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castañuelas

Five Castanet Technique Tips & A Confession

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Five Castanet Technique Tips & A Confession

You've read my thoughts on avoiding castanets burn-out, and you've read about what made castanets finally doable for me. Today I'll share with you five important technique tips. But first, a castanets confession.

It has to do with my moving thumb.

My right thumb, that is. My right thumb that moves when I am doing the roll with my four fingers, well, and when doing postiseo, but it's supposed to move then, so that's a good thing. 

It's a bad habit that I formed in my alone practicing.

I don't know if I could have avoided it had I spent more time studying under someone else's guidance in the beginning. I don't know if the teacher would have noticed it happening and helped me to prevent it from continuing and developing into a habit. These are things I wonder about.

Most people tell me it's almost impossible to "fix" at this point.

Most people except for Emilio.

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How to Avoid Castanet Burn-Out

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How to Avoid Castanet Burn-Out

Yesterday I told you we’d talk about what to do when castanets frustration hits. Because it will.

Below are some ideas:

1. Don’t worry that you’re not producing the right (or any) sound.

This is part of the castanets learning process.

The movements are AWKWARD. Please give your sweet fingers some time to assimilate new movements they’re not used to making.

Sometimes remembering you’re not alone helps a lot. (You're not alone!)

2. Keep trying.

When I would tell Mercedes I can’t do it, she would always say the same thing,

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How I Finally Learned to Play Castanets (& How You Can Get Started)

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How I Finally Learned to Play Castanets (& How You Can Get Started)

As you know I stayed away from castanets for quite some time. I had my reasons.

Which I’ll share with you today along with the best thing you can do for yourself when starting out.

Let’s begin with my reasons for having avoided castanets for so long

Reason #1: Rebellion.

In part I was rebelling, at least that’s what I told myself.

Rebelling because when I would mention that I danced flamenco it seemed just about every other person would assume I played castanets,

"Ohhhhhh, so you play those things,” making motions with their fingers, “that make the clacking sounds?”

“No, I do not play those things, and actually you don’t need to play those things to do flamenco,” I’d say.

It’s true, one does not have to play castanets to do flamenco, but there was certainly a little bit of defensive me who-didn’t-know-how-to-play-so-don't-ask-me-that talking.

And then there was Reason #2,

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How to Play Castanets for Sevillanas | La Cuarta

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How to Play Castanets for Sevillanas | La Cuarta

Learning to play castanets can be frustrating, especially in the beginning.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

In the coming days I’ll be sharing some tips on how to deal with some potential frustrations that come with learning this (completely and totally worth it to learn) technique.

For today, let's look at the toque for thefourth copla por sevillanas.

As usual, you'll find it written in two different ways.  Use whichever makes the most sense to you.  And remember, there are different variations of the toques, and this is one of many!

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How to Play Castanets for Sevillanas | La Tercera

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How to Play Castanets for Sevillanas | La Tercera

You've probably read the basics about sevillanas.

And you've probably seen my detailed explanation of the steps to the sevillanas I learned in Jerez, from Harumi who learned them from Ani.

But now,

What about sevillanas with castanets?

The toque for the first sevillanas is here, along with the reason why I write them out in two different ways.

And you can find the toque for the second one here.

Today I post the third one ...

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Tying the Knot (& How to Play Castanets for the Second Sevillanas)

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Tying the Knot (& How to Play Castanets for the Second Sevillanas)

I am often asked how to tie the knot on a pair of the castanets strings.  Because it's not just an average every day knot.  You can find out how at the end of this post.

Now raise your hand

Raise your hand if you tried to play the toque for the first sevillana, the one I posted last week

And, as promised, below is how we play castanets for the second copla.

It's written in two different ways.  The reason for that is here.

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Figure it Out ... ( figuridout )

"I'll figure it out." Ricardo hears that a lot when he comes to Portland.

Over and over again he hears it.  Namely in rehearsals.

Probably because there is always A LOT to figure out.

MUCHO.

"We'll figure it out."

He became kind of obsessed with the phrase on a past visit.  I said it many times.  Perhaps because I felt so overwhelmed.

When I wasn't saying it he'd ask me to remind him how to say it.

And then one night he asked how to spell it,

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How to Play Sevillanas with Castanets | La Primera

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How to Play Sevillanas with Castanets | La Primera

Dancing with castanets.  It's something we do on Saturdays.

Four fingers moving on one hand

One finger moving on the other

Feet forming steps

Arms trying to follow 

                                                                                      (at least we've taken out the hand movements)

This is what we do.

All the while trying to look good and stay in compás.

So far in class we've danced the first and most of the second sevillanas con castañuelas, and Pam asked if I would post the toques.

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I Went to Therapy

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I Went to Therapy

This is about getting therapy accidentally.

Accidentally and without a lot of work.

It's something you can try too.

Here's how it happened for me once...

An excerpt from something I wrote last summer:

Thursday was tough. For various unforeseen reasons. I wanted to just stay home and feel sorry for myself.

But, I didn't.

Well, I did for a bit, but then I made myself go to class with Danica.  

