What Makes Flamenco Work: The Andalusian Cadence and the Harmonic Minor Scale


1) The Andalusian Cadence is a series of chords that gives flamenco music its distinctive sound

2) Cadence: In Music, a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase: the final cadences of the Prelude.

3) This chord progression consists of the i, VII, VI, and V chords of any minor scale, ending on the V chord.

4) The most commonly used scale for this chord progression is the Harmonic minor scale (in the key of A minor: A B C D E F G# A)

5) The most common keys in Flamenco are A Phrygian, known as Por Medio in flamenco guitar, and consisting of Dm, C, Bb. A chords. A Phrygian (Por Medio) is used frequently in Tangos and Bulerias. The other common key is E Phrygian, known as Por Arriba in Flamenco guitar, and consisting of Am, G, F, E.  E Phrygian (Por Arriba) is used frequently in Solea and Fandangos Del Huelva.


Today we will be discussing a really common chord progression and sound in Flamenco: The Andalusian Cadence! Learning more about this sound will help audiences better appreciate flamenco music, provide flamenco dancers with a better understanding of the music that accompanies them, and non Flamenco musicians some basic theory to incorporate flamenco sounds into their music.

At this point, if you want to skip the theory and just listen, skip to "LISTENING: THE ANDALUSIAN CADENCE IN CONTEXT. I would recommend reading the theory portions just for some context.


This series of four chords is so ubiquitous in Flamenco that anyone listening to it should know it when they hear it. This chord progression (or arrangement of chords) is called the Andalusian Cadence because of its close association with music from the Andalusian region of Spain, which is the region and culture from which Flamenco music originated. In Music, a cadence is a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase: the final cadences of the Prelude.


This Cadence is also known as the Phrygian Cadence in Western/Classical music theory. That name comes from the 7 Greek modes. In a nutshell, for those of you who are musically literate, if you are familiar with you're C major scale (C D E F G A B C), the Phrygian scale consists of the same notes as the C major scale but starts on the note E (E F G A B C D E). Think of it like this: if you start and finish on each of the different notes on the C major scale, you will end up with 6 different scales with their own sound (7, if you include the original major scale). These scales are called "modes" and are often thought of as in relation to the major scale from which they share notes. For example, F Lydian is the 4th mode of the C major scale (F G A B C D E F) and G Mixolydian is the 5th mode (G A B C D E F G). Note that F is the 4th note of the C major scale and G is the fifth.


Finally, in order to further understand flamenco, you must also familiarize yourself with the notes and the sound of the harmonic minor scale. The A minor scale, also known as the A Aeolian mode (the 6th mode of the C major scale), is where we need to start. The A minor scale consists of the notes A B C D E F G A. The A harmonic minor scale is the same thing only with one note alteration: G#

So, A harmonic minor is A B C D E F G#

So, what are the chords of the Phrygian cadence? The most commonly used key in flamenco is E Phrygian (or A minor, depending on how you want to look at it).

The Chords are: A minor, G major, F major, and E major with a flat 9 (F natural). 

Am, G, F, E major add b9

Notating this in numerals so its easy to transpose into different keys:

A minor: i, VII, VI, Vb9

Note that the scale that fits all these chords best is A melodic minor (A B C D E F G# A)

Am: A C E

G: G B D

F: F A C

E major add b9: E G# B (F)

While I am presenting this in terms of A minor, we are actually in E Phrygian and ending on E major add b9, so in reality we are building a chord progression and harmonies on the 5th mode of the A harmonic minor scale (E add b9 being the ending or "cadence" of the phrase). This scale is called the Phrygian Dominant Scale (E F G# A B C D E). Note that it is the same as the E Phrygian scale (E F G A B C D E) but with a G#.


Flamenco dance music is accompanied on guitar, and there are two very common versions of this cadence on guitar that you can listen to, each with a slightly different sound. Below are video demonstrations by myself of the most common chord progressions in some of the more common flamenco dance forms:

Por Medio (Key of A Phrygian), commonly used for Bulerias and Tangos


Por Arriba (Key of E Phrygian), commonly used for Solea and Fandangos Del Huelva


The Harmonic Minor Scale




Por Medio (Tangos): Here is a great recording of one of my favorite flamenco guitarists Paco Pēna. A good example of the chord progression is at 0:28-0:32:


Por Arriba (Fandangos Del Heulva): Here is a good recording with a dancer and singer. You can hear the chord progression at 1:53 - 1:57:


What Makes the Blues Work?

What You Need To Know

-The Blues is its own genre but its form is used in other styles of music including jazz, country, blue grass, and waltz.

