Toques: the Rhythmic Forms of Flamenco

One of the more important terms in Flamenco music is the word ‘toque.’ ‘Toque’ comes from the Spanish word ‘tocar,’ meaning ‘to touch, to hit.’ In this sense, it refers to the touch of the guitarist’s hand on his instrument.

In Flamenco music, the word has three senses. When the article, ‘el,’ (the) is used before ‘toque,’ i.e., ‘El Toque,’ it refers to the entire art of the Flamenco guitar. Similarly, ‘El Cante’ refers to Flamenco singing, while ‘El Baile’ speaks of Flamenco dance. The second sense in which Flamenco players use this word has to do with style. When you hear a reference to the toque of a particular guitarist (tocaor), it speaks of the guitarist’s repertoire and playing style. Most commonly, however, the word ‘toque’ describes the diverse rhythmic forms used in Flamenco music.

In this sense of the word, Soleares is one of the most important toques. Other toques of cardinal importance in Flamenco include Seguiriyas, Alegrias, Bulerias, Tangos and Fandangos. Each toque, typically given a plural name, such as ‘Soleares,’ or ‘toque por (for) Soleares,’ is a form or variety of Flamenco. As you familiarize yourself with Flamenco music and its terminology, you will learn to differentiate the various toques by their unique repeating patterns of beats and accents (their compas), distinguishing keys, harmonic structure, and expressive range.

The toques have different regional origins. Their names usually reflect their roots. The dance (baile) and song verses (coplas) of the singing styles (cante) associated with each toque are also distinct. Some toques do not require a consistent and regular rhythm. We call these ‘en toque libre,’ meaning ‘in free time.’ Many forms of Fandangos fall under that category, as well as some regional variations. Most toques, though, have both a regular beat and a fixed pattern of accented beats, together making up the compas. As we have said earlier, the guitarist should observe this strict meter both in rasgueo passages and in falsetas.