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You Have to Come Back | Viernes con una Letra

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You Have to Come Back | Viernes con una Letra

I danced sevillanas backwards tonight with castanets. Why, you ask?

Because it seemed like it would be fun

And it was.

I did it in my bedroom.  But really you could do it anywhere.

I did it and thought of Erica and the other left-handed people.  I'm not saying I did the ría with my left hand, I'm talking just about the steps.  I wasn't interested in that level of frustration tonight...

Perhaps we'll even do it tomorrow at the studio.  To.warm up our brains?  To do it without any expectation of perfecting it or turning it into a finished product.  To do it as an exercise and to then let it go.

I thought it would be harder to figure out, but actually it wasn't that bad.  You should try it.

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Taking my Castanets for a Walk

I took my castanets for a little walk this evening. But, let's back up.

Last Saturday, after we all felt thoroughly messed up from our shiva nata inspired activity connecting different arm positions to different rhythmic sounds, I told everyone about how much fun and confusing it can be to jump around and jog back and forth while playing castanets.  It helps me get into the flow, helps to get things going in my brain and body.  Then we started joking around about jogging through Portland playing castanets, and, naturally, we pretended to do so.

It's not like this is something totally new.

Ricardo has told me stories about how he and Manuel Liñan used to walk around the park in Madrid practicing pirouettes and such.  Let's just take a moment to imagine that.

Okay.

And what about Tatiana racing her friend down the street in Jerez doing latigos?

Flamenco can be practiced in all kinds of places and in all kinds of ways.  We know that.

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Raining Paper | Little Books Part Two

If you missed Little Books Part One, you can read it here. Today I want to talk about how writing can sometimes be, well, detrimental in a class.

Yes, detrimental.

I'll begin with another excerpt from Jerez last year...

April 19

Mercedes scolded me once again in class this morning, calling me back out onto the dance floor.  Clearly I was to be dancing, not writing.

Yes, once again, Laura and her book has come up.  It comes up a lot.  No one else writes anything down in Jerez. They don't get me, I know, but I totally don't get them either!

"Es que ella siempre está escribiendo en esa libreta," Mercedes said to the class later as I was, but again, with pen in hand, frantically trying to write down which arm went where and with which foot.  "No sé que escribe pero siempre está allí escribiendo." 

She must think I'm the strangest student in the world.  To her I must be all about paper and notes.

Especially after the paper raining incident...

You see later in the day during clase de castañuelas, where the book rarely comes out  - as you can imagine writing with castanets on isn't the easiest thing in the world to do -  Anyhow, we were warming up, and my clothes literally began raining paper.  Sticky notes to be exact.

I noticed in the mirror that my chest looked funny so I pulled at my top to see what was going on when a sticky note fell from the bottom of my shirt and fluttered onto the floor in front of me.  Naturally it caught Mercedes's eye.  Nothing goes by unnoticed in her class.

"Y qué pasa con esto Laura?"  she asked.

Oh my goodness.

Por Díos!  What is up with this chica and all of her papers and notes?"  she must wonder.

So I then had to explain how I had stuck the note to myself earlier so as not to forget that I wanted to ask Maite something before class began (the best way to get to Portugal) I knew that if I didn't stick it to myself I would forget, and, as you can see I would have... Needless to say, the note served its purpose.

So, the thing is this.  Writing helps me to learn.  I love it.  And it's a great tool.  But...I think I got a little carried away with the whole thing last year in Jerez.  Sometimes I became so obsessed with writing things down, with recording stuff, that I wasn't allowing myself to fully be there.  I was getting in my own way of really being in class.

I won't stop writing, oh no, and I won't stop using it to help me with flamenco.  But I'm thinking less of it when I'm in a class or workshop would be a good thing.  Allowing my body to be fully present without the distraction of  feeling a need to write everything down.  Trusting myself a bit more.  Trusting my body a bit more.  And reflecting more after.

That is what I'm thinking.

You can still get in on the October trip to Spain.  Let's go to Jerez and drive Mercedes crazy by taking lots of notes in class.  Just kidding.  Though I will be taking some little books for sure.  

And registration is now open for our Live chat with Mercedes Ruíz.  Ask her a question live or just hang out and hear what she has to say.  It’s happening on August 27, and there are just 8 spots.  More info available here.

Ok, your turn.  What do you think?  Leave a comment here.

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What about Castanets?

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What about Castanets?

Read on for a short glossary of castanet sounds, a video, and a story...

Las castañuelas. Each finger movement has its own sound. And this is good.

With this we have a language for communicating what our fingers are supposed to do. So we can say the combinations (even if we can't do them) something I have found quite helpful to the learning process. Plus, it's fun. Another layer!

So a key needs to exist on this site, a mini-glossary of the sounds we make with our fingers on the castanets. You'll find that below (along with an incredible video.)

I waited a long time to start learning to play castanets

Not because I didn't like the sound. Not because I wasn't interested. Mostly because it just seemed like too much. I wasn't ready for the challenge. What with so many other things to figure out. So many other things to work on.

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