-The Blues is a result of the fusion of European and African music cultures in the American south.

-The Blues form is always 12 bars long, usually in 4/4 time, with occasional introductions and conclusions.

-After you listen to the Blues enough, you will memorize what it should sound like and recognize it when you hear it at concerts!


The Blues is a fascinating genre of music. It is a quintessential form of many different styles of music including Jazz. The Blues is also a style of music in its own right. I put heavy emphasis on the understanding and observing of form in my posts. The reason for this is that it is easy to hear and gives your ear and mind a structure to latch on to. Hearing that the Blues uses dominant 7 harmonies takes a significant amount of time at an instrument outlining the chord, playing it, using it in performances, etc. Hearing its 12 bar format should become available to you immediately. Whats fascinating about the Blues is that while its structurally very simple  in terms of its length and phrase, the variation possible within that structure is surprisingly diverse.

The Blues is an American art form created by the blend of African and European cultures. The Blues originated in the American south as a form of folk music for social gatherings, personal entertainment, and as a work song during labor. It is the result of the combination of African style percussive music where time is kept consistent, and European instrumentation and harmony. Listen to an African Drum Ensemble and then a work for piano by Bach or Brahms and you can hear how the two came together. It is a very spiritual music and was often used as means of expressing the difficult situations and emotions experienced by the people who performed the music. The Blues has jazz, folk, waltz, country, and blue grass variations of it (and more, but I can't think of them all!). In addition to all the styles of music it has been incorporated into, the Blues is its own style. Each variation can sound radically different despite very similar underlying harmony and structure. Understanding it will help you relate to its more complex variations in Jazz as well as other styles of music.

I would say the two most important elements of the Blues are:

1) The Blues is always 12 bars long. Occasionally this rule is broken, but its very rare. The most common brakes with that rule are when the performer(s) add an introduction or ending, often comprised of part of the original 12 bar form. Usually it is in 4/4 time (meaning 4 beats every measure). So you should be able to tap your feet to any blues 4 times, 12 times in a row (4x12=48 beats total) and come back to the beginning of the form.This matters because, like AABA format discussed in a previous post, this gives the listener a structure to hold on to and the improvisor a format they can feel regardless of how varied the chords become.

2) The blues has a sound that you will just start to recognize by listening to it enough. So, lets start listening:

An example of early (and very simple) Blues by one of the blues' greatest masters: Mr. Robert Johnson.

There is an introduction and then the first 12 bars is presented at.



As I said, the Blues is a style unto itself, and there are many great artists who are "just" blues players!

Here is a great BB King tune: First 12 bars are 0:00-0:48.

One element of traditional blues you hear in this recording is the classic call and response format where the blues is divided into three 4 bar chunks. You hear "its 3 O clock in the morning and I can't even close my eyes" 2 times and then the "response" "can't find my baby, cant be satisfied". The same thing happens for the next verse "look around me baby". Note that in all these recordings, the underlying harmony and rhythm are nearly identical. Also please observe that the lyrics are an example of the performer expressing emotions about the situation he is in.


One of my favorite Clapton concerts, and a cover of a great Robert Johnson tune


Alright, lets look at some jazz blues

I love Stan Getz! He does not play alot of notes, and he sounds awesome. And this group is one of the best rhythm sections ever. The first full 12 bars are 0:16-0:32


A CLASSIC variation on the Blues on one of the all time great jazz albums: Miles Davis' Kind of Blue album, the track is "All Blues". This still has the 12 bars but its in 12/8 time, so it is in a triple time and feels like a waltz or a "Blues Waltz" because every beat has three subdivisions (123 456 789 101112). After the introduction the first 12 bars goes from 0:22-0:52


Here is a very standard blues but the melody, harmony, and solos are unusual because its Monk


Thanks for checking  this out!

What Makes Jazz Work?: AABA form

What You Need To Know

-There are common forms composers use in all musical genres. AABA is the most common forms in jazz

-AABA consists of a section of music repeated twice (AA), followed by differing musical content called the Bridge (or "B" section). After the bridge we hear the A section one more time and then the performer returns to the top of the form.

-Because this form is so common and well known amongst musicians, it makes improvising easier.


This aspect of jazz is so fundamental that everyone who listens to it should be able to hear it. So today we will talk about it a bit. Like an essay, there are common forms that are used in different musical genres. These forms give the composer some kind of structure to work with and the listener something familiar to hold on to when listening to something new.

