Spanish guitar, and flamenco guitar, both use common scales, such as the major and minor scale, as well as uncommon scales, such as the 8-tone Spanish scale. Often times, it is the style of picking and/or strumming that makes it sound so fast. A common style of strumming, which does not use a pick but rather just the open hand, is to pick down on the bass note with the thumb immediately followed by strumming up with the fingers (try it). You then continue quickly by strumming down with the fingers and up with the thumb. So it has a quick 1, 2, 3, 4 timing (try it). Go slow at first to get the motion down, then gradually increase speed until you can do it very quickly (control before speed every time!).   Traditionally, this style has also been added to by doing the same strumming style just listed, and continuing by adding a hit (on the guitar body), a strum down with the index finger, followed by a strum up with the index finger, and finishing with a strum down with the thumb. Again, this is traditionally played very fast, so work hard to perfect it. Once you get this down you will be able to play many traditional Spanish guitar and flamenco pieces.

So all together:

  bass note with thumb

⇑  with fingers

⇓   with fingers

⇑   with thumb


⇓   with index finger

⇑   with index finger

⇓   with thumb


        Another common Spanish Guitar strumming pattern is to use the index finger and the middle finger and strum down with the middle finger, then down with the index finger, then up with the middle finger, and up with the middle finger. Get this down to the point where you can play it very fast:

⇓   middle finger

⇓   index finger

⇑   middle finger

⇑   index finger

Try playing this with a 4/4 timing using the chords of E major, F major (bar chord), and G major (bar chord) to get a very traditional Spanish Guitar sound.


As you can see, Spanish Guitar tends to utilize finger picking. Spanish guitarists are also famous for doing an upstroke with the fingers where you let them rake upward. So instead of creating the sound of one up stroke, it creates the sound of several simultaneous up strokes. For a good example of this, look up the song “El Toro.”


Also, for single notes, practice using your index and middle finger, and picking up on a single string. First pick up with your middle finger, followed by picking up with your index finger; then repeat. Try doing this on one single note. As you get the feel for it you can switch notes. Get good at this so you can do it really fast.

⇑   middle finger

⇑   index finger


An advanced form of this finger picking style is to do the same as before, pick up with the middle finger then up with the index finger, and then pick down with the nail of the index finger (top of the finger nail), followed by picking down with the nail of the middle finger (again, top of the finger nail). So the down strokes are like a rake, but done on one string (as you advance you can do it on multiple strings). It’s a continuous thing that you do very fast. Again try playing it on single notes, then practice moving around the fretboard as you continue this quick picking pattern.

⇑   middle finger

⇑   index finger

⇓   nail of the index finger

⇓   nail of the middle finger