The Alzapuá – The Prodigious Thumb: Part Two

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

This is the second of a three-part article describing the use of the thumb in flamenco guitar. Faucher’s twenty-some years of offering his cifra transcriptions of flamenco’s great masters has gained him recognition wherever expertise in flamenco guitar is taken seriously.

Two years later, in 1969, Paco de Lucia records the LP “Fantasia Flamenca” and the evolution follows in this manner. In the fandango “Fiesta En Moguer” the traditional form of the past survives here and there. The modern form is presented in semiquavers, and for the first time a real melodic line appears where the fingers of the left hand are no longer rooted in a chord position as they were in the previous example, with consequent enrichment (Example 1): 


Here there is a shift between the song and the rhythm by the superposition of two unequal divisions which can be adjusted, as in the malagueña “En La Caleta”, if we added one note to the alzapúa. This is the case in “Celosa”, the soléa from the same LP, where the single bass is followed by a ligado, and so includes four movements (Example 2):


We find similar process in 1970, in the fandango “Donde Una Ermita Poner” where Paco accompanies Camarón (Example 3):


From there it seems that the technique stabilizes itself and the evolution appears to decelerate: nothing new can be found in Paco de Lucia’s 1971 and 1972 recordings. But in 1973 he produces the mythical “Fuente y Caudal” where he further expands the limits of virtuosity. In the Buleria “Cepa Andaluza” he plays the alzapúa in triplets for the first time ( one full alzapúa in each beat) which before at such speed was just unimaginable! (Example 4):


Remember that the bulerías tempo varies between 220 and 240 for one quarter note, and that the metronome only goes up to 208. This last form, the ultimate alzapúa, produced such an effect that soon all the guitarists were taking it up. Here is an example showing to what point it has been extended – Tomatito accompanying Camarón (Example 5). Enough to bring the audience to its knees!!