In this article, I will detail the exact method I learned flamenco rumba guitar the Gipsy Kings way. I learned everything on my own but you will never learn as fast as with a teacher.
This style may seem difficult but even if you have never played guitar before (which was my case), you can get started. So if you’re eager to learn flamenco rumba guitar on your own, this guide is for you! I will share with you all my tips and tricks to make your learning easier.
Before you start: What is the flamenco rumba guitar?
Flamenco rumba guitar is a sub-style of flamenco guitar with Spanish origins. This music is particularly played by gypsies and has been popularized by the mythical French band Gipsy Kings with songs like Volare or Bamboléo known all over the world.
The characteristic of the flamenco rumba guitar is playing with the right hand on the guitar’s body. Flamenco rumba guitarists “tap” on the body by making what is called a “compas” and this creates very rhythmic music.
This is the perfect guitar style to add rhythm to a party. However, a lot of minor (sad) chords are used in this style which creates a music with a lot of richness, sensitivity, and depth.
What kind of guitar?
You can start learning flamenco rumba guitar on two types of guitar: a classical guitar or a flamenco guitar.
A flamenco guitar is more suitable because it will be more nervous and you will have a better percussive sound because the type of wood used is special. In addition, it sounds naturally “flamenco” and “Spanish”. You can read more about it in my guide to the best flamenco guitars.
Personally, I play on an Alhambra 4F flamenco guitar (mid-range) but I started for 2-3 years playing on a very basic classical guitar bought in a supermarket (Lidl). I played my first flamenco rumba tunes with it so it doesn’t matter what “quality” your guitar is.
When I was in Mexico without a guitar, I even bought a $45 guitar and had a blast with it as you can see:
You can find the chords of the video in this book.
Except with an electric or folk guitar, you will have no problem making your guitar sound “flamenco rumba” as long as it is well-tuned.
Part 1: Getting started – The first Flamenco Rumba lesson I recommend
You have to start somewhere! And to start, I suggest you learn from a YouTube video that introduced me to the flamenco rumba guitar. It was my first “lesson” of the rumba flamenca and I remember being surprised to be able to play what is shown in the video.
The advantage of this video lesson is that it is very short but what you will learn will be useful for your entire career as a flamenco rumba guitarist! At the end of this lesson, you will know how to make the most used compas when you start playing rumba flamenco guitar.
As the title suggests, this is an introduction to the gypsy flamenco rumba (it’s in French – scroll for the english version – but what’s important are the movements he’s showing).
For the chords, they are not shown exactly in the video but they are surely the A Minor / E Minor / B Seventh which are very used in flamenco rumba guitar:
PS: The picture above is what we call a tablature and it is a schematic representation of the chords. The 6 lines represent the 6 strings of a guitar with the highest string on the left and the lowest string (the biggest) on the left. The circles with the numbers indicate where you should press with your fingers. The cross on the A Minor chord means that you should not play the lowest string when you make that chord.
Here is the english version of this video I’ve made (it’s my first video!):
You can then play this compas on any chord you want. And if you want to know some chord progressions that sound very flamenco rumba, I made a book “31 Rumba Flamenco Chord Progressions: Tabs + Videos” to have fun with different chord progressions. I’ll tell you more about it in the following article.
Part 2: The different ways to learn flamenco rumba guitar (and my favorite!)
In this part, I’ll show you all the ways to learn the flamenco rumba guitar whether you want to be accompanied or learn by yourself.
Teachers and music schools
The fastest way to learn something is when someone teaches you. It’s the same with the flamenco rumba guitar. You can learn on your own like I did, but you should know that it can be a little more difficult.
The advantage of a teacher is that he has a method and with each lesson you progress. He will be able to directly correct your mistakes and put you on the right track from the beginning. For example, I realized one year later that my double golpe was not 100% good when a teacher could have told me directly.
The disadvantage of a private teacher or a school is that it will not suit small budgets in the long run.
