the correct way of how to use this finger “Alfa” through our technical-instrumental scaffolding, applied to flamenco playing.

We cannot ignore that this “Alpha” finger is omnipresent in almost all techniques. The good use we make of it will depend on our developing a large part of our potential as performers. I mean performers without aluminosis, of course. And why not, also to those great musicians who one day, after many years, came to forget the technique. And why did they forget? Well, because they had already internalized it, until it became part of their musical soul. The technique, that marvel. Word that comes from the Greek tekné and means “practical knowledge”. It’s not noticeable, but there it is. And if it’s not there… it shows. Wow, it’s noticeable. In every note.

My suggestion to help achieve a good technique based on Flamenco Guitar is that we work very slowly in our rehearsal practices, in the routines that we impose on ourselves day by day, hour after hour.

We have to independently consider each of the fingers as if they were true “alphas”. Tick, tock, at the click of a metronome, one and a thousand times more.

Once in their habitat, each one of the fingers will know how to find the hierarchical-musical place that corresponds to them, without imposing themselves or letting themselves be overwhelmed, in a spontaneous, intuitive way, since nature has taught them that working together is how the best results will be achieved. results in this peculiar “musical hunt”. In this way we will be able to collect the best pieces, musical “pieces” in this case, that serve as food for our souls.

Follow your “Alpha” finger.

Rafael Cañizares
Latest posts by Rafael Cañizares (see all)
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *