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Five Castanet Technique Tips & A Confession

by Laura on October 26, 2014

TariariariachipitachipitaYou’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.

When I asked him about it a couple of years ago he told me that he used to do the same thing.

Wait, Emilio used to have the same bad habit?! You have no idea how good that made me feel.

So one day he decided to fix it.

He said it took a lot of conscious thought and patience, but it was very possible, and he did it.

Emilio’s triumph gave me hope.

Until I actually tried to do the same thing.

I tried watching my thumb as I played and thinking it to stop moving.

This became very frustrating. And seemed impossible.

So I resorted to actually physically holding my thumb in place and seeing if I could still do the roll with my fingers without the thumb moving. Because maybe it just wasn’t possible. Maybe I just had one of those thumbs that moves when the other fingers move kind of thumbs.

But no, this wasn’t true.

Because my fingers could still roll when I held my thumb in place.

So I tried rolling my fingers veeeery slowly. Remembering that I just needed to do this poco a poco.

And it worked.

My four fingers rolled, riii, my thumb did not.

But as soon as I would go any faster, my thumb insisted on joining in.

This was going to take a lot of concentration.

A lot of focus.

A lot of patience.

And a lot of time.

Like any habit that that one wants to change. [read more…]


mis huesos 2Here’s another one from the little book that Melinda gave to me,


Dicen que no siento nada
y las carnes de mis huesos
a pedazos se me van

They say that I don’t feel anything
and the skin from my bones
falls off in pieces

Viernes con una Letra

On Fridays I publish a flamenco song in Spanish and English. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox. [read more…]


How to Avoid Castanet Burn-Out

by Laura on October 21, 2014

What to Do When castanets Frustration HitsYesterday 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,



Amazingly, this did not drive me crazy.

I guess because she is Mercedes, and she always said it with a smile, (a she knows something I don’t know, reassuring, and semi-kanieving all at the same time kind of smile) so I would just keep trying and allow it to be fun.

Also, hearing her say that gave me permission to get it wrong.

3. Take breaks and STRETCH.

You’ll be using some muscles you likely don’t often use, so definitely stretch your arm and hand muscles.

One of my favorites that you can do even during a break without needing to remove your castanets is this:

STRETCH: Put your arm out in front of you, letting your hand fall, and press on the back of the hand with the opposite one. Then gently pull your fingers toward your body with the opposite hand. You should feel the stretch in the palm of your hand and the forearm. Next, point your fingers toward the ceiling. Using the oppostie hand gently press them and the palm of your hand toward your body. You should feel the stretch in your lower forearm.

4. Learn the sounds, and say them

If you’re doing an exercise, [read more…]

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CastanetsAs 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,

Reason #2:  Maybe later.

With so many other aspects of flamenco to “get down,” who had time to learn castanets? Little did I know that learning castanets would not get in the way of and could actually help me with the “other” things.

But related to that was,

Reason #3: Who to learn from?

I wasn’t sure who to study with in Portland, Oregon.

On my own? How would that even work?

Which brings us to Reason #4,

The real reason I waited so long,

Reason #4: Challenge.

Playing castanets seemed basically impossible.


How one could make such sounds with little pieces of wood strangely tied to the fingers made no sense to me at all. Definitely too hard to do.

So I removed the idea from my mind.

Until 2010

That’s when I told Ricardo I wanted to learn to play castanets.

He brought me a pair from Spain.

He taught a castanets workshop.

And he got me all set up to practice them at home, in front of the mirrored closet doors.

I was to stand, no sitting allowed, with my arms in position, watching myself in the mirror, doing the exercises he’d taught us in the workshop.

… while he sat in the garden living the good life.

I complained. [read more…]


It’s Love | Viernes con una Letra

by Laura on October 18, 2014

Es el amor que sale del corazón

Another estribillo this week.

Es el amor,
que sale del corazón
a veces me hace pensar que todo puede pasar

It is love,
that comes from the heart
sometimes it makes me think that anything is possible

You can hear it below.

Another video of Antonio Canales dancing.

Another estribillo recommended by Ricardo.

Viernes con una Letra

Each week I publish a flamenco song in Spanish and English. [read more…]

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I’m Suffering | Viernes con una Letra

by Laura on October 11, 2014

Estoy sufriendoAn estribillo por bulerías for today:

Estoy sufriendo,
de no tenerte a mi vera
estoy sufriendo

ay te camelo, ay te llevo en mis sueños

I’m suffering,
from not having you at my side 
I’m suffering 
oh I love you, oh I hold you in my dreams

Ricardo suggested this one.