Flamenco rumba friends!
An even friendlier solution is to learn with people like you who already like to play flamenco rumba guitar and who can share their knowledge with you.
To find them, you can talk about it around you, or go to Facebook to find some groups. Who knows, you might find your mentor or your playmate!
Books and methods
There are a few books to learn flamenco guitar, including those by Juan Martin, which are very good. But to my knowledge, none of them focus on the gypsy rumba style. This style is not theoretical and each artist makes a compas with his own touch.
However, once you know how to make one or two compas, you will have to practice playing them on small flamenco rumba tunes. For this, I have created a book that will help you: “31 Rumba Flamenco Chord Progressions: Tabs + Videos“
These 31 chord progressions are divided according to their number of chords: 3,4,5, 6, 7, or 8 for the most ambitious! You will find sounds of the Gipsy Kings, Rodrigo y Gabriela, or Paco de Lucia.
You will have all the tablatures and even pictures of the neck to show exactly the chords and fingers I place.
In addition, a QR code is present for each chord pass that will allow you to access the video demonstration. In these videos, I show the chords and demo a set with a compas on the chord progression.
This book is a complement in your learning of the flamenco rumba guitar to have fun while you progress. Thanks to it, you will always have something to play while varying the pleasures.
After a while, you may reach a point where you feel a little bit out of practice. A good way to overcome this plateau is to learn new chord progressions and believe me, you will learn while playing great tunes!
YouTube is a platform full of great videos for learning guitar. Some creators have channels dedicated to flamenco rumba guitar. This is a great way to learn guitar and is the method I used to learn.
At the time I started there were very few YouTube channels dedicated to rumba gipsy guitar. Nevertheless, I discovered Franky Joe Texier’s channel, Dani Gipsy Fantasia, Tomasito Noche Gitanos, Cristo Mascaro which are goldmines. I learned a lot from these videos and I am very grateful.
However, you will find on the channel The Spanish Guitar Hub many tutorials in English on the flamenco rumba guitar, like this one:
Part 3: The main steps in your learning of the flamenco rumba guitar
When you learn the guitar and more specifically the flamenco rumba guitar, you go through several stages that help you progress.
First stage: Playing your first compas
The first stage is when you learn your first compas and you can play it on the chords you know. But with a few chords, you can have fun and play for hours because it’s so satisfying.
Stage Two: Playing your first song (by the Gipsy Kings)
Next, you can venture out to learn entire songs, including the Gipsy Kings. This way you can learn new compas and new gypsy chords. This is a great way to learn and progress.
Again, when learning, it is best to start slowly in small sessions to give your brain time to register the new movements and chord progressions you are doing.
Third stage: Learn how to do barred chords
There is no secret to barrettes: you have to work at it. It seems impossible the first time you try it, but with a little work, you can make your first clean barre in a few days.
I learned how to make crossbars in a few days. I remember practicing on the 7 square (easier because there is less tension) for about 20 minutes a day for a week.
After that, it’s just practice. The more you learn new songs, the more you will meet new people and the more you will improve.
Stage 4: Inventing your chord progression
Once you’ve learned several Gipsy Kings songs, you’ll find that certain gypsy chords come up often. You can have fun mixing them up and using your favorites to make up your own chord progression.
Stage Five: Inventing Your Compas
Over the years, each flamenco rumba guitar player develops his own style. For example, some of the compas of Manita de la Plata or Junco are really atypical.
Once you are comfortable with the compas you will be able to play naturally your own compas. For example, adding rasgeados (puro flamenco technique) or alternating with the low strings during your attacks.
I’ve probably forgotten some of the major steps but these are the main ones in my opinion. I will come back to this article from time to time to update it and add new tips that I learn as I go along. Because you should never stop learning!
When you feel that you are bored with the guitar and that you are getting soft, the key is to learn something else. Happy Flamenco Rumba Guitar!