One of jazz' most popular forms is AABA. It is the 5 paragraph essay of jazz. It is exactly what it looks like: You hear an A section, then hear the A section repeated, then a contrasting B section, and then right right back to the A section again. This format is a big part of what allows for improvisation: while every song is new and different, at some point as you get more experienced you don't have to worry so much about what chords you are on and you don't get lost as easily. After performing so many songs in this format you know what an AABA format and feels like and you can feel where you are at in the form as you are improvising (even if you are soloing on this song for the first time). You still have to keep track of the different chords and phrases in each tune, but internalizing AABA form makes that easier.

Here are some good examples of AABA (I marked what times each section occurs, try to listen to how that form repeats regardless of whether the singer is singing or instruments are soloing). Jazz is like a carousel: The rhythm section keeps the same form going round and round and the instrumentalists and singers jump on based on where they are told to in the arrangement. Note that some times there are conventions: at an open jam everyone solos once or twice on the whole form and then lets someone else solo until everyone has soloed. On a slower tune, each musician might take just a section of the form so the song does not drag on. This is often decided in advance. Sometimes jazz musicians will just decide on the fly, but because everyone knows the form it is not that mysterious a process.

Girl From Ipanema

A: 0:13 , A: 0:28 B: 0:43 A: 1:14


Take the A Train

A: 0:18 A: 0:29 B: 0:42 A: 0:54



What makes Bach Work? What Makes a Fugue Work?

Johanne Sebastian Bach (1865-1750)

BWV 1005 Fugue

Follow along with this recording here:


What You Need To Know:

-The Baroque era of music existed between 1600-1750 and placed a higher value than previous music eras on virtuosic music with alot more notes.

-Common compositional methods used by this period and in this fugue are: melodic patterns called sequences, improvisations on the written melody called ornaments, and melodies written to sound good played at the same time together using a technique called counterpoint

-To perform a fugue in a way that is compelling to the audience, the performer may change dynamics, tone color, instrumentation of the different voices, being flexible with the time to denote the end of sections of the piece (called agogic accents), and bringing out the subject amidst other voices.

-A fugue is based off of a single melodic line stated on its own at the beginning of a piece. The subject is varied throughout the piece and its rhythms and shape can be heard in different voices along with literal restatements of the subject.

Period and Values:

The Baroque period of music spans roughly from 1600-1750 with the death of Bach. This era placed a strong emphasis on using music to effect the listeners emotional state or "affections". As a result of that philosophy it was common for pieces of music to have a certain "feel" to them, with multi movement works sharing that feel across the different movements. A single work may also have several sections that illicit certain emotions. 

This was an era that placed a higher value on the individual performers and composers when compared to previous eras, and partly because of that the music tended to be more virtuosic in character. Keep in mind that Bach is almost a style unto himself. There are very few composers from his time period that sound very similar to him. In general though unlike a Mozart/Classical era piece, this era of music did place a greater emphasis on the following:

Lots of notes: Please know that I am generalizing, and Bach is an extreme case, but when you hear the series of notes presented in the recording at 0:23-0:37 that is relatively indicative of the virtuosic and "notey" style of the time period. It is a melody, but not one that you can't remember easily and sing in the shower. 

Sequences: 0:23-0:37 also is an excellent example of another stylistic element from this era: the sequence. A sequence in music is typically a melodic pattern that a composer creates and then repeats, sometimes in different keys but also in the same key. Bach was a master at creating sequences. Listen for this in 0:23-0:37.  0:25-0:28 you hear the first statement of the sequence. 0:28-0:31 you hear the second statement. 0:31-0:36 you hear the sequence a 3rd time. Note that the sequence does not always have to match exactly and literally each time to the original statement. When you hear lines like this that repeat a similar melodic sound, it is usually a sequence.

Counterpoint: Perhaps the most important element to recognize in this era and also another element of music that Bach was a master of. While I am simplifying, counterpoint is essentially a compositional process where the composer makes two or more melodies that are played simultaneously by one or more instruments and that sound "good" together. This has the effect of creating something that sounds both like one complete melody with accompaniment and at the same time sounds like several individual melodies at the same time. This is unlike a Mozart work, or a modern pop song, where there is one main melody that you know and could sing and the accompaniment stays out of the way (like Mozart, or anything you hear on the radio, This Land Is Your Land, etc.). While there may be one melody that the composer wants to be most important and stand out, the accompaniment to that melody may be one or more melodies that could be payed attention to in their own right. It takes time, but eventually you can develop the ability to hear both the individual parts and the whole they create and process all that mentally as the music is happening.

Ornamentation: The Baroque era featured highly ornamented music. Ornamentation is embellishments of a melody with small trills, or more virtuosic runs, often improvised by performers. I will point a couple out.

