The Alzapuá – The Prodigious Thumb: Part Three

First published in the Journal of Flamenco Artistry and translated into English by Greg Case.

This is the third part of an indeed adventurous three-part study demonstrating the use of the thumb in flamenco guitar. Faucher concludes this piece with extensive samples of bulerías and fandangos from Paco de Lucia, bulerias from Joaquin Amador, and bulerías from Miguel Linares.

An alzalpúa discussion must include Paco de Lucia’s introduction to the bulerias “Almoraima” (1976), an immortal falseta inspiring so many guitarists, with musical maturity and compositional finesse – no endless avalanche of notes – tingling with magic as it propels us to the height of virtuosity, yet develops from a very simple figure. (Example 1):



 A variation on this theme was generated by, among others, Joaquin Amador, one of the greatest gypsy guitarist of the moment, who made this falseta a signature on stage and on record. Remember the introduction of the fantastic bulerias “De La Raza Mia” where he accompanies his sister La Susi in the late 70’s. Below in staves 5 through 8 he reaches a total of 14 measures of almost non-stop alzapua. Searching for a melody in this passage really wouldn’t make sense; it is merely a continuous rasgueado with only one finger striking the strings; the thumb! (Example 2):



More alzapua! Here is an interesting comparison in compas and construction of two similar falsetas – one intriplets, the other in semiquavers – from Paco de Lucia’s fandangos “Fiesta en Moguer” (Example 3):



In conclusion, the alzapua is a spectacular technique where the effect can often take precedence over the musical idea. This why it is used most abundantly in live performances to pique the excitement and emotion of flamenco audiences, and less in solo recordings where the guitarist in a studio ambiance unfettered by the duty of stirring a live audience can concentrate on composition and more freely express himself. The last of our studies is a beautiful illustration of what can be done with two guitars using alzapua, miraculous despite all. This is a bulerias from Miguel Linares, among the most brilliant *tocaores, whose career began in Paris (Example 4):