Gipsy Kings: “Inspiration” – Cover featuring Spanish guitar & accordion!

Buenas dias, amigos!  My latest music video is quite a change of pace from my recent ones.  We’ll be switching gears to Latin pop with the Gipsy Kings!  “Inspiration” is a beautiful instrumental from their very popular “Gipsy Kings” album from the late 1980’s.   Click on the image above or here to view the video on YouTube.

The Gipsy Kings’ music is kind of a blend between Spanish Flamenco and pop music.  The genre is known as Rumba Flamenca.  The songs have pop music structures – with verses, choruses, bridges, etc.  The Flamenco is quite apparent in Gipsy Kings music, with all the strumming and tapping of the rhythm guitars and the fancy melodies from the lead guitar.  The Gipsy Kings are technically from France, but they speak Spanish and grew up in Spanish culture.  Their Spanish accents are a little strange to me – it’s apparently Andalusian Spanish.

My cover of “Inspiration” is a bit unique.  Why?  It features the accordion!  The original song features a strong lead Spanish guitar.  I turned the song into a duet between guitar and accordion.  I was inspired by the melody at the bridge (1:53 mark); it always sounded to me more like a French accordion melody than a Spanish guitar melody.  So I figured, why not add a accordion throughout the whole song?  I really like the result.  The guitar and accordion harmonize well together.  The accordion’s mellow, breathy sound is a nice contrast to the precise, plucky sound of the nylon string guitar.   The accordion’s mellowness is great for carrying a secondary melody that shadows the lead melody.  On the other hand, chords on the accordion produce a bright, brashy sound, which is great for accenting the song (kinda like what a brass section does).

For my fellow musicians, Flamenco music is a bit different from Western pop/rock music.  First of all, playing lead Flamenco guitar (or just classical guitar) is different.  You don’t play a riff or two here and there; you play a complete piece, full of unique phrases of music.  The melodies are pretty intricate and fast too.  Rock lead guitarists play with picks.  Flamenco guitarists just have long, ugly fingernails on their right hands.  You pluck with your nails.  I just can’t stand long nails – not to mention I also play piano which requires short nails.  So I ended up getting some metal finger picks to fit around my fingers.  Without them, I simply couldn’t play the lead melodies fast enough.  Nonetheless, there were still some showoff moves from the original song that I still couldn’t play (I used some “creative license” to get around them).

Flamenco music is also different tonally (warning: this may get a bit technical).  Western pop/rock music uses mainly major, minor, and pentatonic scales.  Flamenco music doesn’t have any pentatonic (which came from American blues, which didn’t really get to Europe much at all).  Instead, Flamenco music employs a couple scales that you aren’t used to hearing: “harmonic minor” scale (minor scale with sharp 7) as well as “Phrygian dominant mode”, a.k.a. the “gypsy scale” (minor scale with flat 2, sharp 7).  You’ll see these scales not only in Flamenco music, but other Spanish music and its derivatives (like in Latin America).  Since the Gipsy Kings are a fusion band, they only use these scales part of the time.  Here’s a link to a song you may know that uses the “gypsy scale” significantly.  Don’t ask me how to finger these scales or for tabs – I don’t know hehe.  Once you play some Flamenco music for a while, you just “get it”, and then you start having some fun!

My cover somewhat departed from Flamenco music as well.  Most obvious reason is the accordion, which isn’t used in Flamenco music (afaik).  But it’s used all over Europe and Latin America.  Most of my accordion playing on this song is French/Italian inspired, I think.  But I also threw in some Eastern European flair around the middle of the song (2:14 mark), and even bits and pieces of Argentinian tango accordion styling too.  And the outro at the end sounds like a Brasilian samba.

All in all, “Inspiration” was a wonderful song to learn and play.  Enjoy!

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