How a Fugue Works:

On performing a fugue: The performer has many things they can do to make this work entertaining and not monotonous. 1) Changing volume through the performance 2) changing the tone color by varying from very bright and sharp and loud to very warm and round and mellow 3) taking time at the beginning and end of different sections, briefly relaxing the time to indicate one section has ended and another is beginning (its called an agogic accent and you can hear an example of this at 2:57) 4) bringing out the subject so that you can hear it clearly even when multiple voices are happening in counterpoint with it. When the composer writes a fugue for a large ensemble, he can give different melodies or different sections to different instrument groups.

Like we know the 5 paragraph essay format well, its important to know the fugue format!

The Subject: The subject is the basis of the entire fugue. Its the foundation upon which everything else is built off of. The subject is a single melody presented at the beginning of the fugue that is then modified, varied, and restated to create the rest of the fugue. The entire fugue is based off the melodic and rhythmic content of the subject, so even when you are not hearing a literal restatement or variation of the subject, the music is always shaped by it. That is what is fun about a fugue, it is like a "wear is Waldo" song where you try to listen for the subject hidden amongst the other melodies. It is also like a theme in that the subject, while perhaps not always literally present, is the basis for all the music, even content that does not sound explicitly like the subject. 

At this point, we need to talk about voices: When I say "voices" I mean that the guitar actually has multiple melodies or "voices" playing at the same time that the the artist must keep mental track of. If it where a choir of say 4 people, Soprano, Alto, Tennor, and Bass (SATB), each singer would keep track of their own voice and try to keep together with everyone else. In this case though, like 0:11-0:14, the performer has to bring out the subject in the upper voice while still maintaining the lower voices that have entered previously. Usually A fugue starts out with one voice and gradually adds more, usually up to 4 although there can be more than 4.

On the structure of the Fugue:

While it might seem like a monotonous stream of notes, a fugue usually has some kind of form or at least distinct sections. I will provide you with an outline to follow:

The subject for this fugue is heard at 0:00-0:03. Thats it. Its tuneful, singable, and dancelike. After the subject is played on its own that voice continues and the subject gets stated again at 0:03-0:06 in a new key and in the bass in counterpoint with the previous voice that originally started the piece and introduced the subject. You again here the subject in a higher voice at 0:11-0:14. 

0:00-0:22: Just hearing the subject and some counterpoint

0:23-0:38: Single melody melodic content.

0:48-2:18  : This is the start of the subject being stated and varied by taking it in multiple keys, turned upside down, reversed, made minor or major, etc, all while in counterpoint with other voices. 2:05 is the start of the end of this section and the single unchanging note in the baseline gives the music a sense of tension that we are building to a climax, and the release comes at 2:18 when we enter a new section of single line melody with occasional sparse bass accompaniment. 

2:18-2:47: a bunch of fun sequences!

2:47-3:27 we come out of the single melody content and back into counterpoint, although the next section of the piece really starts at 2:57 as the performer rhythmically lets us know we have entered a new section with an agogic accent. The single line content from 2:18-2:47 has a contrapuntal exit that leads us out of that section and into the next section at 2:57. Notice how we hear a version of the subject in a happier sounding major key!

3:27-2:56: We go back to single melody content and sequences!

2:57-4:39   We return to counterpoint with the subject blasted in our ears in the highest voice and at the highest pitch it has been throughout the entire work.

4:40-end. The piece ends with some single melody content. at 4:38 you hear a trill (a type of ornament). At 5:01 you hear a very virtuosic ornament that was written by Bach and dramatically brings the piece to its conclusion. The alternation of two notes at 5:10-end is an ornament added by the performer to drag out the suspense before resolving the piece to its conclusion.

Check out this fugue I recorded and performed last year on my website (its the one labeled 998 fugue)


Also a bream recording of that same fugue





What Makes a String Quartet, a Sonata, and Mozart Work?

Today, I will be providing a guide to Mozart’s 

String quartet no. 14 in G major ("Spring"; Haydn Quartet no. 1) - Allegro vivace assai

Instrumentation: 2 Violins, Viola, and Cello

Listen/follow along to a recording of the quartet here:



-This piece is from the Classical era, which spans from 1750-1805.

-This time period generally valued upbeat music that facilitated socializing and string quartets where usually played in homes for gatherings of friends (not concert halls like today).

-Mozart was excellent at composing good melodies while also incorporating melodies underneath that melody using a style of writing called counterpoint.

-String Quartets usually perform works with four movements (called a Sonata), the first being written in a form called Sonata Form.