You can hear it here. [read more…]

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Ricardo is here, and I’m already disappointing him.

He arrived on Tuesday, and it didn’t take long.

I’ll tell you about the desilusión and share three dance tips from his class last night. Three tips that are important to keep in mind at all times.

First, the disappointment

There’s really a lot of me feeling disappointed with myself going on.

Why didn’t I study before he came?

Why didn’t I make it a point to remember things he’d taught me in the past?

Why don’t I just pick things up quickly and do them well right away?

Why haven’t I been working on my technique more?

It started on Tuesday when he arrived.

We went to view the possible space for our possible show. Which we immediately loved and which quickly became the actual space for our now actual show, that would happen exactly one week from that moment.

In the space the ideas began to flow.

It asked us for certain things, this new space that we loved.

As we were leaving we started talking about the show.

We más o menos planned out the whole thing in the car.

We started to see a beautiful show.

We did this all the way to dinner.

I could see the beautiful show, and I felt excited about it, very much so.

But I also worried.

“Why can’t you come sometime and not want to do a show so that I can just relax and have fun while you’re here?” I said to Ricardo as we were getting into the car after dinner.

He just laughed.

But I wasn’t joking. [read more…]


Arribita, arribitaThe MGA (Mystery Guest Artist) supplied me with today’s letra.

Una letra por tangos and a coletilla.


Arribita arribita hay una fuente de oro
donde lavan las mozuelas
los pañuelos de los mozos

Que no, que yo no tengo dinero
que no que no, Cariño es lo que yo quiero

Up there there is a fountain of gold
where the young girls wash 
the young boys handkerchiefs

NoI don’t have money
No, noLove, this is what I want

P.S. He even sent a recording of himself singing it. But I’m not going to share that with you …

The MGA is coming soon,

… and there will be a show.  More details on that coming soon.

Find out who he is on Wednesday, October 8.

Until then, 10 more facts about the Mystery Guest Artist: 

  1. He can fall asleep anywhere (and it can be REALLY hard to wake him up).
  2. He is in his 30’s.
  3. He loves soup, chocolate milk, and chicken (not together … well, maybe the soup and chicken but the chocolate milk separately, por favor)
  4. He dances everywhere, literally. Grocery store, parking lot, swimming pool …
  5. He does not drink coffee.
  6. He knows what he wants, he goes for it, and he gets it.
  7. He has mucha fuerza.
  8. He has danced with Rocio Molina, Marco Flores, Antonio Canales, Rafaela Carrasco, Olga Pericet, Concha Jareño, and many more.
  9. He is friendly and funny.
  10. He inspires.

[read more…]

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I Got Lost Sailing

by Laura on September 30, 2014

Navegando me perdi verde~ rondeñas ~

You can listen to Niño de Almadén sing the letra here.

And for the translation click here.

You might also enjoy these posts:

An Alegrías by David Lagos

The Movement of My Boat

What I Do Not Want Right Now

Even the Flowers Are Envious

Speaking of el mar, we’re headed to the beach

It’s another Flamenco Retreat at the Oregon Coast is happening this weekend.

(You can still come along.)

And Mysterious things are happening next weekend

That’s when the Mystery Guest Artist comes to town … Don’t miss out! [read more…]


Rondeñas | Viernes con una Letra

by Laura on September 28, 2014

Last night at my best friend’s show, which I really hope you can see someday, I heard this letra.

I knew I wanted to remember this one, so I took out my little book and scribbled the first line down.

Ricardo was sitting next to me and laughed, as is often the case.

But I knew I had to write it down …


Navegando me perdí
por esos mares de Dios
y con la luz de tus ojos
a puerto de mar salí

I got lost sailing
in these seas of God
and by the light of your eyes
I made it to the seaport

By the way, I am writing to you from Santa Barbara, and the show I’m talking about that I really want you to see is Manuel Liñan’s Nomada. Me quedo sin palabras. It was the best show I’ve seen in, I don’t know, maybe forever. And he was out-of-control-beyond-amazing.

I did an interview with Manuel yesterday which will I’ll be posting soon, so stay tuned for that. (You can see a snippet of it here right now.)

A Mystery Guest Artist is Coming to town

Very soon! Click here for all of the details on the upcoming events with the mystery guest artist.

And here are 10 random facts about him …

1. He is from Madrid

2. He likes to ski but he hasn’t been skiing in a long time. Mainly he likes the clothes you wear which I totally don’t get because I’ve never liked ski clothes…

3. He is charming. Encantador! [read more…]