This is so important that any famous flamencos guitarist, no matter how great a virtuoso, most certainly started by accompanying for a very long time the cante or the baile, before being able to play as a soloist.
The palmas are the clapping of hands that accompany the cante or the baile. One distinguishes the palmas "claras" or sonorous (one strikes with the fingers of one hands the fully extended palm of the other hand), and the more discrete palmas "sordas" that do not interfere with the singing, generated by striking the two palms on each other.
The fist can strike on a table, or the fingers can be spread open in sequence to hit the table, as if playing the rasgueados on a guitar.
The cajon is the typical percussion instrument of flamenco. It was introduced by Paco de Lucia who imported it from Peru. It is a rectangular box; its surface is of varying thickness, which allows a variable resonance when stricken. In the back, there is a hole around 10 cm in diameter that allows the sound to escape. Inside the cajon, one often places guitar or piano strings, and sometimes small bells.
Another percussion instrument is the hammer. The Martinete, a blacksmith cante, is indeed accompanied by the sound of the hammer hitting the anvil.
There are 2 types of compas: the regular compás and the alternating compás.
*The regular compás:It corresponds to rhythmic structures of 2 or 4 beats per measure (2/2 and 4/4) in cycles of 4 or 8 measures. They can be slow (e.g. tientos, tarantos) or fast (tanguillo, tango, rumba).
*The alternating compás:It is the rhythmic structure most representative of flamenco; in a 12 beat cycle, it alternates long beats with short beats (3/4 and 6/8). It can start at beat 12, 1 etc. It can be divided into two, three or four subsections. Examples are the Soleà, the Siguiriya, the Alegrias and the Bulerias.
To hear the compás of a few palos, and to have a clearer idea of it, there are flamenco metronomes available on the market, including one by Herrero Oscar. There are also web sites where you can listen to compás with a friendly and whimsical "clock".
-Tientos and Tangos: The tiento belongs to the tango family, but with a slower and more solemn compás. Its dance is majestic, sober and of a great dramatic tonality. The tientos are traditionally followed by tangos, that are much more lively, and have a quick, festive and stimulating rhythm.
Compás of tiento and tango: 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4
Compás of fandango: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
-Granaina: The Graiana is a style that derives from fandango. Its compás is also in 3 beats, however its rythmic interpretation is free.Compás of the Granaina : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
-Rumba: The Rumba is a palo that originated in Latin America. When performed by flamenco dancers, it displays gypsy characteristics of energy, and passion, with brisk and powerful movements. It includes many desplantes and torsions. The rumba is often danced by itself.
Compás of the rumba : 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4
-Colombiana: The colombiana is generally not danced. There are however some choreographic versions that are close to tango. It is more often played or sung itself on a very rhythmic music. Its compass is reminiscent of the rumba and of Cuban music, and has 4 beats.
Compás of the colombiana : 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 4-Palos with an alternating compás:
-Alegrias and all the range of the cantiñas: Are generally played in a major tonality. These palos represent gracefulness and joy, and the corresponding dance is characterized by a harmonious braceo, undulating movements, suave punteados, and escobillas.
Alegrias and the cantiñas belong to the group with a 12 beat compass, with the accents on 3,6,8,10,12 as follows:1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
-Solea: The Solea is a Palo that derives its name from "Soledad" i.e. solitude. It is the basic Cante Grande, the queen of cante jondo in all its fulgurating beauty. It depicts deep feelings. The dance that accompanies it is splendid, the summit of harmony and gracefulness, and a feminine dance par excellence. It is distinguished from the others palos by the solemnity of its performance, and the foregrounding of the feeling of loneliness that underlie it. The compás of the solea is 12 beats; there are 2 possible versions of the rhythm:1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 or: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
-Bulerias: It is one of the "festeros" i.e. "festive" cantes, and probably the best known cante. It is very rhythmic, calls for dancing, and is accompanied by palmas. It is the cante that ends every gypsy celebration.
Its compás is the same one as the Solea's, but much faster. Also, the measure of the the Buleria starts at beat 12 and not at beat 1, unlike the Alegrias and the Solea.
Its compás is as follows:
12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 then on to 12 ,or:
12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 then on to 12 ,or:
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 a compás specific to the Buleria de Jerez.
-Martinete: Derived from the Siguiriya, the Martinete has the same compás, however marked with a hammering sound, reminiscent of the hammering of the blacksmithing. This cante indeed originated in the smithy, where it remains a favorite).1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12