Rodrigo y Gabriela
Gabriela Quintero and Rodrigo Sanchez onstage with their signature Yamaha NCX and NTX nylon-strings. Photo by Vince Kmeron
we’d send a really rough track in and when
we’d open the file that he’d send back, the
sound would be massive. It was always really
surprising in terms of the overall sound, and
we’d look forward to getting a new mix from
him every time.
Gabriela, what inspired your percussion
style—and what did you do to perfect it?
Quintero: Actually, that technique was
almost completely inspired by flamenco
music. I’ve always been thrilled by the way
flamenco players play rhythms with their
right hand—it’s so incredible. I didn’t have
any clue how to do it at all. Eventually, I
met a flamenco player who taught me one
movement, and that was it. I practiced it a
lot and tried to copy what other flamenco
players did, but I never got it right.
Nowadays, I still don’t know how they do it.
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We saw some flamenco players in Barcelona
years ago, and they had a completely
different rhythm style than I have. That’s
when I realized my rhythms weren’t like
theirs at all and that they sounded “rockier”
and far more aggressive. I like it my way
more, you know? [Laughs.] I also realized
they use their thumb for a plectrum, which
makes everything completely different. After
that, I discovered some players in parts of
Mexico that used really colorful scales that
aren’t used that often, and I just adapted
some of that and gave it more volume. I
never realized while I was living in Mexico
that some traditional Mexican music could
be so colorful until then. So, basically, all
the rhythms that I use I came up with on my
own. But I would like to learn how to play
traditional flamenco at some point. I just
love that music.
Where would you suggest other guitarists
start if they want to learn this style?
Quintero: I wouldn’t recommend taking
lessons, because the learning experience
should feel a little more free than that. If
somebody really wants to learn that style,
they should go live in the caves. [Laughs.]
Don’t take any lessons. Just learn it on your
own as you would a language, and then
after you’ve got your own feel for it you can
go back and take lessons. That’s actually
something that I would like to do when I’m
not busy—just live away from everybody else
like a wild monkey and learn.