-Sonata form consists of a beginning section that is repeated (Exposition, 0:00-4:01), a second section that uses material from the first section and varies it in some way to create a new content (Development, 4:01-5:46), and then a return of the beginning section and ending of the piece (Recapitulation 5:46-End)


I recommend splitting your screen so that you can read my explanation on one half while keeping track of the music on the other.

Mozart is a composer from an era of the Classical genre called The classical era, which roughly corresponds to the time period between 1750 and the writing of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony in 1805.

Values of the era:

This time period valued happy music that facilitated social interaction. Most of the pieces from this time period where written in major keys to provide an upbeat sound to the music. Music from this era was featured in a wide variety of social contexts including restaurants, parties, and public events. Quartets in particular where often played by friends who gathered together to socialize and enjoy music and would often be performed in the home during gatherings of friends and family. Quartets where not commonly featured in the concert halls like they are today. While Modern performers present this music as works of art to be put on display in a concert hall, during the time in which this music was originally written it was expected that works like a string quartet or piano sonata would be performed and listened to in contexts that where much more casual and social. 

Melody was highly valued during Mozart’s time period. In this era of music you thus tend to hear a melody that is relatively easy to sing with some kind of accompaniment that stays out of the way of a melody, like you hear in the first 20 seconds of the piece and at 0:51-1:21 

However, what makes Mozart a master of that time period in my opinion is that he fits within that style but also composes with greater complexity. While emphasis is placed on the melody, you can often hear other smaller melodies underneath, particularly in the bass, throughout the. This technique is called counterpoint, and Mozart's ability to maintain a tuneful melody while also creating multiple melodies underneath is one of the primary reasons his music is complex and still compelling to listeners. Try to listen throughout the work to hear how there are multiple voices that move independently but also sound as one whole unit together.

Musical Form and Design

The most important thing to keep in mind about this piece from a compositional stand point is that this era placed a high value on form and structure of the music. Like a modern student learns the 5 paragraph essay format in english class, this era’s composers and listeners would have been well acquainted with the structure of the music they where hearing. This Quartet by Mozart is in sonata form, one of the most popular forms from that era.This quartet movement is a good representation of the form and if you can get used to hearing it in this work, you will start to hear it in other pieces from that era.

Sonata’s where usually the first movement of a multi movement work like a string quartet, piano sonata, or symphony. The form helps give the listener a structure to wrap their mind around. Sonata form usually gives a sense of having a musical “story” with a beginning, middle, and end. This allows the listener to be taken on a sort of musical journey for the duration of the piece 

Sonata form essentially looks like this:

Introduction (No introduction in this work)

Exposition 0:00-2:00, and 2:01-4:00

Development 4:01-5:46

Recapitulation 5:47-end

Coda (no coda in this work)


The Exposition: 

The exposition is a 3 part section where the main ideas of the music (called the subjects) are presented (like the introduction of an essay). It is much like the introduction of a 5 paragraph essay. This exposition starts with the first subject in the violins at 0:00 and ending at 0:21 and followed by a transitional section to the second subject presented at 0:51 (also by the violins). The two subjects are intentionally contrasting to create diversity within the piece, the first is usually slower or less melodic and the second more upbeat, melodic, and rhythmic, as is the case in this work. The second subject ends at 1:31 and the cello is given a melody that leads us to the end of this section. The exposition ends at 2:00. It is very common for the introduction and exposition to be repeated so that your mind can really remember the subjects before we enter the development, and that is what occurs at 2:01-4:00

The Development:

The Development begins at 4:01 and is the center 3 paragraphs of this 5 part musical essay. It dissects and expands on the subjects presented in the Exposition. The development will often feature variations on the two subjects and the overall mood presented in the exposition. You will often hear different moods (sad, dramatic), different keys (minor, other major keys), and variations on the subjects. 4:01-4:30 you can hear a variation of the first subject in a minor key. at 5:10 you hear a variation of the second subject.


The recapitulation begins at 5:47 and is the last paragraph of the musical essay. Essentially, you end up hearing the exposition over again, which creates an effect similar to the end of an essay where the writer recaps the points that have been made and the arguments or evidence presented in the main body of the essay. there is not really a full coda, once the second subject is finished the piece simply provides some music that gives a sense of finality and then it ends.

Thanks for reading/listening! I hope this post helps you further appreciate music and get more enjoyment out of this great work by Mozart, and other works you listen to from the era. Try listening to this sonata I am performing and see if you can hear the same structure (I promise it is there, although I do not repeat the exposition!).