Rasgueo thumb position and technique

This position will give you the best striking attack for the rasgueo, the finger strikes the strings rather than just brushing the surface of them.

Curl your fingers as if you are making a fist but stop halfway then bend your thumb in and cover the finger tips. The thumb is then tucked in behind the fourth string, note that it should not be putting and tension on the string it is merely tucked in, as shown in the photo Thumb 1. The C, E and A strings will all be struck and the G string will be slightly deadened giving a percussive effect to the rasgueo.

Using the thumb to build up kinetic energy, the index finger is flicked out. The movement is a definite flick not just a straightening of the fingers.

The finger follows through and should finish parallel to the body of the ukulele, as shown in the photo.

After the flick the finger curls back up striking the strings as it travels towards the thumb. Don't worry about how many strings you strike on the way back, it adds variety to your playing.

These extra positions will give you more control over the sound.

The photo Thumb 2, shows the knuckle of the thumb moved forward (pivot it on the nail of the thumb) away from the body of the ukulele. From this modified position the emphasis of the flick will be on the E and A strings, the C string will be sounded but with not as much emphasis - the sound will be brighter.

The photo Thumb 3, shows the thumb higher up the ukulele and from this modified position the emphasis will be on the G and C strings being struck with the force of the flick while the E and A strings will receive less of the power.

Experiment with the different positions and you will soon learn what is the best position for you. Play the same chord in the different positions and hear the difference.

Image

The basic triplet

In diagram above you can see the basic triplet rasgueo and the way it is used in this Soleares.

The starting position for the the triplet is the same as for the index finger rasgueo with the thumb in one of the positions discussed, I would suggest using the thumb tucked in behind the G string to practise this technique. Both middle and index fingers are flicked off the thumb in the same manner as detailed in the index finger rasgueo.

Make sure you have both middle and index fingers curled up against your thumb before you start.

  1. To start, use the middle finger to perform a downstroke
  2. The index finger flicks downward for the second stroke
  3. And the index finger follows with an upstroke

That completes the triplet which takes half a beat

The triplet starts on the half beat and ends just before the next beat.

The full strum starts with a downstroke of the index finger on the first beat then follows the triplet which carries on into the next two beats which are both index fingers strums down up down up.

It is a good idea to practise the triplet as a quick down down up down with the index finger quickly going up and down. Practising the triplet as four strikes will give the right tempo to the triplet as it goes into the next four half beats, with the last quick strike of the four being the first strike of the four half beats.

 

The Golpé (Spanish for tap) is made by a quick flexing movement of the third finger of the right hand and is indicated by an X above the beat it is used on. A sharp tapping sound is produced by the nail and flesh coming into contact with the golpeador.

The movement comes from the knuckle of the third finger while the rest of the hand and fingers should remain relaxed. The nail and flesh hit the golpeador at a right angle to the body.

Sometimes the golpé is used on its own and it is also used at the same time as a stroke by the index finger or thumb, which sound the strings at the same time as the golpé.

The index finger golpé is a combination of a flick of the index finger and the flexing of the third finger. There is no easy way to practice this, it is a technique that will just happen.

The golpé used with the thumb is a combination of the flexing of the third finger and the thumb striking the strings.

The thumb moves across the string and down towards the third finger and in a scissor-like action it hits the finger somewhere near the first joint.

Care should be taken not to hit the ukulele too hard as it may break your finger nail as well as doing damage to the structure of the ukulele.

Broken chords

An arpeggio is known as a broken chord; normally to play a chord the strings are struck all together but in an arpeggio the strings are struck individually in quick succession (broken down into individual notes) and that is why it is known as a broken chord.

The notes can be played in an ascending or descending order.

Below are two arpeggios used in this Soleares.

flamenco ukulele arpeggio

The arpeggio shown above is one you will come across a lot in Flamenco.

As you can see from the diagram all arpeggios in this sequence follow the same pattern - thumb (p) played Apoyando followed by the index finger (i), the middle finger (m) and finally the index finger all played Tirando.

To play the notes in the second bar slide your fingers from the first and second frets up to the third and fourth frets.

All notes should be played at regular intervals with no break after the thumb stroke.

flamenco ukulele back arpeggio

The four note arpeggio, shown above, starts with a back-arpeggio (so called because the notes and strings are plucked in a descending order).

This arpeggio starts with the thumb, played Apoyando then followed by the third finger (a), middle finger (m) and finally the index finger (i) all played Tirando. The arpeggio sequence is followed on with an arpeggio that goes back up the scale starting with a thumb stroke (Apoyando) then i, m and a (Tirando) then four Apoyando strokes. The rest of the bars in this sequence follow the same pattern.

An important aim here is to keep the melody regular and even making sure there is no break after the thumb stroke.

Try to keep your hand as still as possible and the wrist should be relaxed.

flamenco ukulele apoyando technique

Rest Stroke

When playing a single note the thumb or finger presses the string then comes to rest on the string next to it, the thumb will go downward and the finger upward to rest on their respective strings. Playing this way gives the loudest sound, and resonates the string in the best way to minimize buzzing. The sound produced is almost staccato like and is used for playing picado.

If starting on the 4th string the thumb would come to rest on the 3rd string and if the finger is starting on the 1st string it would come to rest on the 2nd string.

The thumb simply presses down and rests on the next string but with the finger the movements come from the middle joint of the finger. The joints of the fingers are pressed up towards your face, the sound is produced from a combination of the flesh hitting the string just before the nail. Remember the fingers should be at 90% to the body and this is required to compensate for the middle finger being longer than the forefinger.

The follow-through ends with the finger resting on the string next to where it started and still at 90% to the body of the ukulele, as shown in the photo.

flamenco ukulele tirando follow through

Free Stroke

The main differences between apoyando and tirando are;

  • The finger does not touch the adjacent string after the string has been plucked.
  • Tirando is played exclusively with the fingernail giving a softer sound.

Resulting sound differences are very subtle but an understanding of each method will enhance your playing. Playing tirando is generally used for arpeggios, tremolo and block chords.

Each finger strikes the string with the fingernail and stops after the follow-through without touching the adjacent string.

Move the finger from the knuckle joint. The tip of the finger "snaps" in towards the thumb and ends with the first joint almost parallel to the ukulele body and clear of any string, as shown in the photo.

  • Each finger should move independently of the others when playing arpeggios.
  • When playing chords where two or more strings are plucked at the same time, the fingers should move as one block.

The wrist and the rest of the hand should remain relaxed and should not move during tirando, and the thumb should be resting on the 4th string or on the body of the ukulele above the sound-hole.

This short video demonstrates some of the techniques used in the Soleares.

  • Golpé - thumb and index finger golpés
  • Tirando and Apoyando
  • The triplet strum

Pay particular attention to the triplet strum. The right thumb is in three different positions to get different sounds from the strings.

Soleares techniques