Palmas refers to the rhythmic hand clapping that all who take part in flamenco have to learn.
As dancers we learn palmas to help us study the different flamenco rhythms but we must also learn how to accompany other dancers, singers and musicians.
Here is a video of José accompanying Manuel with palmas while Manuel plays for the palo of Alegrías.
There are two types of palmas technique that must be learnt.
Palmas sordas have a muted sound and are produced by clapping the palms of your two hands together.
Keep your hands relaxed with a little hollow in the centre of your palm. When you watch the video below you'll see José relaxing his hands before he starts clapping. If your hands are too tense you won't be able to make a good sound.
Palmas abiertas produce a much sharper and stronger sound. They are also a bit harder to get a good sound from when you start so play around a bit if you don't get it at first.
To make the palmas abiertas sound you hit the palm of one hand (normally your left) with the fingers of your right hand. Again you need a little hollow in the palm of your hand so keep it relaxed. You also need to have relaxed fingers in your other hand.
Watch the video below to see how José does it.
Just like everything else we do, palmas requires good posture and support of the upper body to produce a consistently good sound.
Beginners often find that their arms tire very quickly. This is because instead of the arms being supported from underneath with the muscles of the back, the shoulder and neck muscles are used to keep everything lifted. This is really hard work!
Instead try to relax your shoulders and relax your neck. Lift yourself up out of your hips and support your torso with a firm mid-section.
To finish, here is the first video that José and I made together for flamenco bites, a demonstration of the different types of palmas. I am clapping the main count of a 3 beat cycle and José plays with the rhythm by going in and out and around.