Written by Carolyn Pachas
Collaborator for Suspiro Flamenco
You can read her whole Flamenco blog at
Compás is the rhythm used in each Palo or style. In Flamenco, compas can be followed with the clapping of hands. In the Spanish expression, sometimes the teacher or director will initiate with "palmas" which is another way of calling the palm of your hands to start the compás for the guitarist, the percussion, and the singer. The calling of palmas tells people to be together and assist in the song. A sense of community is prevalent in Flamenco, where gypsy families work together in unison for the greater good.
Different types of Compas, or what in Flamenco is called, "Palos."
Flamenco rhythms are usually of either 12, 4 or 3 beats. The rhythmic units is called Compás.
Each Palo or style of flamenco has its own distinct rhythm.
Solea has the style Soleá (or in plural Soleares) has a Compás of 12 beats. The strong beats in this Compás are as usual the 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12. However, some of them are especially pronounced, more specifically the 3, 10 and 12.
Alegría is another rhythm with a Compás of 12 beats. A typical clapping pattern is equal to the first one shown for Soleá.
Bulería is rhythmically maybe the most difficult, but also most exciting style. Usually Bulería is taught as an example of a style with 12 beats, which is often true.
The rhythm of Siguiriyas can be interpreted as a Compás of 12 beats, starting at the 8 and finishing at the 7.
Tangos, Rumbas, Tarantos, Tientos have rhythms of 4 beats.
Fandangos are a group of very melodic flamenco styles. Most Fandangos have a very free rhythm (Fandangos libres) are not danced at all. However, between the songs, the guitar usually regains the rhythm at plays “a compás“. Only a few Fandangos have a constant rhythm and are danced, such as Fandango de Huelva. Many people interpret the rhythm of Fandango as a Compás of 12 beats, with the strong beats on the 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12.
So there you have it, the different compasses or rhythms of flamenco vary and are difficult to learn. After learning the compás you can help the guitar player, the singer and the dancer with your hand clapping. compas is our own metronome, that if not done correctly, can destroy a whole performance. What that means is that you better know what you are doing in the compás, otherwise you might get the angry looks of some flamenco dancers.
If you want to learn more about Compas, sign up to Liliana Ruiz Flamenco class going on now at Sound Space Performing Arts, and choose Flamenco Tech from the dropbox.