The connection between flamenco guitar and bass makes a lot of sense and I wonder why the bass world haven’t drawn more from this source of inspiration. There are of course some really wonderful bass players playing flamenco and bass players outside flamenco who have borrowed ideas about technique but there are so many things to be inspired by. For this project I’ve been looking more at the technical aspects of the guitar rather than the music itself but there are some fantastic ideas to be found in the music as well. I particularly enjoy the rhythmical side of flamenco with wonderful rhythms like the Bulería (a fast 12-beat cycle). The techniques are translatable to the bass since they play without a pick and for anyone already familiar with playing slapping it is not such a big technical leap that one might think. My inspiration in this area mostly comes from listening to guitar player Paco de Lucia, talking with musicians playing flamenco on the guitar and trying to put these different pieces together myself. A good guitar player makes the most advanced technical things sound so easy and fluent because even though it is a very virtuoso style it is the music, not the technique, which is the point.
After speaking to some flamenco guitarists I understand that making a guitar sounding flamenco takes a lot of practice, and I dare to say that making the bass sound flamenco takes even more time! There is the steel vs nylon string problem (same thing as the tremolo technique) but here you can feel the strings’ thickness and spacing also makes it more difficult compared to a guitar. To get the percussive effect when playing a rasgueado (where you strum the fingers across the strings) you need to use a lot more strength. The nails are important for a guitar player but as a bass player I am having a hard time seeing any advantage with long nails while playing bass. I tried to grown my ring-finger nail to test it but never felt that it made the technique easier or added anything to the sound.
Since I mostly play the acoustic bass guitar there are some things that are possible to do that doesn’t make any sense on an electric bass (or rather a solid body). The golpe-technique is one of these.
This is where you strike the body with the ring finger to create a percussive sound and I would say that it’s no harder to do on a bass than on a guitar. I have a protective surface so you don’t strike on the actual wood. It once again makes a difference if the nail is long or short. Since I use my ring finger in other ways I like to keep the nail short and this means the golpe will sound more muffled because I hit with the tip of my finger but it is possible to angle the finger so part of the nail also hits. So by keeping my nail short I can produce two kinds of sounds which are helpful in adding some percussive patterns in the music.
In just two years of digging for ideas I have found several right hand techniques in the flamenco-style that might be the most interesting technical challenge for the right hand since I found Alexis Sklarevski’s The Slap Bass Program at age 15!