Soleares is perhaps the most important toque (rhythmic form) in the study of the Flamenco guitar. Soleares epitomizes the soul of Flamenco music, embodying its vital core: rhythm and harmony. In fact, the rhythmic structure, called the compas, plays such a central role, that when a guitarist truly masters the compas, he or she is well on the road toward becoming a skilled virtuoso in the art of Flamenco guitar.
In Andalusia, the region of Spain where Flamenco got its start, every student of the Flamenco guitar begins with its study. Furthermore, Soleares is a foundational toque; many other toques have developed from its inspiration. As a guitarist, learn to dominate this toque, absorbing its powerful momentum into your very bones. If it takes driving your friends and family nearly mad with hearing you play, do so, for it is the very nature of Flamenco music.
Soleares has a twelve-beat rhythm, each sequence of twelve beats making up one compas. The accents fall on the third, the sixth, the eighth, and the tenth beats, with a more variable accent falling on the twelfth beat.
Practice counting aloud through twelve at a steady, even pace. Emphasize the accented beats, repeating as many times as needed to internalize the rhythm of the compas. Again, this is something that you can do during idle moments. A small investment of time that you might have otherwise wasted can pay big dividends in your comfort level with the music. Learning about the origins of this form can also be beneficial to you in understanding how to play it with perfect passion.
With respect to its origins, the roots of Soleares are uncertain and controversial, as so often is the case in Flamenco and other traditional art forms. The Triana district of Sevilla was probably the most influential center of its development. Other locations, however, have influenced Soleares, giving it their own distinctive flavors. Some historians claim that Canas and Polos are the oldest forms, others suggest that Soleares was earlier than those, claiming that its heritage came from more lighthearted toques which were used as accompaniments for dances. Today, however, the Toque por Soleares is solemn and majestic, overwhelmingly passionate, whether used as a guitar solo, or accompanying song or dance.
The origin of the word ‘Soleares’ comes from the word ‘solea,’ whose origin is probably a corruption of ‘soledad,’ which means ‘solitude’ or ‘loneliness.’ The melancholy coplas (song-verses) of the cante can be ironically philosophical or romantic, but with the overarching themes of tragedy, desolation and death.
Knowing more about the history of Soleares, Flamenco music’s most profound form, will help you to understand and perform Flamenco music with a deep appreciation of its possibility to communicate with its listeners. Learning its compas and its emotional tone will help you to put that knowledge into action on your own Flamenco guitar.